I was pleased to have the recent opportunity to speak with Emma Bell of “The Inside Shift” podcast about my latest book, “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How To Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships.” Although we talked about many different facets of and ideas found within the book, I was especially excited to share my personal experience with developing and practicing assertiveness, which has largely guided my career, my relationships, and of course, my journey in crafting this creative work. Here are some highlights from my discussion with Emma:
Describe the most meaningful “inside shift” that you’ve experienced:
When I was in my late teens, I was dealing with depression, body image issues, and many emotions that confused and overwhelmed me; I was insecure, frustrated, and overly sensitive of what I perceived others thought of me. I’m extremely grateful that my parents saw that these problems were too big to handle alone and suggested that I work with a professional counselor. Through therapy, I learned to identify and express some difficult feelings I was experiencing, most notably anger (which was not an acceptable emotion in my home of origin). I had several epiphanies that positively affected me to this day, including the very liberating idea that it’s none of my business what other people think of me! These experiences in therapy in my early years sparked the beginnings of my great love for the topic of assertiveness, as well as helped inspire my career path to become a therapist myself.
Why did you write this book?
In my practice, I work primarily with women, and I’ve noticed a trend in many of my clients. After coming in and venting their frustrations in the therapy chair, I often pose to them the simple question, “what is it that you want, feel, and need in your life?” The sad and revealing truth is that many of these amazing women don’t even know; they’re so externally focused on their families, careers, and others that they can’t even identify their own inner experiences. So many times, I recognized my younger self in them, and I decided that I wanted to write about assertiveness not just in terms of how to express oneself, but backing it up a few steps to even knowing what you have to express! By using clinical examples and also weaving in themes of attachment styles, emotional awareness, and strategies to articulate your feelings without alienating others, “The Assertiveness Guide” was born.
What are some ways that women can find out what they want or are seeking in life?
When we lose touch with ourselves, it’s easy to forget what it is that truly makes us happy and fulfilled. If you’re struggling with your identity as an adult, I encourage you to think back on what brought you joy as a child. What made you feel alive? When we grow up, it’s all to easy to cut certain things out of our lives, and while we do have new priorities that often require sacrifice (such as our families and careers), don’t lose sight of what once made you happy. For me personally, growing up in California, I loved playing in the sun and the water, and even now in my adult life, I make sure that I get my fill of sunshine to keep my spirits up and remind me of my carefree days of childhood.
In “The Assertiveness Guide,” you mention self-expansion. What does this mean?
I’ve found that the word “assertiveness” can be associated with ideas of speaking your mind, getting things off your chest, or saying what you feel. While those things are all true, my writing about assertiveness is about so much more than that: it’s really about self-knowledge and how to use that knowledge to articulate ourselves in a way that makes it more likely that we’ll be heard. The ultimate goal of all of this is not just to get what we want (which may or may not happen), but to really become closer in our relationships with others, which is what self-expansion is. Assertiveness is not just about speaking our feelings, but also open really listening to someone else’s experience as well. This opens up a path to intimacy and true connection.