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From pushover to assertive?

(5 Posts)
Pandora88 Sat 04-Feb-17 11:59:00

So the simple question here is - have you ever been a doormat / pushover and did you manage to transform into an assertive respectable human being and permanently?

I have definitely made progress but still find it SO HARD to completely shake off my people pleasing ways. I've been "practising" assertiveness for quite some time yet still everytime I stand my ground I feel bad about it!

Looking for some advice and maybe personal stories? It would really help me to know it is possible to become assertive and make it a part of your identity rather than something you have to constantly force out.

The rest of this post is just some context but not I realise it's long and boring so don't really need to read that. Thank you to anyone who responds.


I always try so hard to make everyone around me feel comfortable. Especially girlfriends. I would spend my time and resources making visits, bringing gifts, listening to rants etc. Very one sided as my friends would very rarely offer to reciprocate (even if they do I'd offer to drive them back home etc.) Even in conversations I've noticed I'd intentionally make myself look less knowledge (despite my masters degree and keen interest in politics/social sciences) overall "less than" so others don't feel threatened. Like literally I'm the opposite of 90% of people on the planet - instead of trying to make myself look better I do everything to make myself look worse.

And the worst thing is my friends just take it for granted. They never consider me the way I consider them. They go bragging about their perfect boyfriend at a time when I was going through a break up. They would be rubbing in their payrise when I was stuck in a dead end job. One "friend" would outright tell me at a party "I can't believe you are getting more attention than me" shock The other one would go on about her beauty and admirers. Seriously they don't stop and think "hey maybe I'm being a dick." They don't ever think that maybe they should reciprocate things - like visit me at least as often as I visit them. Duh back in the day I would have settled for 1:5 ratio...

Then I had friends who stopped speaking to me for years because I'd be assertive after a long time of being coy. They get very upset if I suddenly tell them like it is - not in vulgar or offensive terms, just not going along with their POV or explaining I don't like the way they act towards me.

One friend did not speak to me for 8 months because I've finally told her to stop attacking my finance - one would think I'm the one who should have been mad at her, but she actually took offence because I dared to say something rather than bitch about my own partner. All that while she's fiercely protective of her husband.

Another friend has been phasing me out of her life (suddenly didn't have time, cancelling meetings etc) but the unraveling happened when we bought a spa voucher together (£30 each) and she then decided to actually book it with her other friend. I suspected this though only found out 100% via Facebook afterwards when they posted their pics together at the spa - so she didn't even have the courtesy of telling me. Yet I didn't really have an issue but suggested she should return my money. She got SO offended I dared to say anything and said I owed her some money previously (I completely forgot she apparently lent me £30 once on a night out which was strange because I am always very square when it comes to returning debts) so I guess she was suggesting this was her way of getting the money back. Then she stopped speaking to me for three years. Even when she resurfaced recently her text read "let's forget about what happened in the past" - like she also has some forgiving and forgetting to do - seriously is she for real? confused

These are just two fairly recent examples...

user1479305498 Sat 04-Feb-17 12:39:57

Ha, I sympathise. I believe my marriage is in te position it is (which at the moment means iffy) because I havent been assertive over the years, meaning whenever I do have periods of being assertive my DH gets all funny about it and thinks Im being "nasty" . I have talked about this to my IC and she believes the problem is that because I didnt speak up when i didnt like something or agree with something that my DH has got used to constantly having his own way and finds it hard to relate to a more assertive "me" .

Northernpowerhouse Sat 04-Feb-17 12:54:28

Former people pleaser here. The hardest part of being assertive for me is constantly feeling that i need to justify saying "no". So I will bleat on to my friends about why I am saying no which I have recently realised is actually a bit boring for them.
So, i am now practising saying no without masses of explanation. I find it tough and feel quite anxious when i do manage it. However, i have found that the sky didn't fall in so that gives me courage for the future.
Oh and trying not to overthink every interaction with others. Easier said than done! Good Luck.

LostSight Sat 04-Feb-17 12:59:20

I would recommend reading 'Assertiveness at Work', by Ken and Kate Back, if you haven't already done so. It's great for giving practical examples of how to explain things assertively without passing straight from non-assertive to aggressive. I wondered as I read your post whether that might have been the case as your friends got so offended when you finally stood up for yourself. That said, when I tried to use some of the techniques on my bullying boss, they didn't really work because I hadn't had enough practice and was so scared that it was ineffective. I handed in my notice the same day I tried it as I realised I had to walk away because I wasn't yet strong enough.

What I would say, is that yes, I think I have mostly managed it. BUT, I have changed my life around almost completely and it has taken years. Those who used me (as your friends seem to be used to doing with you) are long gone. I only have a few friends now from years gone by, and they are the ones with whom I never had this problem as we always treated each other as equals.

Things are pretty good now. I am honestly surprised to find that I'm now popular and respected. I am enthusiastic and easy going, but do what I want and not what others expect. I like me better and it was mostly about finding my self-respect and not being afraid to be me.

The only hang-over is my marriage, and that is something I still have to work on and watch. But even that is way better than it used to be,

LostSight Sat 04-Feb-17 13:03:35

Oh... and my latest addition has been not saying sorry and not explaining... prompted by Northernpowerhouses comment.

It's odd how it makes me feel better about myself and I think others respect me more. I have apologised when I realised I had done something really assholish, but stopped myself from lengthy explanation and that also felt quite good as I didn't have to spend ages reflecting on what I had done and writing about it. I just said sorry, quite earnestly, and moved on.

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