Social Question

spykenij's avatar

How do you become assertive when you have low self worth?

Asked by spykenij (1827points) December 25th, 2012

I just need a little help here figuring out how to be more assertive in general and when it comes to expressing myself. My sense of self is distorted, according to many people. I have little or no self worth. I feel, who am I to tell anyone anything, even if it is something I want. Any suggestions?

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16 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

How old are you?

I would say start with things that are not very controversal, where you won’t get much opposition. Maybe where you want to go out for dinner, or a place you want to visit, like a museum or a movie.

It isn’t too much of a big deal if you are just naturally easy going and have fun even when someone else makes these sorts of choices. But, if you are constantly feeling like you are doing things you don’t want to do, then you do need to learn to say no, or present what you would rather do. Also, some people get annoyed with the burden of having to make the decisions all the time, so if you always say, “whatever you want,” or, ”“I don’t care,” people will get tired of that over time.

Why do you think you are not very assertive? Are you afraid of making a mistake? Is one of your parents like that? Do you never get your way at home? Does no one ask for your opinion? Are you afraid of people being angry with you? Did you assert yourself a few times and the people dismissed your desires? None of those, all of those, somethingntotally different?

marinelife's avatar

To become more assertive, first work on that self-esteem. Consider getting the book Self Parenting, which shows you how to deal with negative self-talk.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

I hate to give what may seem as such a dumb answer, but if you want help on figuring out how to express yourself you need to just force yourself to do it and eventually it will just come natural.

I used to be just like that but now it’s a lot easeir for me to express myself.

In short to quote a movie, “The only way to do it, is to do it.”

Shippy's avatar

A good way to gather some self worth is to join groups or activities you enjoy. Do them because you love them. Self worth comes from doing things we love to do, and getting great feedback. Assertiveness is to be able to get your point across in an none judgmental way. It is about saying what you don’t enjoy as opposed to blaming the other person for your discomfort.

gondwanalon's avatar

This is a tough hurtle to overcome. I’ve always been a shy introvert as well as a wimp. But I have found that though trial and error how to act assertive when I need to. Thankfully I don’t need to do it much anymore since I retired from the Army where I had to present the image of a strong leader. I did OK but it was painful and totally not me. It was all a façade. What I’m trying to say is, yes you can become more assertive but you’ll have to turn yourself into someone else. I chose John Wayne.

dabbler's avatar

You don’t state your age but if you are aware of these issues in your life you are probably ready for some introspective remodeling. @marinelife‘s suggestion Self-Parenting is right on the money.
While you’re at the bookstore take a look at Tony Robbins “Awaken the Giant Within” or some of his other books. Never mind he’s considered by some to be a cliche motivational speaker. A lot of his work goes right to the core of fears and what holds us back from manifesting our stronger, bolder, more joyful selves.

Once you realize the unwanted behaviors are just habits, you can begin to replace them with better habits.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Fake it til you make it. I was very shy and very sheltered for the first 10 years of my life, and I had issues with expressing myself.

First my mom forced me to communicate, which was very hard, but she’d literally force me to tell her what was bothering me if I clammed up.

Second, she sent me to poise classes so I would learn to walk and talk correctly, apply makeup, do my hair, do interviews with strangers. Then she put me in stupid pageants for awhile until I rebelled. Basically she forced me to participate in the world.

I still have a problem with some social anxiety, but I force myself to go on in to the party or whatever, plaster a smile on my face and interact. I fake it, but to others I’m normal.

spykenij's avatar

Well, I’m 32 years old and I was kinda left with no choice other than to avoid what I feared. Some of my 1st memories are hiding from my father with my mom, knowing to stay quiet so he wouldn’t find us. My dad is crazy and was always threatening my mom as a kid. My step-father treated me like a red-headed step-child and eventually my mom became a clone of him. I was afraid of them and always had to walk on eggshells, especially around him. Things are getting better, but I’m not where I should be, nor where I want to be. I was also picked on a lot for being different. I’m transgendered, living as a leso. I don’t identify as female, but physically (and unfortunately) I am. They were torturing me in second grade, calling me lesbo because it is written on my forehead – “HOMO”.

