My mum is convinced that I need to go on assertiveness training. Whenever I tell her about my grievances – how so-and-so got paid more than me for the same project, or how, during an argument, I bit my tongue and didn’t tell my side – she’ll shake her head and exclaim, “This is a nightmare. You’re turning into me!”
For Mum, this “problem” is a serious concern. Each day she’ll nudge me to be bold, sending me links to YouTube videos on negotiating, books on self-worth, and daily reminders to have the difficult conversation I am dreading.
I just don’t believe it’s as straightforward as everyone makes out. Life is hard enough without the added stress of conflict, and I don’t believe that it will go my way if only I stand firm or “lean in” – especially when I’d much rather lean out, and keep leaning out until I am lying down and can take a nap. I don’t have the energy for constant battles. I prefer peace.
“But there is no peace in being a doormat,” Mum will reply. “Trust me, I know from experience.” Because, as she reminds me, my strong-willed (and, dare I say, demanding) mother was not always this way: she trained herself through books and seminars (including once arriving late to a class on assertiveness, only to find it had been cancelled because none of the other students were assertive enough to show up).
In my family there are few traditions, and no business or mantle we kids are expected to take up. Perhaps, I think, this is ours: following in my mum’s footsteps is less about jobs and more about spirit and fight.
My mother doesn’t want me to tread the same path and make the same mistakes. But if the final result is that I end up like her, I am happy to walk the road. Just after I’ve had this nap.