Do You Assert Yourself Enough?

I noticed that throughout my adult life the people who got to know me and wanted the best for me have always given me this kind of criticism: “you are a kind person with good values and integrity, but you always appear rather absent and dreamy. You withdraw yourself when you are among people. You barely share anecdotes or stories. And, you could show more interest in others.” Or, also “I would like to see you stand up for yourself more.” As an adult, I struggled with depression, anxiety, and low self-worth. I have had a hard time truly connecting with family members and maintaining friendships. Most of the times I tried to keep myself calm and quiet to prevent myself from being “found out”, judged and trapped in a maze of complexity. I avoided confrontations, even though I always desired better connections and more solid communication. What can be done to feeling stuck like this? One step I can take to develop a growth mindset is to improve my assertiveness. 

Both a professional counselor I visited and many studies on assertiveness have taught me that improving my assertiveness will help me to develop a growth mindset. The counselor I met spoke of the importance of assertiveness in the light of the second great commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I learned that my taciturnity, being reserved and having the tendency to be overly agreeable (by not communicating my needs, my boundaries, my standards, my opinions, my feelings, and emotions) derived from a deterministic world view I held on to. Because of this limiting view and the connected beliefs, I withheld love for myself and for others. “By learning assertiveness,” my counselor taught, “you are going to be challenged. You are going to grow as an individual, and as a result love is going to flow more abundantly into your life, and into the lives of others.” Reading researched material about assertiveness on the internet has also convinced me about the direction this step is leading. On the website Centre for Clinical Interventions, I read “being assertive is an important communication skill which can reduce your levels of depression and anxiety and improve your self-esteem.” Such great benefits! My lingering depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem were often the underlying reasons for me to avoid confrontations with people, to wallow in passivity, and to suffer in a silence learned since childhood. I also learned that assertiveness is the state between passive and aggressive communication. Based on this information I see how being assertive connects to the Bible verse “perfect love casts out fear” and how action relates to developing a growth mindset.

The advice my counselor gave me to assert myself more, coupled with the additional facts I researched about assertiveness have instilled me with the knowledge that anyone who wants to develop as an individual and reach his or her full potential must develop assertiveness, an essential life skill. Do you assert yourself enough?

Shame?

why remain uncertain
behind the red curtain
fearing the sun
and freeze to cold despair

sweet child, why foster fright
or hold the need to hide
and regret not having
laid yourself bare

i’ve seen your scenes
a-trembling in bed
wounded, sore
all the times you suffered sin
just like in the war

and the hours at your desk
alone, kafkaësk
the crippling thoughts
of being less than nobody

time’s clock round you ticking
and persistently tricking you
into an odd idiosyncrasy

please, won’t you let it be
and find your inner peace
armed in the heavenly host
begging, Father please

THE YOUNG MAN BY THE ROSES

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

He lays him down so oftentimes
Still thinking of grand paradigms
And look! A rosebush sees him

Its roses blush for it is spring
And naturally start to sing
He, listening to their sweet hymn

The roses speak of love gone by
And revelling, he wonders why
I must be dreaming, o Lord

Such beauty nature brings! Such bliss
The rosebush renders me love’s kiss
A rose to gladden my heart

Soon, when he meets a lovely girl
And butterflies within him whirl
And whole his world is spinning

He’ll climb the holy mount of love
That ecstasy from high above
Be part of his bold winning

Introducing Henk and Hetty

Hendrik
Hendrik, my grandfather (1926-1990)

This old chap is my grandfather, Hendrik. He was born in Bredevoort, Holland, the place where he also grew up.

After school my grandfather became a marinier, serving in the US navy. He went on to Indonesia and served there at the frontline, collecting the wounded and the dead. I am quite proud of him. Together with his team they each received a medal for saving a company from the Japanese.

Hetty, my grandmother
Hetty, my grandmother

During that time of his life he met Hetty, my grandmother. She had to flee from the Japs who invaded her home in Mlang and found shelter in a barn of farmers who gave her the permission to stay there. The family that took her in hiding was very kind to her and gave her pots and pans for her to cook with in return for some odd jobs at the farm.

My grandfather noticed her in the farm while driving by one day. Not long after he surprised her with a little goat, that he gave to her as a gift.

Fast forward to some distant future. After many years, now living in Bruges, Belgium, being married and having their three children all grown up, her elder daughter Mary-Elizabeth, who is my aunty Marlies, welcomed the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into her home. Together with her husband, uncle Jaques, they got baptized and thus joined the Church as the first members in their region. My aunty and uncle told my grandmother Hetty about their discovery, the restoration of the gospel and many other things. After investigating it my grandmother decided to get baptized as well.

But, this was much to the dismay of Henk, who was not a religious man. And when my grandmother told him that she was going to get baptized he got bloody angry. He even forbade her from joining what he called “the mormons.”

Luckily, my grandmother is a fighter. She rung her voice and argued with him, “if you may go to soccer games on Sundays, have a drink and play pool with your friends, then I may do what I want on Sundays, even if that includes going to church!”

But, when Henk found out that she was going to pay tithings as well, that’s when he exploded. “A tenth of our income being donated to their treasury!? No! No way they are taking our money!”

But, Hetty did not give in. She claimed autonomy and stood her ground. As she had her own job she told him that she was going to give a tenth of her own income, that it was none of his business. Finally the argument ended, but with her leaving him and staying with her daughter until he accepted her choice, or not…

So, my grandfather was suddenly all by himself in an empty house. Days passed. Weeks passed. And visitors came to meet them. But, she not being home, Henk had to do the chores. Henk had to explain the situation to them, that Hetty was staying with her daughter. It made him uncomfortable to say the least. And, he missed her. so, her absence became a burden which became heavier and heavier until he couldn’t bear it anymore.

In the end, Henk apologized to Hetty and asked her to come back, which she did smilingly.