I’ve just finished a book that has been sat on my bookshelf since June 2008 (I looked it up in my Amazon history, cool huh?).
It’s 160 pages long and it took me three days to read it, with copious amounts of highlighting. And it is such a brilliant book, I wanted to share some of it with you.
The title doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s called Women At Work, by Anne Dickson.
In a nutshell it’s a book about being more assertive in the workplace. But it is so much more than that. The advice in this book can apply to everyone you have to deal with – from family and friends, to neighbours and shop assistants. It’s a blueprint for dealing directly, openly and clearly with people and for always respecting your personal boundaries.
Reading this has cleared up such a lot of confusion for me. My mother, who was abused as a child, is a very timid, submissive person (which was her survival strategy). As a result, I grew up thinking you always had to be nice to others, never let anyone think you disagree with them and never do anything to hurt someone else’s feelings.
I’ve allowed people, on some occasions, to walk all over me. And more frequently I’ve ended up wound-up and upset by things people say and do. I thought maybe this was a problem with the people that I chose to spend my time with, but this book has allowed me to see that it’s primarily a problem with setting my own boundaries, retaining my own sense of personal power and taking myself seriously enough that other people will take me seriously too.
All those horrible comments that I should have challenged. All the times when people have been too busy, or too dismissive to talk through my concerns. All the times I’ve felt that people just didn’t understand me, when I was giving them NO clue at all as to what I wanted or expected from them.
All that time I’ve been allowing people to (unknowingly) chip away at my own sense of who I am and what is acceptable. By never challenging anything (or occasionally just having a tearful/angry meltdown), my sense of self, my sense of personal power has just diminished.
Here is a quote from the book:
Consistent failure to make requests, express feelings, say ‘No’, and set limits leaves our personal boundaries indistinct under a haze of confusion and resentment. We end up experiencing our boundaries only when other people clumsily, repetitively and habitually invade them.
Anne talks about how it is okay to be anxious, even at the very moment when you are trying to be clear about your preferences and feelings. She talks about starting difficult conversations from a position of what you want to achieve, not by worrying about what the other person is thinking or is in the middle of doing. She tells you to give yourself the importance you deserve.
So, after finishing this book, I looked Anne up online and she has a website! And one of her other books, which is also sitting on my bookshelf (as yet unread), has a 30th year anniversary edition: A Woman in Your Own Right. I can’t wait to read my copy of this.
I had a quick look through the reviews on Amazon for and I found this:
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a must for you if you’re feeling overwhelmed about anything.
…I must have bought at least 20 copies since, but I’ve given them all away during my practice as a volunteer in miscarriage support. Grief and bereavement can cause serious breakdown in clear conversation. Everybody thinks they know what you are going through and how you should act, but they don’t as “they” are not you. Being able to tell your truth in a clear, consistent and honest way literally does save relationships at these overwhelming times and allows the right things to be said and understood and for grief to flow fluently.
The fact that a miscarriage support worker was recommending her book for the exact thing that I have been struggling with over the last few years was amazing.
It was like a message from the universe :-).
The point of this post was going to be that you should read your books, not let them gather dust on the shelf.
But actually, I think this was the exact right time for me to take it off the shelf and give it my undivided attention.
So I only have one other thing to say: read this book if you are a woman of any age. I wish someone had handed me a copy when I turned 16.