The unexpected secret to self-sabotage – and how to stop it (Part 7)

Last week, in Part 6, I talked the importance of being good to yourself and why, according to Rick Hanson in ‘The Buddha Brain’, this is such an important way to reprogram your brain.

In this last post of the series, I want to explore what it means to assert yourself which is another way of being good to yourself.

What does it look like when you’re asserting yourself and what role does it play in reprogramming your brain?

To truly assert yourself you need to come from a place of virtue which simply means from a place where your intention is to do no harm.

When you make ‘doing no harm’ your intention (see Part 5, intentions and perseverance), it becomes a way of relating not only to others whoever they may be – partner, children, family, friends or work colleagues but doing no harm to yourself either.

My own experience in my younger days and that of clients and some friends, is that we tend to react to others according to how they treat us.

If they behave angrily then we respond angrily.  If they are friendly, we’re friendly too.

This makes us dependent on other people for our peace of mind and we react like a puppet on a string – with other people pulling our strings.

But suppose you turn this on its head.  Suppose you decide to set the tone of the relationship with or without the other person’s cooperation.

Simply put,

  • when your needs are not being met in your relationship(s), this is harmful to you,
  • when you allow others to treat your badly without putting a stop to it, that is harmful to you as well as, believe it or not, to the other person,
  • when you behave in a negative way towards others you’re being harmful to others.

The obvious examples include nagging, criticising, controlling, manipulating or attacking.  But there are subtler ways of behaving negatively including using an exasperated tone of voice, rolling your eyes, speaking sarcastically and so on – all of which is harmful to others.

But consistently observing the principle of ‘do no harm’ is actually ‘enlightened self-interest’.  Why?

Reasons include

  • It feels good to know that, after the heat of the fight cools down, you won’t be plagued by guilt, regrets or resentment. You won’t do those late night’s post-event action replays, unable to sleep either regretting something hurtful you said in the heat of the moment or thinking of clever things you could have said instead all of which only serves to keep the flames of anger and resentment alive.
  • When you stand by your intention to do no harm you promote inner peace by reducing arguments that would otherwise weigh on your mind afterwards.
  • It increases the chance that others will treat you well in return. In other words, your behaviour, prompted by your intention, acts as a mirror.

Sticking to your intention also means that your behaviour is more purposeful.

Does that mean you have no right to be angry or upset?

Absolutely not!  What it means is that expressing your anger by going on the counter-attack doesn’t get you what you want in the long term assuming, of course, that the relationship matters to you.

Consistently honouring your intention gradually reprograms your brain.

This reduces your knee-jerk reaction of reciprocating angry behaviours which, in turn, increases your peace of mind and improves your relationships.  More importantly, it increases the chances of having your love needs met.

The intention of doing no harm requires you to tune into both, your head and your heart and the key is effective communication.

What does this look like in the context of asserting yourself?  Here are some thoughts, courtesy of Rick Hanson.

  • Be clear about what you want from a particular interaction. For example, is there something in particular you need to talk about?  Do you need to be listened to?
  • Do you suspect your partner, friend, child or sibling has an issue with you that is troubling them?
  • Take responsibility for getting your needs met in your relationships. In other words, ask for what you need.
  • Deal with one issue at the time.
  • Speak your truth by staying in touch with your experience or, in other words, your feelings.
  • Do not expect to get a particular response from the other person. Their responses  and reactions are not in your control.
  • Establish the facts. Was your interpretation of the event as the other person intended?  Is there a genuine issue to address or was there a misunderstanding?
  • Avoid fault finding.
  • If, in the course of the interaction, you discover that the other person has valid issues with you, then make sure you address them – whether or not they address the valid issues you have with them.
  • Keep in mind the big picture, i.e. the quality of your long term relationship.
  • Focus on the future, how you want things to be from now on. Do not rehash the past.

Finally, redefine success of a particular interaction to mean that you managed to say what you needed to say in a way that feels real to you, without fudging.

I hope this series of blogs inspired you to review your beliefs, face your resistances and try something different, however small.

And, in keeping with my recommendation to ask for what you need, I’d be very grateful if you shared this post with your friends – online as well as off-line.

With love and gratitude,


P.S.  If you believe I can support you, please contact me on or text me on my mobile – 07903 795027 for a free, no obligation Obstacle Smashing Exploratory Session.

You will walk away with at least 3 options to get you started on a happier path – whether or not you choose to work with me.



Leave a Comment

Grow Your Confidence and Fabulous Relationships will Follow