It’s no secret that many new graduates can find it difficult to assert themselves in the workplace. We don’t want to create waves or do anything that might potentially threaten our position in the company. But at the same time, we don’t want to be taken advantage of because that is a slippery slope that will only lead to more liberties being taken against us.
The same can be said for our personal lives. We find it awkward to disrupt the family dynamic when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations caused by family members. There is this idea that we need to respect older family members no matter what. There is a hierarchy that must remain intact. But this kind of thinking is damaging, it allows certain behaviours to go unchecked and ultimately breeds resentment amongst family members because of the inner-conflict we experience: our ‘duty’/’obligations’ versus our autonomy.
In other relationships it can be just as hard. Friendships and romantic relationships can be tricky to navigate, especially if you have known the person for a significant time. We think that because of the longevity of the relationship, it would be easy to bring up problematic behaviours or situations we are not comfortable with. But that perhaps makes it more difficult, because we feel as if we shouldn’t say anything because this could potentially change the relationship in a negative way, or cause unnecessary friction.
Depending on the context, there will always be a number of reasons to not assert ourselves. Despite this, it is important that we stand up for ourselves and be comfortable speaking up when something bothers us. No-one else will do it, and people aren’t mind readers. If we let something go unchecked, we are setting a precedent that what happened is okay and it will happen again.
We need to set boundaries otherwise people will take advantage of us or overlook us. It’s not too late to put these boundaries in place if you have let things slide that you wouldn’t normally. There is no statute of limitation. It’s a matter of saying, ‘I have let this happen in the past, but it’s actually something I am not comfortable with and it needs to stop’ or ‘I didn’t mention anything before, but I want you to know that I want to be put forward for more projects’ or ‘it was actually my idea, and I would like to take the lead’.
It’s understandable to be afraid of creating tension. We don’t want to be labelled as ‘problematic’ or ‘uncooperative’, but ask yourself if keeping quiet is worth enduring the inner-conflict. The answer is no.
If the thought of confrontation has you breaking out in a cold sweat, start small. Take the last piece of your favourite cake (unapologetically), say no to putting yourself in environments that cause you distress, decide in this very moment that you will take agency of your life.
Article photo by NeONBRAND