Why don’t people like it when I gain self confidence?
November 25, 2019 12:16 AM   Subscribe

I’ve noticed a trend in my life that during periods of growth, when I’m gaining self confidence, others around me seem not to like it very much. It’s hard to find examples so apologies for being vague but I have noticed the need to stand up for myself more often lately, as I’m going through one of these periods currently.

Have you experienced this?
Can you explain what is going on/why it happens?
posted by EatMyHat to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why would they like it? They're acting the same, and expecting the same results, but here you are asserting yourself and disrupting the familiar routine. Pushing back against people trying to use you as a sidewalk = those people read you as suddenly, inconveniently argumentative, not newly self-confident.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:03 AM on November 25, 2019 [14 favorites]

Broadly, people are thrown off by change.

Even those of us who constantly crave something new want to be in control of what changes and when. Adjusting to some new reality requires work. We get tetchy when the process is forced on us.

You changing the way you interact forces other people to change the way they interact with you. As happy as they may be that you’re doing your work, needing to change is just going to make them tetchy for a bit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:23 AM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

This exact thing happened to me consistently my whole life. If you're female (or perceived AFAB by people), it's pretty normal I think to encounter a strong expectation that you'll psychically detect everyone else's problems and resolve them quietly without having any needs of your own, and without taking up space or being visible. Disrupting this expectation is going to ruffle feathers. Folks (not only men) can get surprisingly angry at women gaining in confidence. It's a thing. Back in your box!

For me at least, I found that persistence pays off. The more I aim high and act like OF COURSE I have the right to make this decision or OF COURSE my opinion is relevant, the more people buy the act, and the easier it has been to ignore the people getting strangely emotional at the idea of women with opinions and preferences. YMMV as I am white and middle class :-/
posted by quacks like a duck at 1:44 AM on November 25, 2019 [12 favorites]

One metaphor used by recovery groups is that groups (families, workers, etc.) are like mobiles. When one piece of the balanced mobile changes (i.e. you) then the whole think wiggles and shakes and sometimes finds a different balance but sometimes not: it falls apart.
posted by tmdonahue at 3:59 AM on November 25, 2019 [12 favorites]

Sorry. I had just come back from a tiring trip and I see now that I didn't complete the story that makes the mobile metaphor meaningful.

For your group to find balance once you've changed, one or more other people will have to change. You move or remove a piece of a mobile and the other pieces have to be moved or changed to get the thing in balance.

You know that personal change and growth are not easy. You cannot "grow" any of your friends: that's a personal achievement. Thus, the growth of one member often causes the group to be altered or to disband over time. It's not your fault, nor is it the fault of your friends. But you can't afford to stay in the psychological place that makes your friends comfortable when it's time to move on.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:22 AM on November 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

One reason that I have seen this happen in my own life (YMMV!) is because self confidence = setting new boundaries or reasserting dormant boundaries with the people in our lives. People don't normally like it when they've been told they can't cross a line where there used to not be a line at all. This is their problem to resolve, not yours. The important thing to know is that this is normal and expected when asserting boundaries, and that with time, people will (usually) get over it.
posted by nightrecordings at 11:41 AM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Some experience from the other side:

I have two good friends that have started (finally, and thank god) working on their self confidence, their self worth, and being much more direct, and vocal about their boundaries.

And I found that they both have discovered this powerful new ability, but they're having some trouble how to use it. It's like getting a super-laser-gun, but no idea how hard to push the button.
So both of them come across much more strict, or rude, or full on than they intended..
When I spoke with them about it, I said that it felt like they were still figuring out the calibration.

(One of them was in direct response to me, and we talked about what triggered it, and what her boundaries are; the other often tells me about her interactions with her coworkers, which sometimes are not as effective as they could be if she'd be a tad bit direct ).

For them it seems part of the process, and it seems to get better.
posted by Thisandthat at 1:34 PM on November 25, 2019 [8 favorites]

Not saying that you’re doing any of the following necessarily, but there can be side effects of growth spurts other than the effect of change itself which was mentioned by several commenters. There’s the stereotype of the militant convert, be it giving up smoking, taking up some religion, losing weight, or anything else perceived to make their life better, and then putting down those that have not performed the change or trying to get them to do the same. There can also be quite a bit of externalized processing (i.e., constantly talking about the thing that caused the growth while coming to terms with it), in the worst case with smugness and condescension. Then there’s also that phase of everything being seen through the new lens of the thing, suddenly it’s everywhere, which may exacerbate either or both of the above.
posted by meijusa at 2:02 PM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding Thisandthat's answer. Back when I was first discovering assertiveness, I was a straight-up jerk. I was walking around looking for a chance to test out my skills, and I was over-eager when I got an opportunity to stand up to someone for stepping a toe across my boundaries. I was correctly viewed as irritable, arrogant, and a pain in the butt. For example, when my new mother-in-law tried to tell me to wear a longer skirt during one memorable vacation, I took my skirt completely off and walked around in a shirt + undies the rest of the day.

Contrast with me now, several years (as in a couple of decades) later: mostly I just say, "No, but thanks," in a friendly and gentle manner when they step over my boundaries. And then I often make excuses for them to help them save face, like, "Oh I know you didn't mean it *that* way! You probably wanted to help me fit in by wearing different clothes. Which is understandable, and kind of you. I'm just more comfortable this way. We're cool."

That's probably taking it a bit far, because none of us should be made responsible for managing people's feelings that way, and it's usually women or other marginalized classes who end up doing that extra work. But the friendly and gentle "No, but thanks!" really ought to be the ideal for all of us to work towards.

My pet peeve is that a lot of internet culture is geared towards teaching us to set boundaries in a self-righteous and frankly obnoxious way. Folks on the internet also tend to see boundary-pushing as an unforgiveable transgression committed by toxic people by definition, people towards whom it's apparently okay to be ridiculously unkind and hostile just because they tried to push past our boundaries. I mean, yeah, when there's a long pattern of people ignoring clear communication from you, sure, this is true? But boundary pushing is also just human and common, something most of us will accidentally end up doing at one point or another. When we are confident in ourselves, we can afford to show a little grace towards those who fuck up in ways that end up not harming us, because our own skills protect us from their fuck up.
posted by MiraK at 5:43 AM on December 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

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