Looking Over the Edge

By Fred Kusch ― 

In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”
― Dorothy Parker, “The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker”

“We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong.” “We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Most of us know or at least are familiar with the rights that form the foundation of our laws. The right to free speech and freedom of religion are just two pillars of the freedoms we enjoy. In addition, the rights are what I would call interpersonal rights, which are at the core of positive assertiveness. In these times, when respect of people seems to have reached a nadir in public discourse, individuals must take charge of what they can control in order to maintain their self-respect. After all, how can anyone hold the respect of others, friend or foe, if they don’t respect themselves? With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following assertions for your consideration.

  • You have the right to be your best self and make your own decisions without having to justify them.
  • You have the right to judge your own actions and take the consequences of those actions.
  • You have the right to say “I don’t know.”
  • You have the right to express love and affection.
  • You have the right to refuse advances and to make or refuse requests.
  • You have the right to be treated fairly and not be intimidated regardless of age, race, religion or gender.
  • You have the right to express your opinion.
  • You have the right to initiate conversation.
  • You have the right to give compliments and express appreciation and satisfaction.
  • You have the right to express annoyance, displeasure or anger with current conditions politically, socially or economically that impact you or your loved ones.
  • You have the right to say “NO.”

It is important for me to note that these assertions won’t always guarantee your desired outcome—or that people will agree with you or even like you. Nevertheless, if you do assert yourself, you stand a very good chance of achieving your goals. Regardless of what outcome you expect from being positively assertive, in my opinion it enhances your self-respect because it enables you to make your position known on what you think, feel and want.

In this day and age, when the model for public discourse consists of bullying, insults, lies, rants and personal attacks, we must stand tall and maintain our self-respect.

“Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” ― Aung San Suu Kyi, “Freedom from Fear”

Fred Kusch, president and CEO of JFK Associates, is a well-known speaker, author, consultant and business coach. For more information, visit jfkassociates.com.