ASK COLETTE: Moving Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Here, Zoomer guru Colette Baron-Reid on ways to assert yourself that is not self-sabotaging, but self-nurturing.


Dear Colette,

I am certain I am also a person who feels too much, as you describe in your book.  However, no matter how much I try to move outside of my comfort zone, I struggle with asserting myself.  I have always been a people-pleaser and I don’t know any other way to be.  The problem is I am often treated poorly by men, friends and colleagues and rather than stay mad at them, I just get mad at myself.  Can you give me some small steps I can take that will not leave me in a pool of my own sweat or my face in the cookie jar? – Wimpy


Dear Wimpy,

Wow, can I relate to your issue! I know exactly how you feel when it comes to not wanting to rock the boat and making sure everyone around you is happy, often at the expense of YOU.

What it sounds like you are asking for is a new way of asserting yourself that is not self-sabotaging but, rather, self-nurturing. It’s going to be difficult to change your old habits because it will seem more comfortable to go back to the reliable ways of avoiding difficult emotions. It can also be hard to trust yourself to develop new habits when you’ve failed in the past. Now is NOT your past and you can take control of positive outcomes going forward.

So let’s first consider the worst case scenario: the other person responds badly to your assertiveness.  Many sensitive people have gotten into the habit of being intimidated by any grumbling or eyeball rolling from the person who is resisting. Ignoring mild resistance can often be a good choice, especially if you know that person well and you know what you are asking is reasonable. Staying neutral and do not react to the other person’s response, body language or passive-aggressive behavior is your goal.

You may not know what is really behind someone’s groan or hesitation. So take a breath. Breathe deeply and slowly while the other person is talking. You can handle this temporary discomfort and remember that her emotions are not yours to own. If she starts to take things out on you and dump her garbage in your direction, acknowledge and honor her feelings simply by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Don’t change your mind and own responsibility for her feelings. Simply make a decision in that moment. Are you going to stay and get dumped on or politely remove yourself from the situation until she is ready to be sensitive to your feelings? The choice of what to do when someone is being cruel to you is yours now.

You’ll no longer be automatically sucked into the vortex of other people’s strong emotions. There is a breath, a moment, in which you access your neutrality, observe what’s happening, and make a nonreactive choice. You do not have to be in her emotional space.

Be patient with yourself during this awkward stage. Just as there is no quick-fix diet, there’s no quick fix to your habit of bending over backward for people and forgetting where you end and they begin. As you learn to assert yourself, remember that your own self-care is more important that someone else’s temporary discomfort.

Love and blessings,
Colette Baron-Reid
Intuitive Counselor

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