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4 Quotes from Powerful Women on Assertiveness

Don't believe you can ask for what you want without being considered aggressive? Four powerful women give their thoughts on being assertive.

As women we often feel as if asking for what we want, a.k.a. being assertive, is a bad thing. This may be partially caused by how we are raised. Our belief that we have to take care of everyone else before ourselves means that we aren’t focused on our own needs, and asking for something for ourselves feels selfish and uncaring. The truth is we have to take care of ourselves first, or we won’t have the energy or desire to take care of others.

Don’t feel like you have the courage to ask for what you want or need? Here is some advice from other women on being assertive and asking for what we want.

“The biggest difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how your words and behaviors affect the rights and well being of others.” – Sharon Anthony Bower, President of Confidence Training Inc.

We often get the words aggressive and assertive confused. We think they mean the same thing, but they don’t. Aggressive is defined as “unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions.” There is a violence about the word. Whereas assertive is “confidently … or self-assured; positive.” Which would you rather be – confident or violent?

Being assertive does not mean that you make things happen. In fact, the only action an assertive person can take is to ask someone for something. Because the assertive person doesn’t force their will on those around them, all they can do is ask that an action be taken or that an action be stopped. After that it is up to the other person to decide what they want to do. Acting in this way treats the other person with respect, as if they are important and responsible enough to make their own decisions. If the other person is not able to make their own decisions, then a more aggressive tactic may be called for.

 “Never feel bad for being assertive, speaking your mind, and putting your foot down. What you think is anger, others see as a good solid display of self-esteem.” – Alison James, Author of The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35

As women we often spend more time worrying about how others see us, or might see us, than we do about doing what is right for ourselves. We need to pay attention to the still, small voice, the one that is so hard to hear in the noise we create by putting ourselves down. It asks us to do scary things, things that we don’t believe we can do. It challenges us to live our dreams and see where they take us. When we follow what that small voice says, amazing things begin to happen, things we can’t even imagine could happen.

I know that my judgement about how I am perceived is not correct, usually 100% of the time. If I think someone thinks X of me, they really think Y. We cannot understand, nor is it our job to know, what other people think of us. In fact, it is none of our business, because we are not in control of how they think. We can only control our own thoughts and actions, so we must concentrate on them. With this in mind, we are free to act for our own best interest.

“It’s okay to speak up for yourself, be assertive, and refuse disrespect. It doesn’t make you a bitch. It makes you someone who is setting healthy boundaries.” – Karen Salmansohn, Author

Boundaries are a struggle. It can be difficult to see where we need boundaries and where we need walls. Walls keep people out. They prevent intimacy and closeness, often in the guise of preventing pain. They can be helpful if someone is truly a threat to our mental or physical safety. A boundary, on the other hand, is flexible, and we can change our minds about them. We can let people in, but we don’t have to allow them to hurt us. One of the biggest powers we have is to walk away from a situation.

Standing up for ourselves often means enforcing a boundary, such as leaving the room if someone is yelling at us. We must take the time to determine what our boundaries are, what behavior we will not accept, and what we will do if someone behaves that way. Leaving or disengaging from the conversation are two great ways to keep your boundaries intact. Be careful about setting a boundary and then not following through with the consequences. It isn’t necessary to tell anyone about your boundaries.

 “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This one is always a gut check for me. I realize that I truly am in charge of my feelings, and that no one can MAKE me feel anything. I often decide to let something bug me or make me angry, when I could just as well decide to let the whole thing blow over without making a scene.

The quote also points out how often we choose to feel inferior. We see a woman we think has her life together, she appears happy and healthy, and we put ourselves down for not having that life. What we don’t realize is that we’re comparing our insides to another person’s outsides. We have no idea what is going on in that woman’s life or what she is thinking or feeling. The truth is we all struggle with something every minute of every day, it is just a different something.

We have no reason to feel inferior, and we are just hurting ourselves in the process. I know when I feel inferior, I want to hide, not follow my dreams, not try new things, and not risk anything. If I choose to see myself as a human being trying to make the best of what life has to give me, I become more willing to accept risk and try something different. It is in taking risks and doing different things that we can learn more about ourselves and come to love ourselves as we are.

Hopefully these quotes will help you be more assertive in your life. Remember, you are worth it!

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