Level IV: Set life goals, build esteem, correct irrational ideas, find
If you have few values and goals of your own, if you feel
inadequate and helpless, if you believe fate or other people are guiding
your life, if you truly believe others are more important than you, if
you only want to sacrifice and support others, it is not possible to be
an independent, self-reliant, self-actualizing person.
Guiding principles. To be self-directed requires certain guiding
principles --a personal philosophy of life--that are constantly used. Our
major life goals and objectives should be clear to us. See chapter 3.
Ask yourself: What needs to be changed in my family, my school, my
job, my town, or the world that I'm not helping with? Do I have my
priorities straight? Why am I not asserting myself? Are these answers
valid or excuses? How can I remove the barriers preventing me from
doing what I think I should? Most of us probably need a mission or a
cause to spur us into action.
Stand up for your rights. One of those principles-to-live-by is
that "all persons should be dealt with as equals." This isn't just a nice
quotation; it is something you must really believe and act on to be
assertive. You have equal rights within a marriage, a family, a
friendship, an organization, within school and a place of employment.
If you find yourself discriminated against, you have a right, indeed an
obligation, to stand up for your rights and the rights of others.
Insist on being equal, not superior or inferior.
Build self-esteem. A good self-concept and self-acceptance
greatly facilitates independence. How can you be self-directed if you
think you are unimportant, stupid, or bad? Why would anyone follow
you if you didn't have confidence in your ideas and like yourself? There
are many methods for building self-esteem (Canfield & Wells,
1976; Susskind, 1970) and for correcting the irrational ideas that lead
to excessive self-criticism (chapter 14). You need some self-confidence
before you will allow yourself to manage even a small part of your life.
As confidence grows, you can take control of more and more.
The development of a "can do" spirit is not just changing your
thinking. The fact is that self-confidence is gained by practice, from
doing, from trying out one's skills and succeeding. It is vital to try to
do for yourself, to work alone and enjoy being by yourself, to give help
as much as you get help, to speak out and stand up for your ideals
against opposition, etc.
The correction of self-critical ideas is facilitated by understanding
the source of your ideas. For instance, Wolfe and Fodor (1975) use
Rational-Emotive therapy in assertiveness training groups for women.
As the group members re-experience and/or role-play recent
unassertive episodes, they try to remember "early childhood
messages" and "what they were thinking in the recent situation." The