1. Introduction
  2. Opinion of self
  3. Opinion of self in the eyes of others
  4. Comparing self with others
  5. What is Assertiveness?
  6. Why Are We Unassertive?
  7. Why Bother to be Assertive?
  8. Holistic self defence
  9. Experience is the name we give to our mistakes.
  10. Change brings life.


I have included self-assertion in the fifth chakra, because so much of our assertion will be communicated through words - either spoken or written. I considered including this section within the third chakra section because most of our assertive situations are related to our worldy boundaries and thus our personal power. To resolve this issue, I have included a short section on "Assertiveness and The Third Chakra" at the bottom of this page.

Our ability to assert and protect ourselves is intimately linked to our level of self-esteem and self-respect.

Our opinion of our self is a product of our mind.

  • We are what we think we are.
  • We can change the way we think about ourselves.
  • We can make up our mind about what opinion we have of our self and our behaviour.
  • We can review, adapt, and change this opinion dependent upon our learning from inner and outer sources.
  • We can learn to listen to appropriate others concerning their opinion of us.
  • We can make up our mind whether we think what they say is relevant or has any truth in it.
  • If, after careful consideration, we agree with their opinion we can adapt our behaviour.
  • If, after careful consideration, we disagree with their opinion we can choose to ignore their opinion.
  • Our behaviour should meet our standards and if these standards are not agreeable to others then we need to find out what part of our standards needs improving.
  • If you think that you are the focus of psychological abuse, judgmentalism, or prejudice, then you need to review the situation and work out ways of dealing with the situation.
  • Try to avoid becoming paranoid due to irrational fear and insecurity.
  • If you feel you are being unfairly judged then you need to review the situation and work out ways to deal with it. It is a good idea to seek out third-party advice.
  • Do not compare yourself unfairly with others.
  • Do not indulge in inferiority and superiority thinking and behavior.
  • If you feel you are being unfairly judged then you need to review the situation and work out ways to deal with it. It is a good idea to seek out third-party advice.

What is Assertiveness?

The word assertiveness is used to describe a certain kind of behavior. It is behavior which helps us to communicate clearly and confidently our NEEDS, WANTS and FEELINGS to other people without abusing in any way their human rights. It is an alternative to passive, aggressive and/or manipulative behavior.

If we want to be assertive we must:

  • Decide what we want.
  • Decide if it is fair
  • Ask clearly for it.
  • Not be afraid of taking risks.
  • Be calm and relaxed.
  • Express our feelings openly.
  • Give and take compliments easily
  • Give and take fair criticism.

We must not:

  • Beat about the bush.
  • Go behind people's backs.
  • Bully.
  • Call people names.
  • Bottle up our feelings.
  • Be aggressive and antisocial.
  • Resort to hostility and violence.

Very few people manage to be assertive in all areas of their lift. Some of us manage to be assertive at home but have difficulties at work. Others may be fine when they are working but are unable to assert themselves within their personal relationships.

Why Are We Unassertive?

"The child is Father to the man." - Wordsworth.

Those of us who are parents will remember only too well how little fear our new-born babies had about communicating their needs and feeling in an open and direct manner! As babies they may not have acquired the more sophisticated assertive skills of judging whether their demands are fair, or making requests in a calm relaxed manner but they certainly do not beat about the bush. Very quickly, however children learn to adapt their behavior according to the kind of response their requests receive (ref: conditioning).

They may learn that by behaving as a good, quiet, sweet little child they get the goodies that they need or want. Alternatively, they may find that shouting screaming and kicking bring a quicker and more satisfying response.

At school, children also go through the same unconscious learning process (ref: conditioning). There, they may find that the behavior that worked best at home does not get the same results at school. They begin to experiment with different approaches and responses. This process of learning to adapt our behavior to suit different social relationships is easier for some of us than others. Much will depend on how successful and satisfying our relationships with the most important figures in our life have been.

  • If our demands for physical and emotional nourishment from our parents or parent substitutes were well met - we will find the process of adapting our behavior to different situations relatively easy.
  • If our early basic demands were not well satisfied - we will try again elsewhere. Unfortunately we may try in the most inappropriate places and end up getting rejected.

For example; a child who tries to get his basic needs fulfilled at school may well get rebuffed and punished for being "attention-seeking", "clingy" or "over-anxious to please."

In our 'sophisticated' Western society we generally cater for the physical needs of children reasonably well. Catering adequately for their emotional needs on the other hand, is often not so easily achieved.

If we wish our children to grow up into confident, assertive adults, we will need to provide them with the following:

  • A MODEL OF ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOR - someone who is assertive with them and whom they trust and respect and will want to be like.
  • LOVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT - to build up a sense of their own worth.
  • CARING CRITICISM - to enable them to see themselves, their actions, and their demands realistically.
  • A SENSE OF VALUES - to help them assess their own and others' rights.
  • A BASIC FEELING OF SECURITY - to enable them to experiment with risks and make mistakes.

