I need to become proactive, not reactive

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
I need to become proactive, not reactive
Tue, 07-08-2003 - 10:54am
Hi, I'm new to the board.

I'm going through a difficult time with my boyfriend, and one of the things that he's brought up repeatedly through our relationship, is that I don't have the self confidence to stand up for myself. I'm reading a book my mom gave me 3 years ago (when I WAS a teen) called 7 Habits of Highly effective Teens. I'm realizing that I am a reactive person, but I don't do anything about it. I react to a situation and I'm quick to blame others, but I refuse to challenge status quo.

When we talked about it last night, the first thing I did was point to my mother, and he interrupted me and said, "you can't blame everything on your mom." And he's right, I need to stop doing that. I need some help in gaining the confidence to blame myself, and then instead of just blaming, fixing. The instances he points out are my reluctance to confront my roommates about the temperature our heat was set at, when our gas and electric bill was sky high, or how when I was at the airport a few weeks ago, I found a hair in my burger, and instead of complaining, I paid for it and took off, because I felt so sick.

I know the first step is realizing that you need to change it, but I don't know where to go from there, and I am just wondering if there are other people out there who have gone through this or are going through this and can relate or offer wisdom and advice.



Oh and I know it sounds like I'm trying to change for my boyfriend, but I'm not. I'm doing this for myself, because I know that for me to go anywhere in life, I need self confidence and pride, which will only come if I learn how to become proactive.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Wed, 07-09-2003 - 10:25am
Hello Lisa, welcome to the board. Sorry it took me so long to reply.

Well, I can definitely relate to what you are saying. I call it a lack of assertiveness. I've always been the one to not complain... why? I don't know.

And then I realized, it was because I didn't want to look bad. I didn't want to risk people not liking me. So - I put up with things. Things very similar to what you talked about.

I decided that I DESERVED to be happy too. Why should all of these other people have it THEIR way? Like the thermostat issue - you should bring it up & then come to an agreement about the heat setting. Why shouldn't it be your way too????

As far as finding a hair in your food - just think... if you served food with hair in it... would you expect anyone to accept it? Nope. You are just as good as anyone else -and deserve good service, good treatment, etc.

Anyway - I hope that helped a little bit. Hugs, Julie


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 07-11-2003 - 12:53pm
Thank you Julie, that did help, a lot.

I'm trying to figure out how I can become more accepting of my own faults and try to change them instead of blame others for them.

It's weird though, with my family, I will complain about things and cause changes to happen, but with strangers I won't. I guess I'm just afraid of what people will think of me, like you said. I hate being a doormat, and I hate the fact that I have been a doormat for so long. I've let so many guys walk all over me, and I've hated how that's made me feel, but I've never known how to change it. I'm almost afraid that in the current situation with my boyfriend, I'm letting him walk all over me, but I am standing up for myself, and not taking everything he gives me without a fight.

So that's been a start, but I don't know where to go from here.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Sun, 07-13-2003 - 2:35am
Hi Lisa.

I can commiserate with what you're going through. It's always been hard for me to stand up for myself, but over the last few years I've been actively been working on becoming more assrtive.

You said that you are able to assert yourself when you are with your family. This may because you have the security of knowing that they will continue to accept you if you disagree with them or if you say no to something that they ask you to do. You might find it more difficult to be asertive with your boyfriend because, unless you have had a lonterm relationship, you may not feel the same level of security that he will continue to accept you if you become more assertive.

The thing to rememeber about becoming more assertive is that it's a progressive process. You might start in becoming more in your most secure relationships and progressing to relationships where being more assertive seems to be more of a risk.

With your family you might start by becoming more aware of you behavior in different situations. Are you able to stand up for yourself when you have a disagreement with someone in your family? Are you able to say no when they ask you for something that you don't want to give? Do you feel guilty if you say no to someone? Are you able to work out a compromise that is equally satistifying to both you and a family member or do you find yourself giving in to maintain peace between the two of you?

You might also try to become aware of your behavior when you are with close friends. The advantage in these relationships is that, like your family, you feel secure that your friends are invested in maitaining your relationships and are more accepting of your behavior. Are you able to voice your opinon with your friends? Can you say no them? Are you able to ask for support when you need it? Can you be open about expressing your feelings, both negative and positive?

When you are with casual friends you don't have the same level of security and investment as you do with close friends or your family, so it might seem to be more of a risk to try to be assertive. On the other hand your lack of investment in the relationship might help you to take more risks in seeing how people react to you. Are you able to voice your opinion when you're with casual friends? Do you feel comfortable with disagreeing with them? The best thing about this situation is that it allows you to see which friends are more accpting of your behavior. These are the people that you might want to develop deeper relationships with.

Dealing with your roomate is a relationship that is harder to define. Is your roommate a close friend? Do you share anything other that living in the same apartment? Is she invested in maintaining a positive relationship with you? Relationships with roommates are more ambiguous. More in the no mans land between close and casual friends. Before you

you try to approach her you might try to clearly define the problem that exists in your relationship or living situation. After identifying the problem you might try to define what you need to do to resolve the problem. Once you have identified both the problem and what you want to do to relove the conflict, you might try to think about what you want to say to your roommate. Then PRACTICE what you want to say. You then might think of different ways that your roommate might respond to your comments. Then you might define and practice how you might respond to her different reactions to what you have to say. Having an idea of how you might respond to different situations might help you to feel more comfortable about talking to your roommate. If she is invested in maintaining your living situation then she will probably be more responsive to your comments.

You might try the same process in becoming more assertive with your boyfriend. You might start with something small like what music you listen to or what TV show you watch when you're together. Whatever seems to be the least threatening for you, but something that you frequently do when you're together. If you can define the situation then it is easier to define how you want to assert yourself. From there you might progress to more important areas of your relationship. From the way that you describe your boyfriend it sounds like he really wants you to become active in expressing your opinion.

The important thing to remember about becoming more assertive is that if is a progressive process and you move forward one small step at a time. Sometimes you might feel like you've moved two steps backward. At different times or in different situations you may feel more or less comfortable in assertive your needs and opinions, but over time you begin to feel that you are continuing to move forward.

Best of luck to you.