Saturday, October 1, 2011

Just Say "No!" It's Not As Easy As It Should Be. Why I Need To Learn To Be Assertive.

My husband doesn’t think I’m assertive enough.

I shared with him an incident that took place just a few days ago that really set him off.  A colleague of mine became enthralled with my exposed, toenail painted feet.  I was so taken aback by his interest and his gall in touching them when I had my feet propped up on a chair that I assumed it was an impulsive act so I said nothing.  Nor did I say anything when the action was repeated; I just moved my feet to the floor, stood up and said it was time for me to go.  He did another out-of-character act that I allowed - he hugged me.  Again I did not protest the encroachment into my personal space. 

My husband says I should have spoken up immediately and let this man know his actions were most inappropriate, but I did not.  I said it was because I didn’t want to be rude nor did I want to make him feel bad. 

This, I know and my husband has made loud and clear, is a problem of mine.

You’d think at my age I would have developed the skill to assert myself by now.  I am assertive in many other aspects of my life; just try and mess with my family and see what happens,
but to stand up for myself has always been a challenge.   The above-mentioned scenario has happened over and over in my life and I can say that I can recall perhaps only a couple of times where I have stopped a man from going too far, but never have I vocally (or better yet physically) expressed the outrage I should have. 

Is my reaction common in women?  Is it a result of childhood abuse or conditioning?  Whatever the reason, one time I set out to try and develop an appropriate reaction to such inappropriate advances. 

When I was a university student I experienced an incident that caused me to question my ability to be a good role model for my daughters.  I allowed myself to be in a situation that while it was happening I knew should be stopped, yet I didn’t want to make a scene so I instead removed myself from the situation as soon as possible.  Once on my own I scolded myself for being so gullible and not wanting to confront the man who made me so uncomfortable. 

I went to classes later that day and headed to the Women’s Center on campus.   I asked if there were programs available to help women become more assertive and when they said there was not, I asked if I could start one. 

For that entire semester I facilitated group meetings with women who felt as I did, that they needed to be more assertive in their lives.  It was a wonderful program and one that I am proud of. 

However, the lessons learned have been all but forgotten, as is evidenced by my most recent encounter.  It’s hard to admit these failing in myself, especially as my husband said, I present myself as being so empowered and strong.  Why do I allow my feelings to be placed aside in order not to hurt the feelings of a man I have no obligation to protect? 

My good friend Celeste is someone whom I have admired for her ability to be outraged. She told me a story once about being in a drive through and the person in the car behind her began to honk their horn in impatience. As they became increasingly rude, she reached down below her seat and pulled out a crowbar. She got out of the car and headed to the one behind her. Apologies came fast and furious from the occupant and without a word Celeste had stood up for herself. I often think about that and wish I could think in the moment on how to act.

Maybe I need to start holstering a crowbar....



Sweet Tea said...

One step forward, two steps back.
Life in the "real" lane.
I think it's the "shock & awe" of the unexpected situation that throws us. Ya think?

Good, thought provoking post, Friend!

miruspeg said...

Lisa in the circumstances you have described about your colleague touching your feet and hugging you, I am pretty sure I would have reacted the same way and walked away if I felt uncomfortable, because I was caught off guard.

I am a big hugger and toucher and maybe I upset people without realising it.

I thought your friend Celeste was very brave to get out her crowbar and confront the rude car driver. I would never do that as I always believe that violence or threats of violence is not the solution to any problem.

But I have never been molested so I am in a different mindset to others who have been molested. I certainly understand why your husband was so upset and angry.

Take care my friend
Peggy xxxxx

Anonymous said...

hahaha, Celeste really got out a crowbar?! That is awesome! Good for her! I am going to start carrying one in my car. And stop wearing sandals! Or, at least charge him next time! haha

Just Stuff From a Boomer said...

I think the co-worker caught you unaware and now you know what you need to do in the next situation. Just say "Back off buddy". I've worked around this situation as well and in most cases, that is enough.

I don't agree with the crow bar yielding friend though. In this day and age, you can get shot for doing something like that.

As I've heard Oprah say, "When you know better, you do better." We all learn something new everyday.