Via a blogger friend of mine doing a study into such things, I received a free code to take a “scientific” personality quiz appearing in Psychology Today, called “How Assertive Are You?” (The overall assessment is free, but they charge you if you want to know more about your detailed report.)

The invite came via a bit of synchronicity, since last week, I blogged about my struggles with anxiety, and the fact that I wondered if much of it came from unexpressed anger and rage. Anger and rage aren’t “nice”, “ladylike” emotions, and too many women have a tendency to “let things go” that truly bother them, rather than engage in confrontation. In reality, those things are rarely “let go”, it’s just a mask created to please others. In reality, the feelings often come out in the form of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, passive-aggressive behaviour, and talking about people behind their backs rather than addressing problems directly. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I don’t think men don’t do this, as well. I know plenty who do. It just seems there’s a higher incidence of women doing it, in order to keep the peace, appear loveable/amiable/easy-going, or to keep everyone else happy. Proportionally, there’s a higher incidence of women suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders rather than anger management. (I once had a therapist encourage me to punch pillows during our sessions, because “self-destructive behaviour is just anger turned inward.”)

I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I’m very nice, if you ask most people who know me well. Sometimes, too nice. But if you ask people who don’t like me, you’ll hear that I’m too aggressive, too direct. I express my feelings in a way that’s off-putting to some, especially when I get tired of pretending. In situations where I feel the need to pretend—such as in relation to smiling and putting up with hurtful criticisms of who I am as a person from the Mother Of The Guy I Am Currently Dating, or from my own mother—I can only stand it for so long before something in me explodes. The longer it takes to explode, the more anger and resentment build within me, and I often become moody and withdrawn, allowing the hurtful things that go unexpressed to become real feelings I harbour about myself, to tear me down.

So, I was very curious what the inventory on this subject would say about my level of assertiveness.

And, while my results generally identify me as a relatively average, well-adjusted human being in the department of assertiveness, it clearly identified this dichotomy. I am both more subservient than average and more outwardly aggressive than average. (Somehow, I’m S&M all rolled into one package.*laughs*) I also tend to sometimes fear confrontation with authority figures, but have no problem speaking up when it’s needed. (I suppose this explains my lifelong attraction to older and/or more powerful and accomplished men, rather than to those in my peer group.)

I often laugh when I hear that someone is afraid of me—afraid to confront me directly, afraid to talk to me about something, or only comfortable taking a passive-aggressive approach to dealing with me. I think, “Who’d be afraid of little old me?” I also could never understand why I’d work so hard to make sure everyone around me was having a good time, only to find out later that so-and-so didn’t care for me, my personality, or my attitude. If this test is to be believed, my desire to make others happy is constantly at war with a desire to defend myself from attack (or even perceived attack). Even though I’m just “little old me”, I do have certain attributes that others might find imposing or unapproachable. It’s probably because of, as the test mentions, my “being uncomfortable with vulnerability”. (that one, I freely admit to.)

All in all, it’s an interesting personality inventory. I’ve included my results below the dotted line for those who know me well enough to care, or for those with a keen interest in psychology. If you personally would like to take this test, it’s here

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Overall results (score 64)

Ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement.

According to your results on the Assertiveness Test, you are doing quite well in this department. You have developed most of the necessary skills and the self-confidence to stand your ground, whether it’s with family, friends, or colleagues. You know that you deserve respect from others and the way you behave encourages others to treat you accordingly. You certainly demonstrate some leadership potential. Just be aware of your actions so that when you assert yourself, you are not overly aggressive – you don’t want to come across as hostile or bossy. As long as you show as much respect for others as you expect in return, you are on the right track.

Ability to speak for self (score 80)

Acting with confidence to voice a personal opinion.

You rarely hesitate to address the issues that concern you the most. Whether it’s noisy neighbors or a raise you feel you deserve, you’ll immediately bring it to attention. You express yourself freely, asserting your personal rights with the confidence that your request is reasonable. As a self-assured individual, you are comfortable with letting others know you disagree with them, especially when you feel you’re being treated poorly. This approach shows that you feel you deserve respect and expect others to treat you this way.

Handling assertive/strong people (score 59)

Ability to stand up to those who might be intimidating.

Your skills are average when it comes to assertively dealing with authority figures. You are sometimes able to stand up for yourself quite well, but in other situations you can be overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. Perhaps you feel inferior or don’t think that your opinion is as important as that of others. Unfortunately, these beliefs allow your self-doubt to get in the way. Keep in mind however, that you have something worthwhile to contribute too.

Comfort with vulnerability (score 53)

The ability to take action despite the risk of rejection or embarrassment.

While you are sometimes able to put yourself on the line, you tend to hesitate when it comes to showing your vulnerable side. If there is a lot of emotional risk involved in a situation – like the potential to be rejected or embarrassed – you might choose to avoid it altogether. Perhaps you are unsure about your ability to bounce back from humiliation or you just don’t think you have the confidence to pull it off. Occasionally, you might decide that the potential benefits are worth it but that doesn’t happen too frequently. This is something you may want to start doing more often. It is essential to take gambles if you want to achieve your goals.

Subservience (score 49)

Allowing the needs of others to take precedence over own desires.

When you feel that what you want may be in conflict with the desires of others around you, you are torn between giving in to their needs and expressing your own. While you dislike being treated like a doormat, you could end up feeling like you are the victim in a situation because you don’t deal with the perceived injustice effectively. You try not to take the blame for things you are not responsible for but if you keep telling yourself that your opinion is just as valuable as anyone else’s, you’ll soon find it easy to add in your two-cents when asked.

Aggression (score 77)

Using aggressive tactics, such as intimidation, physical force or manipulation.

According to the results of this test, you often use aggressive tactics, like intimidation or swearing, to get your point across. Some would say that there is a fine line between assertiveness and aggression, but there are definite differences. Assertiveness is the ability to express opinions, thoughts and wishes in a clear, direct way, even if there’s the potential for rejection or disagreement. Aggression is unnecessarily forceful, hostile, demanding, or even manipulative. Aggression shows disrespect for other people, since it does not allow them to assert their own rights. It puts your own needs above anyone else’s and takes the focus away from the topic at hand. The use of aggressive tactics is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.

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