Most of my clients who struggle with self-esteem issues have a hard time saying no. To them the word “no” has a lot attached to it: the potential for conflict, that the other person might withhold love and affection (rejection) or punish them in other ways, or they might hurt the other person’s feelings. In order to avoid the possibility of conflict, rejection or pain they ignore their needs.
You give away a little bit of your power each time you ignore your needs and wants. You make promises to yourself that you don’t keep, “I’ll say no next time.” You pretend what you want or need is not so important. You get upset with yourself for not being more assertive. All of this chips away at your confidence. It becomes a vicious circle of not feeling good about yourself and then doing things that make you feel worse.
You can feel like you have a beacon on your head telling others you’re an easy target. Clients often complain that they attract friends who take advantage of them. There may be some truth to that yet it may be more about being drawn to what feels comfortable. (Comfortable doesn’t mean it feels good but that it feels “familiar.”) If you’re used to being treated a certain way it can feel uncomfortable to be treated another. You may unintentionally shy away from those who treat you well. The fear is often that if the person really got to know you, they wouldn’t like you.
Self esteem and assertiveness both require believing in yourself and in the importance of your wants and needs. You can’t have one without the other.