Make no mistake about it, this population segment that includes persons with disabilities isn’t the only group that has issues with self-expression. Indeed, everyone, regardless of class, beliefs, gender, socio-economic status, and position are now afraid to express their anger, their innermost, and truest feelings, because we do not want to be labeled as “sorrowful people” or face rejection. But the inability of us to express our feelings honestly is a universal problem, and not restricted to the disabled alone.
Many people are in tremendous psychological distress because they are morbidly unwilling to share their feelings and beliefs among a sea of others. Day after day, we see individuals quiet down, and become shut down for their lack of self-confidence to disagree and make objections to a popular idea in a mixed company. We are afraid to speak up. It is a lousy way to live.
However, the issue of unassertiveness among people with disabilities cannot be more serious. Already by far the most underestimated, most under-valued and least represented in the society, people with disabilities, by default, are not expected to unearth their feelings, or unleash their pent-up emotions, and civilly and respectfully disagree or affirm their rights as persons. Without a doubt, a large proportion of the society wrongly understand the disabled to be persons who are dumb-unable to speak.
For the disabled, the consequences of unassertiveness are even greater. You would have trouble with self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy which all potentially translate into low personal productivity- you would never be able to do anything right, let alone innovate because you are afraid others are going to criticize you or maltreat you. Moreover, when you suppress your feelings and emotions, they don’t go away. They simply go underground and cause damage. Getting gagged and unable to assert yourself and your values in a diverse society is worst thing that yu can do to yourself as an individual with special needs.
Below are five strategies that you can use to practice self-assertiveness.
- Humility and Self-awareness Skill: arguably the finest definition, humility is understanding oneself, and one’s uniqueness, including your strengths and weaknesses and bringing that knowledge into play when you are dealing with others. But you do not have to practically communicate them out. If you want your voice to matter, to be relevant, it is important to know and understand your own inner voice. Hence that gives you a sense of balance and mental clarity. To effectively practice assertiveness, know thyself.
- Self-confidence: After excellent knowledge of self comes improved self-concept- just what and how do you feel about yourself, just in terms of what you do you define yourself and how. Self-confidence is belief in your own ability. It is poise. Self-confidence is a key mental attitude to affirming and asserting yourself in an increasingly manipulative society.
- Tactfulness and Diplomacy: Before you effectively make affirmations, assertions and actions, it is essential to cultivate tact and diplomacy. There are going to be extremely difficult people. There are going to be obnoxious persons who will look down and try to detour you, that is, keep you from maintaining an assertive stance.
Rather than be discouraged, show tact but measurable strength. To have the poise for self-expression, you have to learn to be tough, yet diplomatic. But most key of all is understanding how to show strength but as well as civility and respect in social groups.
- Have a Broader Mindset: You cannot always be right. No is. You cannot be relentlessly uncompromising- not always. You learn to bend when occasion demands and go with the flow- as the case may be. Compromising isn’t weakness; it is a tremendous strength. But it is also strategic. To be effectively heard via self-assertion, the way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, you learn from each other, because you are getting out of your own narrow point of view and having a broader perspective.
- Understand how the World Works: Shooting, like everyone is, is fun. But you do not want to shoot blanks. If you want your affirmations and assertions to be so valid they get acted upon, it is essential to understand the environment in where we operate: silly people who would disagree on everything without regard for common sense or reason. Individuals with no regard for civility and the idea of treating one another with dignity and respect regardless of our differences. Ours is a world where if everyone is for it, you also must be for it, lest the society labels you as outcast and a social misfit. With understanding of the dynamics in our social world comes various ways that can be used to let your opinion matter, to express yourself.
The ability to express ourselves, to choose a path, albeit unpopular, is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. We can take part in a conversation and reasonable and respectfully disagree with ideas and notions. Nothing is wrong in that. Regardless of your station or disability, there’s an innate capacity in us all to express anger, share our feelings, demand justice when nobody thinks we can and should. However, you have to use strategic approaches and behaviors to have your assertions not only listened to but followed through.
What are the challenges that you have faced when you tried to express your anger or frank feelings? What did you meet. Please, be kind enough to share it with us. Thank you.