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Interview #4: Assertiveness and Purpose

Hi everyone, I haven’t published an interview for a while so I thought it would be a good time to share. This interview is with Anastasia, a fantastic mental health worker that I had a few sessions with at the Crisis Centre. She’s an inspiring young woman working and finishing her Masters degree at the same time. Actually while I was there she was about to finish, so I imagine she’s done now. I wish her all the best…with my fairly extensive frame of reference I can tell that she’s going to make a real, positive difference in peoples’ lives. That made me really happy and she made quite the impression. I was impressed, intrigued and if I’m being honest…jealous. Anastasia has a presence about her…a balanced confidence and assertiveness mixed with a clear strong work ethic and determined nature. Consequently, I catered my interview questions to probe those areas; after all, if I wanted to hear how she does it all I can’t be the only one!

What do you think brought you to this field?

I don’t know when it started but I think wanting to help others is something I always had in me since I was a kid. I took time to care for my relatives while they struggled and had been a good help to my aunt. At that time I figured out I would want to help people learn what they can do for themselves.

I started with a Bachelors degree in cognitive neuroscience. I was in the neuropsychology profile because I was always interested in psychology (as a kid I listened and stayed around my family to be a better help). I’m a quiet person and I like seeing a scientific view in the background too, as well as helping others. After that I decided I wanted to do more. I know that when working in the field you can focus on all clients or certain types of clients but I want to expand my horizons. I think mental health is still something not known enough and people struggle to get help even though they need it. My ultimate goal is to bring mental health to the upper level equal to regular doctors in healthcare. That’s why I chose to do my Masters in business administration, mostly on corporate management. Applying corporate management to my degree in neuroscience, I think I’ll be able to make some changes. I know it won’t happen tomorrow or soon and I have to earn some experience but I could combine both paths later and create change higher up.

Have you always been so confident and assertive or did you develop it?

I think the assertiveness was probably natural but I don’t think it’s something you need to have. Developing a skill is an everyday process. If you see that you don’t feel good doing something…like let’s say I didn’t feel comfortable doing this interview, I would be able to tell you that. I won’t agree to something I’m uncomfortable with.

Can I ask what your self-talk looks like?

Sometimes I might be harsh with myself but it’s for me to become better. So if I have to get myself into motion like to prepare for an exam even if I don’t feel like it, I just follow through. I’ll tell myself I have to be responsible for it. If something goes wrong though I accept the guilt I might feel and I’ll tell myself that sometimes things happen and I need to accept myself no matter what. If I want to be happy I need to keep moving towards my goals despite what might happen or what already happened to me.

Do you find it difficult to stay on top of everything? How do you make it easier?

I’m 24 now and have a goal that I put all my energy into. I try to stay positive because sometimes the workload is a lot with work and school but I know why I’m doing it. That’s what really helps me. It involves a lot of time management so I have an agenda, follow my daily schedule and take some time at the end of the week to manage and plan. I also take some time for me like a two hour bath or going shopping. It helps me stay motivated and on track. Small moments for ourselves are important.

Do you have any tips for learning how to be assertive?

The most important thing is to never agree to do something you’re not comfortable doing. If you don’t feel like it, that’s your right and you make your own choices. I care about people but I would never do something that would do harm to me just to preserve my image of being a nice person by always saying yes. I want to be a nice person but that also means being nice to myself. If I can’t respect my own boundaries I won’t be able to do a lot and help. The problem with saying yes all the time to be ‘a good person’ is that it can do more harm to you than it helps other people. It’s can also be superficial because the person is saying yes not because they want to, but because they’re not assertive enough to say no.

With big things like work for example I wouldn’t let myself struggle doing something I don’t like. I’m also not going to pursue the same studies if I don’t see that it’s clicking. I’m sure I can find something that will make sense for ME.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with people reading this ?

The main idea of what I’m going to try to do is expose available mental health services so people feel normal about having difficulties during their journey. It’s impossible to always be on top. It’s just impossible. You’re going to have ups and downs and during those difficult times it’s important to know you’re not alone. You can start by telling people about your situation…not screaming on the streets but sharing it with people you’re close to. If they’re not receptive, not helping or it’s not enough you can always reach for professional help. It’s a place where people are there for YOU and are qualified to help you get through those periods. The best thing is to realize you’re not alone and that there’s no one who has never struggled. It’s about how you’re going to manage to bring yourself back up. Sometimes we can do it ourselves…and sometimes we need help. There is no shame in asking for help!

Thank you so much Anastasia for your meaningful participation! It really is motivational and inspiring!

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