How to be more assertive 

The other day I was in a meeting at work. I am support staff there and the meeting was with some of my colleagues but also some managers. Throughout the meeting I kept mostly quiet, as usual, and only spoke when spoken to. But during a particular discussion a thought popped into my head, that I wanted to add to the discussion.

‘Not good enough’

But of course, it’s never as easy as just saying what was in my head. Especially in a meeting with managers involved. In those situations my label of support staff just magnifies in my head, making me small an every body else bigger. So in this case my mind just went on a rollercoaster, thinking thoughts like these:

What if it’s not good enough?

What if they don’t like it?

They’ll laugh at me

They know better than I, they all have loads of experience.

I am only support staff, I don’t know enough about this to have an opinion that matters.

I will never be good enough

I better not say anything

But what if I word it in a different way?

And then I started to think hard about the wording, while sort of listening for an opening in the conversation. Because, it was bad enough that I wanted to say something potentially stupid, I better not make things worse by breaking into the discussion.

In the end I was so busy trying to formulate the correct sentence, and searching for way into the conversation, that I was barely paying attention to what was actually being said. At that point the discussion moved onto a different topic, so I never did say anything and on top of that I had not followed what was said.

Perfectionist with a minority complex

Unfortunately this is a familiar occurrence for me. I struggle with assertiveness, with speaking my mind in a group, with setting boundaries, with standing up for myself. This often results in thinking I’m not supposed to ask for help, because I should be able to do it by myself. I struggle with accepting too much work that later on I don’t know how to get done at the right time. In essence I’m a perfectionist with a minority complex, thinking almost everybody around me knows, does, works better than I do.

Because I have been struggling with it for a long time, lately I have started trying to change it. One thing I often tried, was to think:

I must not think those negative thoughts

But I have read a lot of self help books and taken some courses and had training aimed at self-improvement. The general consensus is that my approach did not work. I just did not have an alternative.

Helpful thoughts

In a recent training though, the concept of helpful thoughts was introduced; what can you think that helps to see the situation in a positive way. The clincher with a helpful thought is, though, that you ahve to believe the thought. Several others in the training listed their helpful thoughts. Most of them fell into the category of:

Everybody is allowed to make mistakes.*

The clincher with a helpful thought is, though, that you have to believe the thought. And my thing with ‘everybody is allowed to make mistakes’ is that in my head I add an asterisk to it. That asterisk says something along the lines of:

* except for me. I have to be perfect.

So those thoughts did not work for me. It took some time for me to figure out what my helpful thought could be. Actually, it took me exactly as long as it took me to pray about it. (Sometimes I forget to include God in my work life, because I don’t see what He has to do with it… but that is a different post all together). When I finally did pray about it, I got two pieces of wisdom. One was a clear thought:

God created everybody exactly as they are meant to be.

And I could not think an asterisk to that, that would somehow exclude me from that. So that thought worked for me and was actually helpful.

Just such a time

The other piece of wisdom God gave me was not as clear, not did I immediately figure out the relevance. It was a reference to Esther:

Who knows, perhaps you were born for just such a time as this.

Esther 4:14

This was not as clear cut. Esther has been made queen of Persia, and at this point has found out that her people will soon be killed. The only way to stop this is to go to the king. But to approach the king without his invitation, in Persia, meant a death penalty, unless the king granted you favor. So Esther contemplates her own life for that of her people. The words above are spoken to her by her uncle, who in essence tells her that maybe this moment might be exactly why she born, why she became queen. Or in other words, why God created her. And it maybe true; that God created Esther, and made her queen so she would save the Jews. But I don’t think that her purpose ended once she did. God used her after. And I believe that He can use anybody in any situation. He equips His people with exactly what they need to fulfill their purpose, in all situations.

So I interpreted that word of knowledge like this: I know God has a plan and a purpose for me in this world. But, I also know that it is not limited to one thing or one act I’m supposed to do. So if that is the case, He has a purpose for me; even in the office; even in the meeting. God guides my steps and my thoughts.

On top of that, I know that if God has a purpose for me, He also has equipped me to fulfill it. That means I have everything I need, and I don’t need to fear not being good enough.

God does not create ‘not good enough’

So, when I’m at the office nowadays, or in any situation where I feel I may not be ‘good enough’, I try to think:

Perhaps I was created for such a time as this, with a purpose here, and God has equipped me fully for it. I have something to add to this conversation, because, God has put me here.

Now I’m not saying that I have been super self confident. But I do know that since I started thinking that more and more, I started to feel it. I started to feel that I do have something to add. And I started to be able to take the risk of being honest to my colleagues about what I think and the progress I have made (even if sometimes I still think I should have done more). And 9 times out of 10 my colleagues do not respond as I assumed they would; with laughter, or superiority. Those experiences have given me more confidence as well.

But I would have never taken the risk of testing those assumptions, if I hadn’t had those helpful thoughts. And I’m starting to realize that my confidence has very little to do with the other people in the room. It has everything to do with what I believe: God does not create ‘not good enough’! God creates ‘wonderfully’ and ‘perfectly’!


2 thoughts on “How to be more assertive 

  1. Wauw Vivian, wat moedig om je ervaring hiermee te delen en te vertellen wat God voor je doet wanneer jij je helpt te ontdekken dat je al ‘wonderfull’ bent! Nice post, keep on writing!


  2. Pingback: Plan Hopping: bible reading for the easily distracted – From me to grace

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