Updated 10 July 2014

Beginners guide to putting yourself first

After being the one who has constantly put others' needs before her own, this reader has finally decided to take a stand to be more assertive.

I am the girl who cannot say no.  On the rare occasion I utter this forbidden word, it comes out as an apology and I’ll go out of my way to make things right. 

The long weekend in June was a typical example.  Saw my family in the afternoon for a celebration, saw in-laws in the evening for another party.

Had plans to see my parents for Father’s Day the following evening.  FIL then suggests something in the morning and is surprised when I say we have plans (and were seeing them that evening anyway). 

As with most people who cannot say no – I passed the responsibility (and phone) onto hubby to get us out of it!

Well enough is enough and quite frankly being the girl who cannot say no to anything at work, and most things after hours hasn’t earned me much respect.  If I do not agree to something with a massive smile people are genuinely surprised. 

Which says a lot. 

So this past week involved a lot of relatively new things for me – saying no, putting myself first in situations and doing what was best for me.

Day 1:

Plans for a girls night out next month have been finalised and I’ve been looking forward to trying the restaurant that was suggested. 

Unfortunately a few days after the booking is made one lady confirms she cannot make it and the organiser suggests another date.

The old me:  wait for someone to say it doesn’t suit them or just miss out on the evening because I cannot rearrange my other plans.  Plus I’m the newest member in this group of friends – I don’t want to rock the boat.

The slightly more assertive me:  immediately let the organiser know this does not suit me – I am away the following weekend.

Day 2:

At work a colleague asks if I’d like to sit on a committee. In all honesty this committee wouldn’t be necessary if everyone had stuck to deadlines agreed to a couple months ago.

The old me:  give up my time to help others who a) knew about the deadlines and b) showed no interest in sticking to them.                                         

The slightly more assertive me:  Said no.  I have absolutely no interest in sitting on said committee.  I worked my backside off to get everything done in time.

Day 3:

My parents have arranged a supper and my Dad’s side of the family are all coming.  Hubby and I have planned a day trip followed by a date night and I’ve really been looking forward to this. 

I do not feel like giving this up so that I can listen to a negative uncle complain about everything the entire evening.  Not my idea of fun.

The old me:  Try fit in a quick visit in between the day trip and our date night.  Listen to negative droning.  Feel resentful.

The slightly more assertive me:  Was honest – said that we have plans and will not be postponing it.  Also was open about how draining the negative relative is and how unpleasant he can make these family gatherings.  Apparently I am not the only one that feels this way.

Day 4:

Dinner with the in-laws.  We have for a number of months now, put up with a lot of rudeness from my brother-in-law and his wife.  BIL and SIL think the world owes them and will walk over anyone to get what they want.

Other people’s feelings are of little importance. As they are the favourites in my Mother-in-law’s eyes they can do no wrong. So if they want something MIL will make sure they get it. When they are rude to us – well “I don’t really have time for this” is MIL’s response to us.

The old me:  put up with this rubbish attitude and just keep all the anger inside. Okay that is a lie… I do have a blog.

The slightly more assertive me: Tells MIL that we aren’t putting up with BIL and SIL’s rudeness anymore. We aren’t even going to bother making an effort to see them and they aren’t getting gifts (which they rudely don’t reciprocate) any longer.

Needless to say the dinner on day 4 is not pleasant.

Day 5:

A course I’ve been wanting to do is being offered at work. I know the basics but it would be great to know how to do the fancy stuff should I ever need it.  Unfortunately this falls on a Friday I’ve booked myself a spa day.

I have been dreaming about this relaxing day for ages and cannot postpone as I’ve planned it around a weekend away and it is long drive for one day.

The old me: try to re-schedule things. I don’t want to look disinterested in learning further at work

The slightly more assertive me: sends an e-mail confirming I am away but would be interested if there is another one planned for a different day.

Day 6:

Planning a double date with a friend.

The old me: Leave the decision making up to others.

The slightly more assertive me: suggest a restaurant I love, e-mailed a copy of the menu, suggested suitable dates, chose one that suits hubby and I best and then make the booking.

Day 7:

Giving feedback regarding something I’m not happy with.

The old me: say what the person wants to hear.

The slightly more assertive me: say what I want to say in a nice but forceful way.  Constructive criticism can go a long way.

The verdict:

The girls night out stayed at the original date, my parents were understanding about the family gathering and I managed to get a spot doing the course at work later in the year.

Some people were not impressed I didn’t join the committee and my mother-in-law will probably be pissed off for quite some time.

It doesn’t sound like much if you have always been an assertive person.  But for me who lets others take the lead, who goes along with things when I’m not keen and who just battles to say no, it was a big deal.

A week of saying what I wanted to, putting myself first and in cases being a little selfish has left me with the realisation that saying no is not a sin. 

Neither is standing up for yourself and letting others know what you want.

Do you find it easy to say no? Or do you allow people to steamroller you into doing what they want?

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