Life Story

My Story: First Lesson in Assertiveness as an HSP

Right now, in my life, I’m lucky enough to be a part of a wonderful community, in which I have a sense of belonging and safety. Couple of days ago a friend of mine posted on social media a video about being unique and was asking what is one thing that we, the audience, think define us, something without which we wouldn’t be ourselves. Instantaneously, I commented on the video with ‘I love dancing’ because every previous part of my life was full of different types of dancing disciplines.

But then I took some time to think about it and the concrete answer I thought I had got washed out as usual. This kind of unassertiveness is a characteristic of unassertive behaviour that I, sadly, was trained for in my childhood.

Recently I learned that not only I’ve been afraid to speak my mind for almost all my life, I also was born a highly sensitive person. If it wasn’t for dancing, I would not be having this blog right now!

But if I could, I would have travelled back in time some 11 years just to tell myself, in the 5th grade, what defines an assertive behaviour and that I have a human right to it.

Just before the 5th grade, I was saying goodbye to my primary school. And for the first time in my life, my family was moving to a completely unknown to me town in the outskirts of the Latvian capital, Riga.

The town was very nice, it was called Adazi (pronounce as Adazhi), and it was known for their local potato chip factory, where they gave you free bags of chips in the end of the tour. Gladly, my mother, who was preparing to build our family house, gave me the power to make a choice but it wasn’t easy.

I didn’t want to leave my friends behind! However, the benefits to my health from living in a forestry area and countless bonuses of the new school outweighed my loyalty. That was my first time to experience what distance and time do to our relationships.

So I let go of my two first best friends I had since I was 5, and bravely embrased the unknown. In 5th grade, I was introduced to a wonderful 15 new classmates, every one of them was getting along, except for one girl [I’ll call her M for simplicity] .

All the girls of my class would hang out together every break, but not with M. She was verbally and psychologically bullied and I didn’t like it. Quietly, I started bringing her into the group, but some girls didn’t quite like it.

One day in school we had to run a cross-country in a forest not far away from school.

It was a warm and pleasant day of early autumn, when the summer was still there. I was hyped up for the run because at that time I was one of the fastest girls in the class. M and another girl in our class also were in the top three, but M was always the fastest and the strongest in PE lessons, so I looked up to her. Also, our teachers separated all students in groups of three to four for better safety, putting me with M and another girl from our class together in one group. This was a chance to find out who is the fastest out of the fastest!

After everyone had their water bottles filled, numbers put on and limbs warmed up, teachers asked us to line up for the run.

When it came to our turn, each one of us were determined to win. The three of us stood in complete silence, waiting for the teachers signal. Not even looking at the floor, in a ready to go position, with our faces fixated either on the deepening forest in front of us or on the teachers stopwatch, we waited. This was going to be either a good start to the academic year or a bad one.

And then, the teacher made a short breath in, followed by “And, go!” and the game was on.

Just a few metres in, all of us appeared on the floor, trying to understand what happened.

But what happened was that one of us [most likely me] got their foot caught by a tree vein on the ground, which caused others to bump into the fallen person in front. The run wasn’t over yet, so teachers asked us to run again. In our second attempt, the official winner for the year appeared to be M.

After that day, the bullying of M has increased, everyone was blaming her for “cheating” in the cross country to stop me, a newbie, from winning that run. And that was when I had enough. I told my classmates that they were ridiculous – not only they have no right in accusing someone without any evidence, but also that it is completely pointless because I wasn’t badly hurt.

The change was surprising – something in what I said or in the way I said it created a quick transformation. Everyone, especially girls who would gossip about M behind her back, started to hang out with her. Suddenly, she flourished and even started to participate in school events more often. I was really happy for her.

After that, I made one silly mistake, as kids do, and the tables have turned. Kids started to bully me and I became the very thing I was fighting against in my first month in the new school.

I couldn’t help myself but think that I’m alone and getting more isolated, turning more inwards, waiting hopelessly for someone to ‘rescue’ me as I thought I rescued M. The conditioning of unassertiveness continued until I reached college.

Only now I realise that perhaps helping M wasn’t helping at all. Perhaps, she had to learn to assert herself better.

It is not unusual for us to wait for something to happen, or for a signal that the time has come’.

But, usually nothing like that ever comes.

Wasting energy and time like that doesn’t bring anything to us and therefore, we should accept that the only person who will help us is ourselves.

So, to help myself, I have started my learning process to grow into a more assertive person by reading Your Perfect Right. If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, you should be able to find motivation to learn every bit of possibly helpful information without a doubt.

Of course, you don’t have to read the same book, but as a first step to being more assertive make sure you know what are your human rights.

Thank you for checking in! Tell me in the comments: what are you struggling with most at the moment, be it in school, social clubs or just when hanging out with friends. I’ll try my best to give you some direction.

Burrhus Skinner

By Jevgenija Zukova

I'm a second year university student doing Accounting and Finance course. I stand together with other female entrepreneurs to bring sensitivity into the business world, fun of art and creativity into local communities, and awareness of highly sensitive people.

3 replies on “My Story: First Lesson in Assertiveness as an HSP”

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