Confrontation, oh how I fear thee

I don’t do confrontation. I’m not sure how many people know this about me, but, well, now it’s out there.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about confrontation that scares me – whether it be the ‘I wish I’d thought to say this/that’, or whether it be my lack of confidence in having a conversation ‘live’ that can’t be edited like the written word, whether it be the about my lack of confidence in myself I have & not feeling up to putting my feelings out into the world, or the knowledge that I am leaving myself open & vulnerable by exposing personal feelings & thoughts that once out may be used against me or as bait in future conversations.

Confrontation also brings up so many insecurities for me – of not being smart enough. I was always an ‘average’ student at school & I would always hide & not disclose test scores for fear of ridicule or judgement, even when the scores were ok or even really good. I just didn’t have the assurance that I was able to meet anyone academically & I think I envision confrontation as a type of school debate & don’t feel smart enough to ‘compete’ or will win it for the team. I’m scared of what will happen, what will be said back, that I won’t be equipped with the arguments, the vocabulary or to leave emotion out of it (cos sometimes it’s not about that), to personalise everything & then to play the self-blame game.

I have grown up with depression always being my constant visitor & companion, so my negativity & pessimism spent a long time shaping my outlook on life & my self confidence. I know I’m not the same person as I was as a child or teenager & am learning to see things differently & change the way I think about things, however, for some reason I just can’t shake the fact that confrontation scares me & this fear stops me from acting on it.

I think having a delicate personality or a history of self-doubt also brings ‘character assassination’ into the mix of things I fear when thinking about confrontation. I just can’t shake the feeling that I am going to be ‘dumped on’ even though I might have everything working in my favour for an apology or whatever I’m wanting as the outcome of the meeting. And then there’s the personality of the other party to consider. Strong, intimidating, controlling & those people that are not scared to say anything also stop me in my tracks.

Fear the unknown outcome also scares me. Being one of those ‘type A’personalities & wanting to be able to control as much as possible in my life (which I know is unrealistic, but that’s a whole other blog post) does not bode well when it comes to having conversations ‘on the fly’ that involve feelings & emotions & possible outcomes that I don’t want or didn’t plan for. How will I cope & how will I feel should the outcome be unfavourable? Will this start me on a carousel of ongoing confrontations?

I’m not quite at the point in my life that I know who I am, that I love, respect & accept myself & feel worthy…. And then something like fear or inability to confront shakes me up just that little bit more when things in my personal life requires me to either step up & stand up for myself. This fear makes me question whether I’m ever going to be ‘content’ knowing I’m letting fear & vulnerability take over from rectifying things, improving relationships or standing up for what I believe is right or just having the opportunity to being heard & validated. There are some aspects of myself that I am comfortable with & like & things that attract people to me, but not being able to stand up for myself or being confrontational makes me question if I’m truly content & ok & can lead a fulfilling life.

And I know not all confrontations are hard or need to be a clash of the minds. It doesn’t always have to be a shouting match or a well prepared speech using examples of things from the past to give your point validity. Sometimes it’s a gentle conversation that is included as part of a catch up over coffee & doesn’t get another minutes thought. I think I’m ok with those. Yeah, I am.

When thinking about this fear of mine, it got me thinking of the ‘other party’. Are people nasty or rude to me knowing that I avoid confrontations & they’ll get away with it? Maybe. Do they use this against me? Maybe. Do they push me to the point where I’m backed into a corner out of fear as a means to an end knowing I won’t push back? Maybe. Do I think that those people who know I avoid confrontation exploit me knowing they’ll get away with it? Maybe.  Do I see this as a character flaw of mine & do people that know me see it as a flaw? Maybe. Have I lost friendships & family members over the fact that I don’t confront them. Most definitely yes.

I know I have made conscious decisions lately not to confront certain things that have occurred in my life. It hasn’t been easy & it’s been hurtful, often relentless, nasty & (mostly) unwarranted. This is one of those times that no matter what I say, I will not be heard or given the space to put my case forward. I don’t want to be involved in a situation of having a conversation like this, that only serves to provide the other person with the stage to perform & no purpose other than to give that person an opportunity to lay out their reasons for their actions or inactions.