This is, of course, a very tall order which very few of us can meet. We can take comfort from this proverb:

"He that hath no children brings them up well.

Of course it isn't only the influence of our parents that we must examine in order to find the cause of our unassertive behavior. There are many other factors to take into consideration such as:

  • Our position in the family - were we the first, middle or last child?
  • The influence of other relatives - other family members.
  • What sort of school did we go to - how did we get on with the teachers and our peers?
  • What did we achieve - at school and later at work?
  • Our Gender - in our society women tend to be passive while men are often aggressive.
  • Our Social Class - sometimes money and power make it easier for us to be more assertive though unfortunately they also seem to encourage aggressive behavior.

Assertiveness Training does not strictly speaking concern itself with the causes of problems but rather with the development of appropriate skills to cope with them. In my groups, however I am finding it more and more helpful to spend some time looking at this question.

Before coming on a course, unassertive people are so busy blaming themselves for being so inadequate that they have not given a thought as to how their personal and social background might have affected their behavior. A little understanding of how we become unassertive can help reduce the feeling of guilt and give your self-esteem and motivation a boost.

"Happy is he who has been able to learn the cause of things."  - Vigil.

Why Bother to be Assertive?

It is important at the start of any Assertiveness Training programme to be very clear about both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming more assertive. Most people register on my courses because they hope that if they learn to be more assertive, they will get more of what they want. Unfortunately, this is not always true.

Assertiveness Training helps us to communicate our needs more openly and honestly but it cannot guarantee that they will be met. Assertive behavior more often leads to compromise and negotiation rather than an outright win for one party. Often, manipulative, 'behind the back' techniques and aggressive behavior actually gets us more of what we want in terms of material goods or power. It does so, though, often at great expense to our personal relationships and self-esteem. Biographies of very many powerful and successful people reveal loneliness and feeling of self-deprecation. Assertiveness Training teaches us to behave in such a way so that we do not continually come away from situations feeling bad about ourselves.

We will come away with the satisfaction that we 'did our best' and did not abuse the rights of others. The good news is that people who are generally assertive are confident and relaxed people who are happy simply to be themselves.

"Best be yourself - imperial, plain, and true."

Assertive people are aware both of their strengths and their weaknesses. They are not afraid of taking risks and know that by doing so, they will probably make many mistakes.


Imagine Yourself and Your Centers Surrounded By Protective Sphere

Another aspect of being assertive is holistic self defense. We set up our own social boundaries, values, and ethics which we will need to defend. Whenever we believe in something then we need to realize that, at some point in life, we will be called on to explain and defend our opinions. Being assertive means that we don't let anybody control our inner self. It means that our inner space is sacred and we only allow those that we trust and love the privilege of sharing that space. It means that we have our own private inner space that we are in control of and we control the access to it. If other's try to enter by force, then we can defend our inner space. This is holistic self defense.

Just like the Shaolin Monks, we can defend ourselves with suitable force and conviction, but we never set out to harm the other. We can choose to apply the law of harmless (ahimsa) in every area of our lives - holistic harmlessness - and especially in the area of self assertion. The most successfully assertive people are those that refrain from unconscious anger and never resort to attacking the other (in thought, word, or action).

Experience is the name we give to our mistakes

If you are assertive you will view mistakes positively and see them as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. You will have learned to gauge your successes by your own capabilities and potential rather than by continually comparing yourself with other people. Accepting your own capabilities will help you to set yourself realistic goals so that you do not continually put yourself into situations where you will feel a failure.

Being assertive also means accepting that not everyone in the world will be kind and caring towards you. You will develop the ability to spot when you are being abused or 'put down' and you will know how to cope with unfair criticism and exploitation.

Finally, you will learn to use assertiveness appropriately. You will be aware that there are some situations when it is wise to take a back seat, and some where it is appropriate to fight for your, and others, rights.

An obvious example of when assertive behavior might not be appropriate would be when you or others are in physical danger. Yes, certainly learning to be assertive is worth the effort. Even the process of learning the skills can be challenging and fun.

Change brings life

An Assertiveness Training group may be exhausting but most people find the supportive, caring and often humorous atmosphere a wonderful experience. They treasure the unique opportunity to be completely open about their strengths and weaknesses and help each other work constructively on their problems.

The support you can get in an Assertiveness Training group can help you to cope with the inevitable changes in your life and relationships. For some people these changes may take place very smoothly but for others the period of transition can be very stressful.

It is not uncommon for many people at the end of an Assertiveness Training course to feel dissatisfied with some of their previous relationships. As they become more assertive they realize how suffocating these relationships have been and unless the other person is willing to change or adapt, a parting of the ways often results.

The period between ending a friendship and finding a more satisfying replacement can be unsettling. This is when you will find invaluable the support of 'true friends' and your group.

  1. Self Respect and Self Esteem.
  2. Finding Your Self Worth.
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