Happy Friday, y’all!
Today we’re talking about feeling seen and how we go about doing that. Whether it's with friends, family, or at work, it is important to feel valued and validated. But what happens when this doesn’t happen? What happens when time and time again we feel ignored or overlooked? Recently I contributed to an UpJourney article called “Why Do People Ignore Me? (9 Potential Reasons According to Experts)”. In the article, I talk about how we can feel overlooked when our needs aren’t being met in the way we need them to be met. This got me thinking about being assertive and all that it entails. Being assertive often gets a bad rap. Assertiveness can be confused with aggression; so it gets bypassed for fear of being viewed as “mean”, “demanding”, or just plain “bitchy”. But the alternative is passivity and minimizing your needs- not allowing them to be voiced or met.
I have 3 “friends”-- Passive Pam, Assertive Amy and Aggressive Ann. Passive Pam never voices her needs- she often minimizes and avoids acknowledging what she truly wants in order to make others happy. Though she means well, this keeps people from getting to know her. She may be the friend or coworker who is always taking on more work even though she already has more than enough on her plate. She’s quick to help everyone around her, but doesn’t ask for help herself. She can be a people pleaser.
Aggressive Ann is the complete opposite of Pam. Aggressive Ann appears to only care about her needs and doesn’t seem to care about the needs of those around her. She’s the coworker that no one wants to work with because she’s difficult to please and refuses to compromise. It's her way or the highway. She knows best--always.
What Ann and Pam have in common is that their actions harm relationships-- Passive Pam by avoiding honesty and intimacy, and Aggressive Ann by isolating herself and pushing others away. Pam may think that she’s being a good friend or colleague by prioritizing everyone else’s needs, but in doing so she’s sacrificing her own needs and well-being. Ann may think she’s being assertive and doesn’t realize the impact she’s having on others. She may think that she’s helping her team be efficient by telling them what she thinks is best, though not leaving space for anyone else to contribute in a real way.
Somewhere between Aggressive Ann and Passive Pam, we have Assertive Amy. She is able to assert her needs and wants (unlike Pam), but does so in a way that is respectful to the needs of others (unlike Ann). She is a team player, but will be direct if she has any concerns or disagreements with the direction of a project. She’s open to compromising with others, but won’t sacrifice what she feels is significant without making her opinion known.
It is very common that over time, passivity can breed resentment and anger which often leads to a Passive Pam becoming an Aggressive Ann. This might look like someone who is always helping others, while never expressing any needs or wants of their own, getting fed up and pissed off that their needs and wants are never thought of by others. This resentment and anger may then manifest in their relationships in caustic ways, such as holding grudges, sarcastic comments, or complete avoidance (or “ghosting”) of others.
Assertiveness and aggression both have a sense of power about them and this is often what gets them confused. Unlike Passive Pam, Assertive Amy and Aggressive Ann are empowered to self-advocate (though in very different ways). Being assertive can be scary and maybe feel like you’re being mean and demanding, but the alternative is not asking for what you need and, in turn, those needs not being met.
Do you feel more connected to your needs or the needs of others? Are you able to assert what you need in a way that feels safe and honest? What comes up for you when you have to advocate for yourself? Do you feel you have the right to ask for what you need?
I’d love to talk with you more about what comes up when you consider these questions!