I have struggled all my life with being assertive. There are a number of reasons for this. I have the belief that I must never be impolite, dominant or assert my rights, because people will only hate me if I do.
The fact that I think they will hate me even if I am nice and kind doesn’t seem to help me change my mind about this way of living.
I remember one time when I was 18 I was in Pizza Hut with my boyfriend. We were going to share a pizza. We ordered a pizza that was all vegetables (I was a vegetarian) but had chicken on half of it. Somehow this confused the waitress and the pizza came out half vegetable and all chicken.
Do I really have to tell you that I didn’t complain and instead just painstakingly picked the chicken off my half of the pizza?
Yes, on that occasion I was a complete and utter twit. But to be honest I haven’t learnt my lesson, and I still can’t confront people.
A couple of things happened this week to highlight my inability to be assertive.
The first is a bit long and has been causing me a lot of stress. I go to an exercise class with a group of girls and we each pay £4 a session to cover venue hire.
Because I tend to pay for a month’s worth of session in advance as it helps me budget better, sometimes I end up in credit if I miss a session, which is what happened before Christmas.
I missed a session at the start of January and then paid for a group of sessions when I next went. The person who normally collects the money wasn’t there so I paid to the person collecting.
When I next went and the girl who normally collects the money was collecting I said I was paid up, which confused her. This set of the panic in me and I asked her to check when she got home as to where I stood.
She did and said I owed £16 after her calculations.
I know this was wrong and told her so, and she said that she must have made a mistake. (She is a very lovely person and I harbour no ill will towards her-she really is great-but I will carry on with my story)
As it is now February when I went this week I paid for all the sessions that I will go to before the next payday, and due to a bit of miscommunication I think she thought I was paying for the amount I was supposedly in debt by. So I have since sent a message to her explaining that it was for this month’s sessions that I paid for this week.
But I know me, and I am thinking two things.
- She doesn’t believe me and all the other girls will turn against me and say that I am screwing the sessions and short changing them all.
- I know me, and even though I know I have paid for every session I have attended and am not in debt, I know that to ‘keep the peace’ I would pay for the amount I am supposedly in debt by as they are bound to hate me if I don’t.
So this has been a major source of stress and I don’t know how to proceed.
To be clear-none of the girls are mean or capable of mean thoughts and most likely believe me and I am worrying over nothing. They are not bad people. I am just merely trying to explain my anxiety and how I feel people perceive me.
It’s not that I think the worst of people, it’s that I think the worse of me, and see it as only natural that people would turn against me.
Today there was another incident where I should have stood up for myself.
I went to have coffee with my friend and as it was my turn to pay I went up to the counter to order.
There were four staff members behind the counter having a conversation, and despite my size not exactly making me invisible it was a while before any of them finished their conversation and served me.
The person taking my order did not make eye contact as I ordered a small latte and a large americano.
They then served the person behind me.
The person behind me had his drinks made first.
They then asked me to remind them what I had ordered.
They then served the drinks in cups that were very clearly the same size, despite me ordering two different sizes.
I said nothing and instead went back to my friend and was in a little bit of a daze about what had just happened and probably won’t be going there again anytime soon in a hurry.
They didn’t overcharge me, I know that much, but it was still a bad exchange.
The trouble is I can only defend myself against the people I am closest to. The people who I know love me and will still be my friend/relative/partner even if I say they are being a dick.
What does it matter if a random cafe person hates me because I tell them they have got my drink order wrong?
I can’t defend myself when I’m in the wrong. I can’t defend myself when I’m in the right. I have an absolute desperate need to have people like me which I am wise enough to know is an impossible task as no one on the planet is liked by everyone.
My boyfriend has told me that I am holding myself back, that I am ruining my life, that I am letting people walk all over me.
For the most part this is all true.
I need to be assertive.
Trouble is that feels like an impossible task. Something that seems easy to do but in reality is so hard to actually put into place.
But I must change. I can’t carry on living this way. I am holding myself back.