I feel like I’m damaged because I am kind of stuck on this – having trouble being assertive and not being a damn pushover, people pleaser or doormat. I can’t seem to get past it for long when I do force myself to just go and do. I always end up wanting to run back to my safe place, which is also not where I want to be – at home. I live in the ghetto right now because I was very sick for several years. It destroyed my life and the bittersweet twist is, I have my life back, but I’m struggling to get out of this hole I’ve been left in because of being sick for so long. I lost my job, my parents for a while, my sister for a while, a whole bunch of friends, my home, my kids (2 cats that I loved as my children, my family – gone now), a bunch of dignity, my license for a while, the love of my life – rock bottom. Deep, dark, dank, black – rock bottom.

I’ll be getting health insurance for the 1st time in a long time now that I can hold a job down again. I hate to start out with a new therapist again, but I know I need to. I’ve had many, but they always move away and the last good one decided to become a drunk again and disappeared from the medical radar. I always thought I knew myself well and I did…when I was a teenager, but now…? I know a lot about myself, but I need to find myself again and it’s been very hard. I live 2+ hours away from my entire family and all my hometown friends. I’ve purged some bad influences from my life and know I have a couple more to go. I feel lonely out here, but when I go home, I want nothing more than to run back as fast as I can and I don’t know why. I’m not comfortable at my parents house and I don’t want to stay there anymore when I visit. It’s hard to say anything to my mom. She is overbearing and extremely stubborn, as am I, but I buckle and that makes me feel weak and very uncomfortable. I’m blabbing. Well, I’m going to check out that book. I think I’ll pick it up after work tomorrow. Thank you for all the info above and know that I appreciate any more input you’ve got.

spykenij's avatar

Oh yeah, I gotta get out of this fucking ghetto. I just heard a 5 year old boy rapping about blowjobs and cock blocking, hanging out with a teenager. Yeah, that’s real cool – let your 5 yr old kid hang out with a teenager. Bunch of assholes. This environment isn’t conducive of self improvement, but I gotta do laundry and the wifi rooms are my only connection to the internet. *Shaking head and shrugging shoulders

SABOTEUR's avatar

Three things immediately come to mind:

Avoid identifying yourself in negative terms. We tend to identify with what we think. We are who we think we are. Exchange negative, confidence destroying words and phrases with positive, confidence building thoughts.

Lose your “story”. Everybody has a “somebody done me wrong” story. “Woe is me.” We practice it to perfection. People who claim “low self-esteem” carry their story like a badge of honor, woefully sharing it with whoever will listen.


The sooner you lose your “story”, the sooner you move toward being a happier person you move toward being miserable about something else.

(Being miserable about something else is preferable to being miserable about yourself.)

Claim nothing for your Self that you do not want.

Monitor your ”I” statements.

Anything you say after ”I” belongs to you.

I have low self-esteem” means ”I claim low self-esteem”.

Stop it.

Be honest and firm with yourself. Also be gentle. You didn’t develop these destructive thinking patterns overnight. It’ll take persistent practice to undue the negativity.

And you may find out that assertiveness comes as a natural consequences.

spykenij's avatar

@SABOTEUR – That makes a lot of sense & I’ve done that in the past. Thank you. I’ve tried to think of myself as the child I used to be and tried to remember to treat that little kid well, but for some reason I always come back to where I am right now. You’re right. I drone on and on to anyone who will listen. I wonder why it never feels like I get it out. How do you let go and when you do, does it ever come back? When I think I have, it ends up rearing it’s fugly head again. Any suggestions on that – anyone? I’ll end that there since I’m going to try to drop the negatives of my life story before I carry on.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@spykenij I’ve had my own self-esteem issues; this is what helped me:

* I realized I did more psychological damage to myself than anything or anyone did to me.* This realization came to me in a padded room. That’s when I stopped blaming other people for my circumstances. I finally understood that whatever someone did to me…or what I thought they did to me…happened when it happened. Continually dwelling upon that experience enabled me to relive that experience over and over again.

