By Carolyn Digby
There is no one personality type that is more susceptible to developing an eating disorder than others. There are common characteristics that many, including myself, seem to share. Being a people pleaser was one that contributed to my past struggles.
I hated confrontation (and still do to an extent), and tended to stay silent when confronted with a situation that I strongly disagreed with. This stemmed from the fact that I had a low self-esteem, and didn’t feel that my opinions mattered. I’d then become frustrated with myself for not saying anything, then slowly become more and more resentful, until one day I would inevitably burst at the subject seemingly out of nowhere.
I’m not perfect and still have people pleasing tendencies, but over time I’ve learned to become more assertive when faced with disagreements and in my everyday life. A huge part of that was becoming more confident in myself, and acknowledging that my thoughts and opinions are valuable and worth being heard. It’s no fun to be a doormat, and people can sense and take advantage of that.
While it may not seem like much, there are a few tweaks here and there that can really help boost your confidence and make you more assertive. It is amazing that the power of having a small boost of self-esteem can do; feeling more confident can transcend into multiple areas of your life, and even the smallest things matter.
With that, here are five quick tips to becoming more assertive:
- When texting or emailing, remove most of the unnecessary emoticons, abbreviations and exclamation points. While they are fun, they take awake from your initial message from being heard. I know many people (myself included) choose to use them excessively to appear more likeable or personable, however they can diminish the meaning behind what you are saying. This isn’t to say remove them entirely, just use them wisely and be mindful of the context. Texting your friend about making plans for the movies is a different ball game than emailing your boss concerning a project.
- I was, and can still be, a chronic apologizer. I apologized to a woman today when she wasn’t paying attention and walked straight into me on the sidewalk. You can only blame it on being Canadian for so long! Try to stop apologizing for things that are not your fault or saying things are okay that clearly are not – it creates a power dynamic of one person being able to walk all over the other. We do it because we don’t want to cause conflict. Instead of impulsively apologizing, it is okay to simply express your discontent, forgive, then let it go.
- If someone compliments you, accept it! It can be so rare in this day to receive a genuine compliment – and we can sadly be so quick to dismiss them or find some sort of scapegoat. Fully enjoy it without making excuses, and be sure to thank them.
- It’s okay to take up more space – your body language has a direct effect on how you feel (for more on this, check out Amy Cuddy’s TEDtalk on power poses). I found I’d often hunch up and try to make myself smaller when just sitting anywhere – be it public transit or work meetings. This not only portrayed a lack of confidence, but I felt so...small, for lack of a better word. Sit up straight, take up as much room as you need, lift your head. Minor tweaks in your body language can go very far – you will not only look more confident, but you will become more confident too.
- Say what you mean, mean what you say. It’s easy to use filler language to appear nicer, but as with point #1, it takes away from your message. This can be particularly helpful when it comes to the working or school world; for example, which message would you take more seriously?
-Hey XXX! I just was hoping that maybe you could send the assignment to me at some point tonight 😊 I needed it this afternoon to make some changes, but oh well. When you have a moment!
-Hey XXX, can you please send me the assignment tonight? I needed it this afternoon.
While B looks blunt, you get the message across and you will more likely be taken seriously. Another quick tip on this: anytime you find yourself wanting to say "but", replace it with "and". "But" is one of those words that can really rob your initial message; once a "but" is added, the person then only hears what follows.
Slight changes go a long way! As Amy Cuddy says in her TEDtalk, “Fake it ‘til you become it”.
Carolyn went to the University of Victoria for psychology, and is currently working towards applying for a Master's degree in the same subject. She hopes to uncover what sociological and personality aspects contribute to the development of eating disorders. Otherwise, Carolyn loves writing, drawing, travelling the world, and of course, her handsome cat.