Psychological Self-Help

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STEP ONE: Realize where changes are needed and believe in
your rights.
Many people recognize they are being taken advantage of and/or
have difficulty saying "no." Others do not see themselves as
unassertive but do feel depressed or unfulfilled, have lots of physical
ailments, have complaints about work but assume the boss or teacher
has the right to demand whatever he/she wants, etc. Nothing will
change until the victim recognizes his/her rights are being denied and
he/she decides to correct the situation. Keeping a diary may help you
assess how intimidated, compliant, passive or timid you are or how
demanding, whiny, bitchy or aggressive others are. 
Almost everyone can cite instances or circumstances in which
he/she has been outspoken or aggressive. These instances may be
used to deny we are unassertive in any way. However, many of us are
weak in some ways--we can't say "no" to a friend asking a favor, we
can't give or take a compliment, we let a spouse or children control
our lives, we won't speak up in class or disagree with others in a public
meeting, we are ashamed to ask for help, we are afraid of offending
others, and so on. Ask yourself if you want to continue being weak. 
One may need to deal with the anxiety associated with changing,
to reconcile the conflicts within your value system, to assess the
repercussions of being assertive, and to prepare others for the
changes they will see in your behavior or attitude. Talk to others about
the appropriateness of being assertive in a specific situation that
concerns you. If you are still scared even though it is appropriate, use
desensitization or role-playing to reduce the anxiety. 
Consider where your values--your "shoulds"--come from. Children
are bombarded with rules: Don't be selfish, don't make mistakes, don't
be emotional, don't tell people if you don't like them, don't be so
unreasonable, don't question people, don't interrupt, don't trouble
others with your problems, don't complain, don't upset others, don't
brag, don't be anti-social, do what people ask you to do, help people
who need help, and on and on. Do any of these instructions sound
familiar? They help produce submissive children--and adults. There are
probably good reasons for many of these rules-for-kids but as adults
we need not blindly follow rules. Indeed, every one of these
injunctions should be broken under certain conditions: You have a
right to be first (sometimes), to make mistakes, to be emotional, to
express your feelings, to have your own reasons, to stop others and
ask questions, to ask for help, to ask for reasonable changes, to have
your work acknowledged, to be alone, to say "no" or "I don't have
time," and so on. The old feelings deep inside of us may still have
powerful control over us (see chapter 8). We can change, however. 
Besides recognizing we have outgrown our unthinking
submissiveness, we can further reduce our ambivalence about being
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