Last week I had a conversation with my mom about the prom dress we bought for my junior prom. As we reminisced, her thoughts were, "That was my favorite dress," and mine were, "I hated that dress." Puzzled and shocked, my mom paused and asked, "Why did you pick that dress then? Because I liked it? I thought you loved it." Yes, I picked that dress because it was my mom's favorite and I was afraid to speak up. Heaven forbid I disagree with her; she did take the time to take me prom dress shopping, after all, even though she HATED it.
Over the past 10 years or so I have spent more time seeing a therapist than anyone should have to endure, but every once in awhile a concept sticks with me. Many of you may be familiar with the four types of communication styles listed below: Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive, and Assertive. If you need a little refresher, here is a short description of each,
Passiveness is a communication style where an individual ignores their own feelings, doesn't speak up for themselves, and bottles up anger and other negative emotions. Passive communicators often,
-fail to express feelings and emotions
-tend to speak softly and apologetically
-allow others to cross personal boundaries
-don't stand up for themselves
Aggressive communicators openly share their feelings in a way that violates the rights of others and comes from a place of low self esteem. Aggressive people often,
-criticize, blame, and attack others
-speak in a loud, demanding, or overbearing tone
-does not listen well
-try to dominate others
Passive Aggressive people typically ignore a problem at first and keep emotions to themselves, but will act on their anger in subtle, behind-the-scenes ways. Passive aggressive people will often:
-deny there is a problem
-use sarcasm often
-complain about problems to other people
-pretend everything is fine when it's not
Assertiveness is a style of communication where feelings are clearly stated without offending or violating the other person. This is the ideal communication style. Assertive people,
-state needs & wants, clearly & respectfully
-listen without interruptions
-use "I" statements
-don't place blame on others
Obviously, based on the prom dress shopping experience from a many years ago, I am clearly a passive communicator. I have spent my entire life making decisions based on what I believe will make others happy, even if that meant ignoring my desires. For years I have bottled up my emotions and taken that anger out on myself, which has only created self-destructive habits.
One of the many gifts recovery has given me is the opportunity to discover my assertive voice. If I am being honest, however, using that assertive voice is still a work in progress. Simply admitting to my mom that I thought that prom dress was - dare I say it - hideous, was a huge step for me.
I heard this song by Beyonce this morning and although it's a little cheesy, it definitely portraits assertiveness and attitude, which I needed this morning.
Eating disorder recovery is a long, exhausting process that involves dealing with underlying issues and past experiences. Passive communication is one thing that definitely contributed to my eating disorder. My assertive voice completely disappeared for a awhile, but recovery is teaching me to stand up for myself and not allow people to walk all over me.
Using my voice has been a little scary at times because I hate disappointing others, but if I'm not taking care of myself first then nothing else really matters. Assertiveness is definitely proving to be worth the hard work.