When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Young children are naturally assertive. A typical 4-year-old exactly what they think, feel, need and need, and they don’t really care too much what you think of that. Their insides match their outsides, of course until we convince them that that is not a safe thing to do. We give them messages such as “Oh you don’t want a cookie right now – dinner’s almost ready.” We create self-doubt and slowly but surely around their ability did you say what they mean an advocate for themselves. Or perhaps when they did speak up there was some form of punishment, emotional or otherwise. There were consequences that over time began to outweigh the benefits of saying no or asking or for what they needed. Boundaries were blurred instead of appreciated and honored, so where was the child supposed to start believing that assertiveness is a good thing?
In other words, if you struggle with fear around saying no, speaking up, offering a differing need or opinion, it’s not your fault and it’s for good reasons. You were conditioned by experiences over time to avoid repercussions, and even perhaps to doubt your needs and boundaries in the first place depending upon the level of toxicity around you and for how long. Survival in unhealthy relationships becomes normalized, and unless others are pulling you aside and pointing out how you aren’t taking care of yourself, or you seem so anxious and/or sad, you know you’re not happy but perhaps you’re not sure why.
This can truly harm your self-esteem, for if you cannot honor and trust what you think, need or feel, then you are only connected to and expressing parts of who you are. My guess is that those parts you show are the ones to please others – not the ones that can ruffle feathers. The ones that are compliant, giving, caring and needless so that you can feel needed, and wanted, and you can take care of others’ feelings and fears. Sounds harsh perhaps, but this is what happens over time. We either are authentic, or we are what others may need us to be – at least what we are guessing they need- because we can’t even have THAT conversation either.
Focus in where you may struggle, and if some relationships are harder for you to relax and be yourself in. You will uncover clues as to the what and the why, and begin to work on healing on the inside first. Uncovering the origins of your compliance, and forgiving yourself for struggling with it. Then, it means getting some therapy or coaching depending on the level of trauma back there.
You can change this. And your life will change because of it.