If you experienced events during childhood that wounded your self-esteem, you may have difficulty being assertive about your wants or needs. You may doubt your opinions or choices or you may be afraid of displeasing others. You may know what you want but have difficulty being assertive about it. Proper assertiveness involves expressing your wants or needs in a balanced way.
Consider the following scale:
Non-assertive Assertive Aggressive
If you are non-assertive, you honor the other person’s rights but don’t honor your own rights. You comply with other’s wishes and fail to express your own. If you are aggressive, you honor and defend your own rights, but do so in a manner that does not honor the other person’s rights. You demand your way, while not considering the other person’s needs or desires. If you are assertive, you honor and express your own desires and needs in a manner that also honors the rights of the other person.
Those with a wound of the heart tend to have difficulties with assertiveness. They often fluctuate between being non-assertive or aggressive. Most of the time, those with low self-esteem are non-assertive and they honor the needs of others but don’t honor their own needs.
Over time, they build up resentment that their needs are never met, and when that build-up reaches a certain level, they explode and express their needs in an aggressive way. Then there is a type of rebound reaction. They feel guilty for the aggression and go back to being non-assertive. They continue being non-assertive until the emotions once again build up, and they explode in an aggressive manner once again. As you can see, they skip assertiveness altogether. Being properly assertive allows you to avoid the difficulties inherent in non-assertiveness and aggression.
One way to determine whether a response is assertive is to imagine that your best friend gave that response under the exact circumstances you are experiencing. How would you feel about your friend’s response? Would you feel that the response was appropriate? Would you feel that it was too aggressive? Would it simply be assertive? You would probably want your friend to give an assertive response and think that she had a right to do so.
When you are assertive about your needs, you show a respect for yourself. Practicing assertiveness can go a long way toward improving your self-esteem. From: “Parables for a Wounded Heart: Overcoming the Wounds to Your Self-Esteem and Transforming Your Perception of You” (2012)
Question: What do you think about the relationship between self-esteem and assertiveness? Have you seen examples of self-esteem being lowered by non-assertive behaviors or raised by assertive behaviors?