Sunday, August 31, 2014

You have the right to remain... selfish

“Maybe you feel pressure to be positive because so many people rely on your good, fake-positive energy? If that's the case, screw everybody else. You're not a bottle of Valium.” 
(Augusten Burroughs, This Is How)

Call is passive aggression, call it being a pussy, whatever you call it I’ve always had trouble asserting myself. In my head I’ve called it politeness and I’ve called it not wanting to rock the boat and I still believe in the value of that. I know some people who are, um, excessively assertive I guess, and to me it comes off as rudeness. Knowing what you want and valuing that isn’t the same as steamrolling over other people. Accommodating what other people want is fundamental to living a happy life surrounded by others, in my opinion.

However, over the years I have learned how to be more assertive or, as I prefer to think of it, to stand up for myself more or put myself first. That doesn't mean being confrontational - not something I'm great at - but just quietly championing my own interests above those of other people and trying not to feel bad about that. In the past I’ve put other people ahead of myself over dumb things that don’t matter: these days I try not to be such a martyr. Sometimes this means being honest when someone asks if I want to do something and the truth is I’m really craving a night in bed with my book. Sometimes it means disagreeing with someone at work who’s more senior than me and not feeling like I have to bow to their opinion just because of that fact. Sometimes it means just being very very selfish and doing exactly what I want to do, like going to a solo weekend movie and eating a choc-top for lunch.

I was thinking about this today because I came across this ‘bill of assertive rights’ from a guy called Manuel J Smith who seems to be something of a self-help author. I don’t really go in for self-help in a big way (this wonderful book is an exception) but this tickled something in me, I’m not sure why. Oh and if you're wondering why this post is illustrated by a photo of Katherine Hepburn well just look at her - do you think she took crap from anyone?

A Bill of Assertive Rights
(Manuel J Smith)

I: You have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II: You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behaviour.

III: You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

IV: You have the right to change your mind.

V: You have the right to make mistakes—and be responsible for them.

VI: You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”

VII: You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

IX: You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”

X: You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”

You have the right to say no, without feeling guilty.”

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