Help me become assertive, please
June 14, 2009 11:11 AM   Subscribe

People-pleaser wants to transform, seeking self-help books and inspirational books/movies

I was raised to always, always, always attend to everyone else's needs and then maybe, if there is time, think of myself. According to my parents, this is called "being a good girl." According to an awful lot of people (including boyfriends), this makes me a doormat to use and take advantage of.

A friend lent me the book Why Men Love Bitches and I was pretty skeptical at first, but I read it anyway. If you ignore the silly sexist parts of the book, it is fantastic! It made me realize for the first time in 34 years that it would not make me an awful, horrible person who is going straight to hell if I just stop bending over backwards to please everyone. It also made me realize that I decide my value, not everyone else.

Unfortunately, the book only got me started on what I think is quite a long path of transformation, so I was hoping that someone would please recommend some more? Self-help books would be great, but I would also love to see some inspirational stories about a woman like me transforming into the woman I am trying to become. Two recommendations I got from friends are Beautiful and Fried Green Tomatoes, so I'm going to rent them tomorrow night.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

posted by meinvt at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2009

I'm latching more onto the transform-yourself idea...
I would say--- do something to your appearance or your habits that signifies to you "I am re-creating myself"
Haircut, leather jacket, wear a new scent... Try listening to different music.
something that takes you out of routine.

Because your habits and routines up to now default to reacting automatically "Must please others." So shake things up in any way possible.

also- spend some time figuring out what you want to do, indulging a whim now and again.
Figuring out what you really like best.

Good book, though a little sideways look at what you're asking:
The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron.
Writing in a journal first thing in the morning, and doing the other exercises, might be a good idea. The book's themes focus on art and creativity, but probably work for any major change.
posted by SaharaRose at 1:39 PM on June 14, 2009

When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel Smith.
posted by russilwvong at 4:58 PM on June 14, 2009

Practice and plan ahead. Think of a situation where you can say no and get away with it and it won't matter too much what happens, and then do it. This might be easier with an acquaintance or someone you don't like much rather than, say, your mom. When you know you're going to be asked to accommodate too much, decide ahead of time what you're willing to do and offer just that when asked. You won't have to be a bitch at all, unless someone is entirely unreasonable, which is rare.

And seriously, almost everybody wants to know that if you're doing something for them, it's because you want to. They will appreciate your honesty.
posted by zinfandel at 7:06 PM on June 14, 2009

Two things:

1. Seconding The Artist's Way - it may not really help you with your people-pleasing dilemma, but it's an excellent tool for self-discovery regardless and some of the ideas (i.e. Morning Pages) are absolutely essential no matter where you are in life.

2. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND you use your natural people-pleasing method to greater use in your community. Nothing will strengthen your self-resolve AND REFINE your innate built-in people skills like volunteer service.

For you, I'd suggest any type of Chamber of Commerce role, tourism, Info booth or kiosk-type work. Basically anything where your innate need to please others is funneled through something enormously positive for someone else, so that you are using previously-established routines YET are being effective and helpful in a way that will naturally bolster your self-image.

Another thing to consider is many large metro hospitals are strapped for ER client-care personnel that exist outside of the paid nursing staff, to help with intake, grieving clients, and general drama control. If you have a strong resolve, can react quickly in tense situations, and are highly self-motivated to begin with, this is an excellent opportunity for you.

Nothing wrong at all with the self-help books per se, but if you really want to conquer this, and grow enormously as a result, volunteering in your community is the best way. Hands down.

Good luck, you have a special insight into the behavioral motives of those around you that others who lack the "people pleasing" gene don't. Go out and use it for the benefit of others who could really use it!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2009

There's a self-help book that directly addresses people who try to please others, but (unfortunately for you) it's written for and about men: No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover. The author really understands the people-pleaser dynamic, why some of us become people-pleasers, and why people-pleasing is not a desirable life-script. You might give it a whirl, just to understand the subject better. Or you might be better off with a different book, such as Too Nice for Your Own Good, or Anxious to Please, both highly rated on Amazon.
posted by exphysicist345 at 1:40 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's not a happy-fun-time read, but The Gift of Fear has a lot of true-life stories about the dangers of "being a good girl" and not being able to say no to people, instead of making yourself your own first priority.

Also, it's kind of hokey, but if you find yourself backsliding or feling guilty, try thinking about it like the oxygen masks in airplane safety drills. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others most effectively.
posted by the latin mouse at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2009

I am only 20, a male, and have no recommendations of books/movies, but have been in the position of being Mr. Nice Guy and am now in the position of having to reassert myself and my position in the playing field. A few things:
  • Yes, this will likely be a long path of transformation.
  • You might end up having to put some effort into finding where you can start on this, throwing some books/movies at it should not be the only thing in your arsenal. Example, at my department store job, I end up pushing credit. It is something I have a moral issue with, so starting out I was not to great. Since the beginning of this month, I have found myself able to go into a sort of 'machine' mode, which has made out for some pretty good results (in other words I am asserting my position that you might just want to apply for this card). I can now apply that sort of mentality to other things, using care of course at application.
  • Finding some source of inspiration other than books/movies (i.e. spirituality, video games, exercising, etc.) tended to be of enormous help for myself. Dunno how it could be applied for your case.
It is a battle out there. Play it like a (serious) game. Be ready to change strategy. Be willing to win. I am confident that I will eventually become a partially assertive, partially nice guy with such a blend that works well. I hope you can obtain the same. Good luck, and feel free to MeFiMail me. Hopefully I helped out a bit.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:23 PM on June 15, 2009

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