Age Is Making Me More Assertive, And I Love It

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
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Age has definitely presented me with a few surprises. Chin hairs, for starters. A loss of natural firmness in my, well, almost everything that was once firm. The unfortunate tendency to hobble stiffly around like an arthritic penguin for about 20 minutes after getting out of bed. These things are disheartening, sure, but there are also good surprises about getting older.

My personal favorite? I’m no longer hesitant to tell anyone, at any time, exactly what I think.

Basically, the older I get, the less I care about offending anyone. And it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve always been the non-confrontational type. I have spent my entire life biting my tongue, swallowing words that should have been said, for fear of appearing argumentative or creating a scene. Even simply declining a request was hard for me — I can’t tell you how many things I’ve committed myself to just because I wasn’t confident just saying, “No.” Even if it inconvenienced me. Even if it made me uncomfortable. Speaking up wasn’t my strong suit, clearly.

But now? Test my patience, and I’ll tell you about it. Cross me, and I’ll clap back. I will be unapologetically and uncharacteristically bold, saltier than the Dead Sea. If you ask me to do something and I’m not feeling it, I will “nah” you before you even put a question mark on it — no hemming and hawing and frantically trying to come up with an explanation of why I’m saying no. I don’t owe anyone any explanations.

Pop quiz! Guess what I don’t give:

a) A damn

b) A shit c) A flying fuck d) All of the above

Correct Answer: d!

I can’t put my finger on why age seems to be changing me in this way. Maybe it’s because I have finally realized that life is too short to spend it catering solely to what others expect or demand of me. Maybe it took me this long to realize that my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s, and I have just as much a right to express it. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon some sort of fast track to crotchety old-womanhood. But hey, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

All I know for sure is that it’s incredibly freeing, my newfound ability to stand up for myself. I’m no longer tethered to obligations I signed up for only because I couldn’t find a good enough reason to say no (as if “no” wasn’t enough on its own). Therefore, I no longer have to be resentful of those self-imposed obligations. I’m not seething internally, rehashing conversations and thinking of what I could have said, but didn’t. Nothing is festering inside because I’ve already let it out. I am taking care of myself first, putting aside “because you think I should” in favor of “because I want/don’t want to.”

Assertiveness is what gets stuff done. Confidence is the difference between hoping for the desired results and actually getting them. I no longer have patience for pandering to anyone else’s societal or personal expectations of how I should think or behave or react. I’ve spent years building myself into the person I am, and I’m tired of keeping her under wraps.

It boils down to this: I can be self-assured and speak my mind whenever I need to, or I can live my life in a perpetual state of hesitance and regret. I choose the former, and I don’t care if it pisses off the Pope.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not turning into some kind of big, sandy vagina — there’s a big difference between assertive and aggressive, after all, and I’m not walking around in perpetual teeth-baring PMS mode. I’m not flinging inflammatory statements just to stir the pot or anything (that’s for you comment-trolling assholes to take care of, so get to typing). I have simply given myself permission to say what I feel like saying.

And if the person I’m talking to doesn’t like it, well, they can take a seat. Take several. Take a whole stadium’s worth. I’m not here to make them happy. And it is liberating.

My skin may be getting progressively more wrinkled, but it’s also getting a hell of a lot thicker — and I wouldn’t trade that for all the youthful elasticity in the world.

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