Julie's Story:

When I was a little girl I had what, you might call a very passive personality. I infrequently experimented with assertive behaviour, but honestly wasn’t very good at it.
The youngest of three children, I learned that my opinion would be valued the least, that my side of the story would least likely be believed, and that my wants and needs were for the most part, last on the agenda. Now in defense of my parents and siblings, no one ever made a conscious effort to “teach” me these things, they were beliefs I formed on my own based on my own experience and my own 

As I grew older and became a pre-teen, I took on a more passive-aggressive style. I figured if my opinion had no value, I would find a way to get people to hear it without having to speak. I started writing a journal when I was in sixth grade and began writing short stories and poetry. By the time, I was eight years old, I had completed my first chapter book about a young girl who had no one to talk to and lived all alone m a big, scary house. My poetry had a certain sarcastic, comedic edge to it, and I found it to be a therapeutic medium for expressing my emotions since I believed nobody wanted to listen to my voice.

Enter adolescence. I lived a secret life in my imagination, describing it in detail in my diaries. Fantasy was much more exciting than reality so I wrote more and more - talked less and less. My mother bought me a guitar when I was a
Pre-teen, and I started writing songs and setting them to music. This again proved a great outlet for me and I started sharing some of my music through song writing contests and the like. Unfortunately, I never took it too far, again because I was the youngest and my siblings were better songwriters and musicians than I was. Although song writing was fun I came to believe that it was not the right outlet for me. 

In my senior years of elementary school began to act out my emotions in full force. I took up smoking, and (only once) experimented with recreational drugs. I started hanging out with a racier crowd and quit attending church. I stopped eating. My school day diet basically consisted of coffee and cigarettes. I decided that if my parents didn’t believe me when I was telling them the truth, there was no point to telling the truth. So, I became a very adept storyteller. I could spin a tale like no one else and very rarely got caught. It was a mad rush. I was getting attention, and even though it was negative, it felt good. I suffered frequent intense fits of anxiety and began to slip into a depressive state.

In high school, I got heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. Anything that meant I could stay after school was the ticket. (That is quite an amusing fact considering l managed to skip most of my classes without ever leaving the schoolgrounds.) Arts, student council, drama activities and sports were now my “drug” of choice. ln fact, I even served a stint as the manager of our junior boy’s basketball team.

Acting proved to be a terrific outlet and I revelled in knowing that I could do something and do it well. Acting may have been a release but I wasn’t resolving much. I carried around a lot of pain and as you know anger turned inward can be just as destructive as anger turned outward.

I struggled with bouts of depression evidenced mostly through my dark, despondent poetry and the subjects of my artwork. I never shared this side of myself with anyone, believing as I always did, that this was my only voice. For me belief was truly the basis of action. Because l believed that my voice was insignificant, my self worth continued to plummet and I began to think that it might be better to end my life than to continue living in silence.

I count myself fortunate and credit nothing more than the grace of God, that in those moments of desperation, I reached out to others for help. The right people were in the right place, at the right time to give me the right answers.

I distinctly remember one high school friend who, after l expressed my suicidal thoughts to her, showed me her own scarred wrists and arms. I am eternally grateful to her for convincing me to focus on living instead of dying.

Not knowing how to behave assertively, but knowing I had to change; I turned the tables and began to act out more aggressively, hurting people I cared about to reconcile my feelings of inferiority. Very quickly I realized that I could not sustain the aggressive personality - it simply isn’t who I am.

It wasn’t untiI my third year of high school that I came to the realization that my coping mechanisms were not working and that I had to work at developing a new way of living my life. Our family moved and with that move, I changed high schools and began to focus on academics again. Although my shift in focus was more a defense mechanism to avoid having to make new friends, it proved to be a smart move. Now immersed in my schoolwork, and hanging out with friends who were emotionally stable and future-focused, I found it easier to express my opinions without fear of being ridiculed.

I still used music, art, and writing as ways to express myself; but it was different now because I had found some people who valued me for who I was. All the same, having a healthier outlet for expressing my feelings didn’t necessarily make me an emotionally healthy person.

Truth be told, I was still fairly passive in my approach to life, although I was desperately struggling to find strength to be more assertive. You see, no one ever told me what assertiveness is. I didn’t even know there were different types of behaviour or anger styIes. I learned assertive styles of  Cont'd at Right...
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my approach to life, although I was desperately struggling to find strength to be more assertive. You see, no one ever told me what assertiveness is. I didn’t even know there were different types of behaviour or anger styIes. I learned assertive styles of behaviour through trial and error. Even during my four years of university study in Psychology,

I don’t believe I truly understood the implications of the various styles of behaviour.  Inherently, I understood aggression and knew that I didn't like it. In the same vein, I appreciated and admired assertive people, but never knew on a conscious level what was the quality that I so admired.

I often wonder what my childhood would have been like had I understood what it means to act in a passive aggressive or assertive way. Trial and error is a valuable learning tool. Learning through the experience and wisdom of others is far better. Learning by trial and error is like stumbling through a well-lit room with a blindfold on and not knowing your eyes are covered. If we`re lucky enough, someone will show kindness and help us understand that we are blindfolded and that we can take it off. Then it’s up to us to decide whether we want to continue negotiating the room with our blinders on or take them off and navigate the room with ease.

I have been blessed with people who. at pivotal times in my life, were kind enough to say to me, “Julie, you’ve got blinders on. Let me help you take those covers off your eyes and show you how easy it is to grow without them.” In a way, I owe my book, Anger Solutions, to them. In turn, trust that this book will do the same for others. With the wealth of knowledge and experience that exists in the world today, there is no reason why anyone should have to learn the hard way. 

It took over 20 years for me to understand my own emotions, to find a way to overcome past hurts and to learn to truly express myself assertively. It took even longer to build a real sense of self-confidence and to understand that every voice has value; a right to be heard. Looking back, I sometimes marvel that the shy, insecure, voiceless little girl that I was evolved into an individual who could give sound counsel and deliver speeches and presentations to hundreds of people at a time.

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