Assertiveness…it’s complicated. It’s a way of behaving that implies a comfortable level of self-confidence, but perhaps with overtones of aggressiveness? It means standing up for yourself, demanding consideration for your right to be heard and for your opinion to matter, but might possibly cause you to cross the line into boorishness?
What sheds a positive light, for me, on the idea of being assertive is the fact that the opposite of assertiveness – to be timid, or meek, or uncertain – isn’t all that attractive . Assertiveness settles nicely into the middle ground between passivity and aggressiveness. I read descriptions somewhere of those three personality characteristics as 1) a fear of being on the stage, 2) being on a stage and inviting others to join you, and 3) being on the stage and trying to push everyone else off. Via media wins again.
Being assertive compels us to be clear about what we need or want, communicating those things in ways that leave room for disagreement and disappointment. Asserting our right to be heard is only effective when we equally open the way for others to express their thoughts and feelings. What we’re actually claiming, when we stand up for who we are and what we believe, is that we’re equal to others. Not better. Not less.
Assertiveness acknowledges that we’re in this (whatever “this” happens to be) together, accepting responsibility and delegating, speaking and listening, conveying ideas and admitting mistakes, having enough confidence to demonstrate gratitude for the work of others, showing a respect for ourselves that inspires others to realize that we also respect them.
I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.