She hurt me once; continually thinking about the experience hurt me repeatedly.

So I questioned my Self,

Who in their “right mind purposely dwells on that which causes them pain?*

Answer: Someone who (consciously or unconsciously) enjoys feeling pain.

And it’s true. We entertain ourselves through shared misery. People who are emotionally or psychologically damaged can’t afford that kind of entertainment.

So I began my practice of not dwelling upon anything that made me feel bad.

Second, was the realization that my self-esteem does not depend on anything outside of my Self. Relationships, money, status, religion, political affiliation…nothing. It’s all irrelevant. I stopped measuring myself by “someone else’s standard”. It doesn’t apply to me unless I say it applies to me.

Finally…and perhaps, most importantly…was the acceptance of NOW.

NOW is all that IS. “Past” and “future” are simply ideas we use to give meaning to NOW. They help give things perspective.

Unfortunately, psychologically or emotionally damaged people often accept an unhealthy perspective. We benefit by losing the past and not dreaming so much about things to come.

Yesterday is History.
_Tomorrow, a Mystery.
NOW is a Gift…
…this is why it’s called
The Present.

NOW, I realized, is the only thing I truly have.

It is the only thing that cannot be taken. One can, however, choose to surrender NOW for “angry ghosts and demons”.

With that in mind, I practice allowing no one/nothing to determine how I feel.

That’s my responsibility.

And since many of the people we associate with or encounter practice negative, destructive thinking, I limit my exposure to them or anything else that will potentially lure me from the Path of “Mindful Thinking” (mindfulness). It’s been a lifelong, often difficult practice, but it gets easier over time and well worth the effort.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Correction: Sentence in my previous post should read:

Peace of mind is all you truly have. It is the only thing you possess which cannot be taken. You can, however, choose to give it away or exchange it for “angry ghosts and demons”.

I see now that I’ve (unconsciously) accepted “now” and the term “peace of mind” to be synonymous. Interesting, that…something I’ll have to meditate upon.

One other thing…concerning “never seeming to get out of” telling your story (@spykenij). You probably get positive re-enforcement when sharing your story. The support you receive feels good. You probably like feeling good and you don’t feel good often enough. It’s human nature to do more of that which makes you feel good. The more you share your story, the better you feel.

For a while. The trouble with this is you’ve associated feeling good with the negative events you seek to distance yourself from.

You encourage re-enforcement of the negative events.

It ain’t gonna work. In fact, it doesn’t work.

You’ll find, if you’re determine to do so, that you can feel good without using “Your Story” as a catalyst, by embracing loving, Self affirming thoughts about yourself.

I would respectfully suggest you read “As A Man Thinketh:” by James Allen. Hopefully it’ll serve you as well as it served me.

spykenij's avatar

@SABOTEUR – I really appreciate your insight. I know for myself, depression has kind of been the standard and so it has become my comfort zone. It feels unnatural climbing out of it sometimes, but I’ve done it before. It’s very hard for me to see myself in my own way because I’ve always felt like I don’t belong here. I’ve known I should have been born a boy since I was 3 years old and I feel so much like an alien to this world and it’s people. I am not quite sure how to grasp myself with my own eyes and my own heart. I don’t hate myself or anything for being different and don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can be here for the next generations to help them. I just feel so odd. I’m not sure how to develop the self-esteem I need without comparing everything to something else because who am I to think or say, which I know is just low self-worth. I’ll check that book out too. Thanks again :)

SABOTEUR's avatar

@spykenij You’re very welcome. I could ramble on indefinitely if allowed, but I’ll spare you the torture. Just know that that which you seek is ever present.

You just have to learn to accept it.

Feel free to pm me should you ever feel the need.

(Btw…That’s a link to the online version of As A Man Thinketh.)

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