Let The Real You Shine Through
Updated: Oct 23, 2018
Most of us find it hard to say what we want. It's probably something left over from childhood when we saw how our behaviours affected other people's happiness. As children we learn, and want, to please the most significant people in our lives. It's a natural developmental instinct.
As we grow older, that desire to please extends to our friends and that's only natural too. But sometimes, if we have found it hard to fit in, or if we are surrounded by characters stronger than ourselves, or with needs that may seem more important than our own, that desire to please can lead on through our teens and into adulthood. It can create a desire for us to go on attending to other people's needs; to continue to focus on pleasing our partners and our friends; maybe just a little too much.....
That desire to please may have developed from having felt valued when we meet other's expectations. But, if we have been allowed to express all of our feelings (good and bad) without expectation or reproach we can develop a stronger sense of our own self and feel as if we matter. If we have felt heard; have been able to discuss and consider our thoughts actions with others who matter to us, then we can begin to feel safe developing our own opinions, values and beliefs. We can develop our own voice and our own self esteem.
A vital component of our ability to express ourselves and to be assertive is understanding our own needs and knowing that our needs are valued by others. But, if we fail to connect with our own desires, beliefs and values how can we express our needs and wants to others? If we do not attend to and understand ourselves fully we run the risk of putting others needs before our own. If we fail to express our needs openly how can we expect others to know what we need?
Failing to have our own needs met increases the risk of feeling resentful towards others; even our nearest and dearest. Resentment can build even when we have not expressed ourselves adequately to others; we seem to expect them to know what we need just because they love us. In holding our feelings close and failing to share them with others we don't give them a chance to truly love us. It could be argued that we are being unfair to our nearest and dearest by not telling them what we need. How can we truly feel cared for, if we are not giving others the chance to care for us by expressing what we want and need? And, if we always put others first, what are we telling them about how we would like to be treated?
Helping others or attending to their wants and desires first does not always mean we are disregarding ourselves. It is (nearly) always good to care for other people. However, in order to be able to give freely, without feeling the need for the gift to be returned, it is important that we feel that we matter too. If we can really be ourselves and accepted for all that we are, (and all that we aren't!), we are more likely to feel a strong and genuine desire to attend to the needs of others. If we are able to express what we don't want we will develop a heightened ability to say no or to ask for help when we need it. In doing so, we are also more likely to limit any feelings of resentment, regain self-esteem and build self-confidence.
Now I'm not advocating suddenly demanding that you receive everything you want 'right here, right now, or else!' There's no need to be too forthright and ignore other people's feelings by focusing entirely on our own needs. I'm simply suggesting we lean toward being a little more selfish.
To become more assertive we develop an increased focus on our personal needs. We learn that it is acceptable to say no when we just don't feel like doing something. We value ourselves enough to ask for what we really want and give someone the chance to care for us too.
Having autonomy and control over our lives is extremely important for our wellbeing. The first step towards that is to understand our own needs by looking at our values. Then we can learn how to put our needs along side others, making sure that we care for ourselves too.
Otherwise, are we really being ourselves? Or are we being what we think other people want us to be?
Another pre-requisite for wellbeing is being able to both give and receive attention. Perhaps we could see putting ourselves first as a gift to others so that they can feel the pleasure of giving us some attention? Maybe we have been wrongly sacrificing ourselves and robbing others of the human need to give?
So, here is an acrostic piece to prompt you towards being more assertive. (I learnt about acrostic poetry from my daughter!).
I've spent time so far helping her to develop compassion, empathy and kindness. Now I'm trying to help her to understand the importance of her own needs; to be more assertive now too. After all, it's her that will make her future happen. She will do that by knowing herself, valuing herself, recognising her needs and desires and making sure she acts in a manner that will enhance her ability to achieve it.
A Ask for what you want.
S Say what you need.
S Speak up and be Selfish; it is actually OK to put your needs first sometimes!
E Explanations are not needed; just say it how it is. You're allowed to look after you.
R Realise you're worth it.
T Train yourself to say No.
I Incremental steps; there's no need to make waves but sending out a ripple is good.
V Value your own needs; express your beliefs.
E Enjoy the benefits of being yourself.