I had never been so angry in my life. Several years ago, I was leading a meeting and my authority was challenged by a man with a known “Napolean” complex. I had asked for a status update from his team and his response was quite disrespectful. Now, he had previously demonstrated a negative attitude in previous meetings and I had ignored it. But I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I did something that was totally un-Christian. I went off on him in front of everyone.
Afterwards, I was shaking. I’m sure I shocked everyone because I was known for my cool, calm personality at that company. In fact, one of my coworkers had a name for it: The Zen of Kim. Although I regretted losing my temper, I didn’t regret what I said. Later on that day, “Napolean” came to me and apologized. It was my first realization that the world would not end if I stood up for myself. In fact, I believe that there was a new beginning to my world because that was another pivotal moment in my decision to lose my excess weight.
You see, up until that time I was always “The Nice Girl.” If anyone asked me to do something, I would smile and say “Yes.” Sometimes I didn’t even want to say yes and secretly resented it, but I would still say ‘yes’ because I wanted the other person to like me.
Now I recognize that a lot of my behavior was passive-aggressive. For example, I had a boyfriend who would often ask me what movie I wanted to see. I’d say, “I don’t care.” But deep down, I did care. He’d pick a movie, usually one that I didn’t want to see, but I went along with it anyway. Then I’d been miserable at the movie and resent him because he didn’t guess what movie I wanted to see!
I realize now I was causing a lot of unnecessary stress for myself. I was eating excessively, stuffing my feelings down with food instead of expressing them honestly…as it was my right to do as a human being.
So I want to ask you…are you expressing yourself assertively? Here are three questions to ask to find out:
1. Can you say ‘No’ without guilt?
If you are in a position to do so, I want you to say the word, “No” out loud. Did the world come crashing down around you? Chances are, it didn’t! The reason the ability to say no is so important is this: Your time on earth is limited. You have things to do and only a limited amount of time to do them in. If you are busy saying “yes” to the wrong things, you will not have time left to say “yes” to the right things.
Before you can say ‘No’ without guilt, you have to be clear about the things that are important to you. For example, you know I preach that self-care is very important. However, if your schedule is so packed that you haven’t left time for that and doing things that bring you joy, then something is wrong. You need to look at your day and figure out the things that you need to eliminate to have time for the things you value. Everyone may not like it, but it’s your life and you deserve to live it in the way that suits you best.
2. Do you set boundaries with people?
Ever heard the saying, “Give an inch and some people will take a mile”? It is so true! You do one thing for certain people out of kindness and they came back to you with a list of 10 more. Or you loan them money because they said they were in danger of being kicked out of their apartment. Two months later, they are back…only this time, they need rent money and the car payment too!
Here are some words to live by and I think Dr. Phil said them: We teach people how to treat us. If someone has treated you in a disrespectful manner and you don’t say anything, then you have just told that person that it is okay to continue doing it. You must speak up and tell people when they have crossed the line. You can do it in private, and do it respectfully but it must be done. Otherwise, resentment will pile up and probably explode. That’s what happened in my dealings with “Napolean.”
If I had to do it over again, I would have taken him aside the first time he was disrespectful and calmly set that boundary. Then I would have avoided a lot of stress on my part and the explosion that came later.
3. Do you state your opinions without apology?
On this point, I am not talking about being obnoxious. But don’t say “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” if asked for your opinion when you really do! It’s disrespectful to yourself when you lie like that. I believe it diminishes your confidence and sends a message to yourself and others that you aren’t important. It seems like a small thing but it makes a big difference in your self-esteem and the way you manage your weight and health.