Tough Love Tuesday | On Being Authentically Assertive


I was trudging away on the elliptical listening to a recent podcast episode from Often Ambitious. They were talking about the difference between being aggressive and assertive. My friends and I have joked that I am pretty aggressive. Mostly, I don’t take anyone’s bullshit. I don’t mince words. I’m not into hand-holding. I’ve been called intimidating. But this podcast episode made me realize that I am not aggressive, but assertive. They reference this post from Dr. Nicole LePera, The Holistic Psychologist.

So this is me, owning my assertiveness. It’s a big part of what makes me who I am. I believe if you are not holding your own, you are letting others chip away at what makes you, you. How can you be authentically you when someone else is not letting you stand in your power?

People love it, LOVE IT, when I’m on my BT tough love kick. I get cheered on. They push me to go further. UNTIL it’s about them. Then they don’t want to hear it. 

The Holistic Psychologist’s post let me know that I am assertive, but I also notice that the response I typically get is aggressive. My MO is when I know I need to have that tough conversation, or if I’m writing a TLT, I want to leave people with a lesson or an action item that will help them become better. Words are powerful, so I make sure I deliver my message carefully. 

Even though I know I am coming from a good place, I’ve been met with being yelled at, being told I’m a horrible person, silent treatments, and that’s just to name a few reactions I’ve received. I’m left shaken and confused. Especially when I see that person is actively trying to hurt me. To clarify, I’m talking about people I have pre-existing relationships: friends, family, and my romantic partnership. I’m not running around giving strangers unsolicited feedback. No one likes that person. It took me a long time to understand why I got the reaction, and then I realized it.

I’ve become the mirror that they never wanted to look into. People come to me for advice, but when it gets too real, they back away and sometimes, lash out. And that makes sense. We want to protect ourselves. I also recognize I advise people when they never asked for it. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, I am a Type 1, aka the Reformer or Perfectionist. I am also an Obliger from Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies. To me, that is a combination of being compelled to make humans better than how they currently exist. It is the basis for everything I do. I’m a photographer because I want people to see themselves as their best selves. I do this branding work because I know small business owners can show up better and make more impact with a bit of our help.

So, what do you do if you find yourself in a similar situation? The podcast had a great way of approaching it. All you do is ask, “are you available for feedback?” Most don’t want to hear it, but when you ask that, they are opening up to listen to what you have to say. This is something I will be adopting. Not just for others because they are inviting themselves into that space, but mostly for me. I’ve spent so much energy being there for others to be then treated so aggressively, and that hurts. I’ve had the people closest to me act in ways that make me question myself and make me feel like I am a terrible person, all because I cared enough to say the words no one else had the courage to speak out loud.

I’m proud that I am an assertive person. I am proud that I am always standing up for myself and wanting the best in others. I wish everyone were more assertive. Maybe things would be different that way. People would say what they mean instead of beating around the bush. They would open up the space to have tough conversations.

If you relate to this and are the assertive person in your life, don’t let anyone else make you feel less than because your confidence brings out something in them that makes them feel small. Be authentically assertive. The world needs more people like you.

If you wish you were more assertive, start today. When you find yourself in a situation when you need to have that tough convo, ask, “are you available for feedback?” and see where that takes you.

If you find yourself reacting aggressively to someone showing assertion with you, take a step back and ask yourself where those feelings are coming from. Do you feel like you are being judged? Gabby Bernstein, in her book "Judgement Detox," says that if you feel like you are being judged, it was probably something you judged yourself about first. Take stock of your own feelings before you react. Say you need to take a break and come back to the conversation. Return when you know you can speak from a place of assertion and not aggression. Remember, you may not agree in the end, but you both came from a respectful position of listening while sharing your own beliefs. 

I also just saw this on Facebook right after I saw this so I had to post it.