Bill of Human Rights

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Q & A: Bill of Human Rights

Q: I took assertiveness training on the advice of my therapist and learned that I often turn to food instead of confronting people. But now I can’t seem to apply that training outside of class. Any suggestions?

A: Assertiveness training teaches people how to take care of themselves in a world that is often rude and inconsiderate. During role plays of frustrating experiences, they learn how to get what they need and want without becoming either abused or abusing.

Many people, however, run into the same problem you describe: they do well in class, but when it comes to actually doing the new behaviors in the real world, they cannot bring themselves to follow through. The problem, it seems, goes beyond mere learning of new behaviors and techniques. It involves the person’s basic beliefs about s/he is, and is not, entitled to in this world. It involves, if you will, belief in a basic Bill of Human Rights. I list some of those rights below.

You have a right to:

  • Have needs and wants
  • Put yourself first, although sometimes you may choose to do otherwise
  • Make mistakes. Everyone does; you are no exception
  • Have feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant
  • Say “No!” to things you don’t want to do
  • Have your own ideas, opinions, and convictions
  • Change your mind
  • Protest abuse, unfair treatment, and criticism
  • Be alone, even if others want you with them
  • Ask for help and emotional support
  • Ignore advice, regardless of how well-intentioned the giver
  • Leave a relationship in which you are not treated fairly
  • Refuse responsibility for other people’s problems
  • Be less than perfect
  • March to your own drummer
  • Be yourself, just the way you are

Some people have trouble with these rights because they feel they would be selfish if they acted assertively. But assertive statements communicate who we really are and the most precious gift any of us can give another is the gift of our honest, authentic selves. Certainly, being assertive with friends and family, especially in the beginning, takes a lot of courage. So remember, you also have the right to go at your own pace!

Adapted with permission from The ANRED Alert by Jean Bradley Rubel

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Fall 2008 Volume 6, Number 4
©2008 Gürze Books

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