Stop Letting the World Push You Around

Stop letting the world push you around. Simple as that.

When we were kids, we learned quickly that the world is neither a perfect nor entirely safe place. As a kid, you either were bullied, knew who the local playground bully was, or maybe you were the bully yourself. Regardless, we learned at full speed as toddlers that life will push you around, and there’s just no way around it. In this case life was the meaty hands of a bigger, dumber kid who drooled at the thought of shoving kids off swingsets while his friends guffawed behind him.

How were we taught to respond to this situation? At my elementary school, I was fortunate to be taught the values of self-respect, communication, and magnanimity at such a young age. I was taught that if a bully targeted you, you stand up to the bully. Obviously there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it (the right being asserting yourself by telling the bully to stop and walk away, and the wrong being throwing a flying knuckle straight into his mouth), but the importance was that we learned not to succumb to hate, negativity, unfair treatment, or harassment without sticking up for ourselves. We recognize that our needs and values are important and deserve to be heard and taken seriously. Or, we did…

Why then, if we learned this at such a young age, do we constantly let the bigger “bullies” life offers keep pushing us around? Why do we tell our boss we will work on a Saturday to finish work that they didn’t get to in time, when we had previously said we can’t work weekends? Why do women feel the need to say, “I have a boyfriend”, when what they want to say is, “I don’t want to go on a date because I don’t find you attractive”. Why when one Redditor asks “my long time best friend and my recent ex-girlfriend just started dating. I’m absolutely devastated. What should I do?” is the most liked response to “accept what it is and try to be happy for them”? At what point did we lose the belief that we can openly assert how we feel so that we are able to coexist in an environment that is constantly pulling us in different directions against our will?

For myself, I’ve always felt like a naturally assertive and confrontational person. If someone leaves all their dishes piling out of the sink with food floating around clogged water, I’ll be the first to tell them to clean it up. Maybe it’s because I was exposed to bullies as a kid, or maybe it’s just my personality. But for as assertive as I can be, I still find myself struggling to say certain things that I wish I had the spine to just say. Why is it so hard to let my friends’ FaceTime ring out when I know I have no energy to talk? Or why is it so hard to say that I think it’s complete nonsense and lousy intellectuality when a group of “Christians” in conversation tell me that being gay is still a sin in 2021?

At what point did we stop believing that the right thing to do was to stand up to the bully and start believing that if you just let the bully push you down, he probably won’t do it again? (News flash: he will do it again). You’re boss now understands he/she can get you to work weekends. Your friend now expects you to answer every time they call. The “Christians” are reinforced that they can continue spreading their prejudiced message without retaliation or opposition.*I know not all Christians hold this view, this was just an encounter I had*

I think that the problem starts somewhere in our current societal narrative that being nice = being good. Don’t get me wrong, I like being nice. I try to hold the door when I can, give food or a few bucks to homeless people, and help a friend out when they need it, even if it takes hours. But too many times, I see nice being equated with the singular and overarching trait determing the quality and content of your character. If we hated a professor’s class, we don’t tell them to their face, because it wouldn't be nice. Instead, we post horrible reviews anonymously on ratemyprofessor so that the lack of niceness can’t be traced back to us. On airplanes, we don’t ask the person if they can just wait ten minutes to recline their seat while we eat, because, god forbid, we wouldn’t be seen as nice. Public figures like celebrities and athletes are told to remain impartial in controversial issues by their management in fear that they perceived as anything less than nice in the public eye.

According to Alvernia University, there are four main types of communication styles:

  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive-Agressive
  • Assertive

Passivity encompasses a lack of ability to stick up for yourself and voice your opinions. When the boss asks you to stay late, you are quick to accept because you don’t have the capacity to say no. You yield to others and struggle with communicating your own needs.

Aggression is using hositility and overly emotional actions to communicate your needs and desires. Think of the worst road-rager you have ever seen. Do I even need to explain this one?

Passive-Aggression includes communicating hostility, but in a sly and underhanded manner, such as muttering under your breath, rolling your eyes, or purposely avoiding eye contact with the party you are in conflict with.

Assertiveness, the most effective communication style, is when you openly communicated your needs and desires to the world while doing so in a honest, balanced, non-aggressive manner. Think of asking for a raise:

“ the amount of revenue that I generate for this company and the integral piece that I play in our organization makes me feel as though I am being underpayed. I have exceeded every sales benchmark for the last year, not missed a day at work, and forfitted my personal vacation time to help the company when we were struggling. I believe that to continue my role as a leader in this firm, my wage should accurately reflect the amount of value that I generate. Right now, I believe my wage is $4,000/year under the value that I generate, and I ask you to take that into consideration when outlining my salary for the coming fiscal year”

Simple, logical, truthful, and non-hostile. Do you think the employee would get the raise?

Moving forward with our lives, I think we need to remember that just because you are “nice”, doesn't mean you are a good person. However, that does not mean that being rude does not make you a bad person. There is in intersection between letting the world push you around in every which direction, and communicating your needs as a human being to the world. It’s name is assertiveness.

Next time your boss asks you to stay late, look him/her in the eyes, and say that you are unable to because you made plans and weren’t given enough notice to cancel them. Feel free to ask someone to keep their seat foward for a few more minutes. If they say no, they are exercising their right to be assertive just as you are. And to that Redditor who’s best friend started dating his ex-girlfriend, no, do not just “accept it and be happy for them”. Communicate to them that what they did is wrong, pack up your stuff, and find a new place to live. You at least owe yourself that.

A human first, and a writer second. Just trying to make sense of it all.