Unlike the previous two graces I considered, I don't feel like the word "assertiveness" has really any negative connotations that go with it. Moreover, it's definitely something I need to try and work on these days. I'm not sure if I consider it a true virtue to live one's life by, but it is at the very least an important character value that I know I need more of.
Assertiveness, roughly speaking, is the happy medium between being a doormat and a bully. It is saying what you like, going after what you want and being unafraid to try and influence people toward your aims, but without being rude, overstepping their personal boundaries or forcing them to do what you want - basically, getting what you want and being damn nice about it. 'Nuff said.
The area in my life that I think I most need assertiveness is in my relationship with my father. It's not a terribly healthy one - our conversations all seem to consist of him stating and restating what he wants for and from me in increasingly louder tones and me standing there sullenly, answering in single syllables and praying to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. Before I moved back here a few months ago, I'd lived on my own for four years, seen the world (well, parts of it), and become an independent adult woman in my own right. Suddenly being back here, though, staying in the same house, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same room that I spent my miserable teenage years in somehow causes me to revert to that same moody, sullen, troubled, silent, sad little girl I was back then anytime my father and I clash wills. I am struck dumb, unable to say what I think or feel or want in any way that makes sense to either of us. I feel like a stupid child, as I'm sure I must appear in his eyes - a silly little daydreamer who pouts whenever anyone mentions that her dreams might not be worthwhile, and who won't put real work towards anything that might actually lead her somewhere.
The thing is, though, I do have goals and dreams that are worthwhile. The two main ones at the moment are to get myself fairly secure financially and to continue my education, and the overall goal is to strike a happy medium between these two - not to put one (and the rest of my life, pretty much) on indefinite hold while I rush headlong towards the other, as he seems to believe I will do in either case (towards more schooling, if I should do as he wishes, and towards a dead-end life in low-wage jobs if I should go against him).
The problem here, of course, is that I can type all this out fairly coherently to a (mostly) anonymous internet audience, but I can't get up the guts to speak the same words, quietly and calmly, like an adult, to my own father.
I got an unexpected hint tonight that I probably need to say more of what I'm thinking, and damn the torpedoes. It came when my dad was reading the Bible before we ate dinner (yes, they do that every day), and the passage for the day was about Moses and the burning bush. There's a part where Moses is all "but um I like can't speak good 'n stuff, pick someone who's more...uh...ella...eloquent. Yeah." and then YHWH is like "honey with ME telling you what to say, you gonna be making speeches like they was Grandma's cookies, 5 dozen at a time AND all of them damn good!" Well ok fine they were speaking some strain of ancient Aramaic, but the gist is still there. Anyways, it was just a little bit of a two-by-four - I say often that I've got the exact same problem with words and use that as a crutch and an excuse for not speaking my mind, even though I know that with the right intent and the Big Mama telling me what to say (once I ask her nicely) I could speak words that would shake the planet.
It's getting late and I need my sleep, so I'll call it a night. To sum up, this one's got more than a fair chance of being on my final list.
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