I know there are times I’ll have to step up & my kids are going to be the impetus for this. There are going to be many occasions that I’ll have to stand up for them as they grow up & I want to be able to do this for them. And I want them to learn this skill from me or DH as I don’t want them going through life letting people take advantage of them for not being able to stand up for themselves.

I would love some helpful (gentle) tips on how I can overcome my fear, so please feel free to share the love cos I sure could do with some of it at the moment.



  1. Jenny says:

    Yuz, I’m sending you so much love. Confrontation makes me either want to run away and hide or throw up. One of my triggers is people talking down to me or condescending to me. It is hardest for me to confront my family members, particularly my family of origin. I used to resort to the same behavior pattern that I used as a child. Now that I am an adult, I have started very slowly to speak up for myself. It made me feel nauseaous, but I was so relieved at getting the words out. It was just a normal conversation, but I was able to stand my ground and speak my mind.

  2. I understand this. I tend to avoid confrontation, unless it’s something that really needs to be addressed, and then I tend to wait until I get mad and make a big deal out of it. Not recommended. 😉

    I think part of the struggle with this is thinking of it as confrontation. Sometimes we just need to have a conversation with someone, or assert ourselves enough to let someone know how they made us feel or to share our point of view and ask for respect and understanding. It might be good to think of this as being assertive instead of aggressive. Either way, easier said than done.

    Sending you love, as always.

  3. Yuz, I’m Type-A, too, and totally understand what you mean about wanting to control the conversation and the outcome of a confrontation!

    My personality flaw? I have almost no fear of confrontation. I’m not sure if that makes me brave or a bitch. Guess it depends on the situation! 😉 I like what Robin mentioned about looking at it in a different light – asserting yourself rather than confronting the other person.

    One thing is for sure – you ARE smart. You’re a great person, and you’re flipping hilarious. I miss hearing your voice on Yael’s conference calls! 🙂 I have no doubt that you’ll sort this all out, and move forward a better person for it. Because you’re awesome like that.

  4. Jaime says:

    I’m a lot like you, Yuz. I am very slowly–at age 35!–starting to be more assertive and able to address issues head-on. This happened, I think, because of the relationships that have been lost as a result of NOT saying things, not addressing them until it is too late. However, what usually happens is that I assess the relationship and decide whether it’s worth it (to me) to confront the other person and work on whatever the issue is. If it isn’t, I don’t speak up. I’m sure eventually that relationship suffers from this tactic and probably ends at some point. Anyway, I think you’re a beautiful, strong, loving person. Sending my love to you.

  5. Charity says:

    I am not a confrontation person either. I tend to hide. Much love to you.

  6. Hi Yuz –
    I am not a confrontational person either dont like it at all. But at 55, I am now speaking my mind so much more than I used to. Not sure why. Just feel good in my skin. I even feel safe enuf to raise my voice now, to people outside my family. I never used to but sometimes the situation warrants it. I have a a few good examples…I just ahd to stand up for mysefl. The more I do it, the more I can do it. I feel god after I do so. And its not like I have to spout off my opinions all the time, I dont, I just stand up for myself more, .It was a long time a comin tho.

  7. Ivy says:

    I have a few good friends who fear confrontation a lot too. They will do everything they can to avoid situations they feel have the least bit of risk for confrontation. It gets to the point that they are afraid to tell me how they truly feel. After all these years, and I have been friends with these individuals for a long time, I still don’t feel I know them that well. It’s always like there’s a wall between us. A friendship can only go so far when there is a barrier like that.
    I agree w/Robin in that some situations may just require you to be a little more assertive/stand your ground/speak your mind. Not counting my immediate family who knows I can fight (what else do parents and siblings do?), I generally have no fear of confrontation—whether it be with a relative, colleague or stranger. I will NOT hesitate to speak up when someone infringes on a principle I feel strong about, is being unreasonable/mean for no reason and/or is being condescending in any way. This includes conversations in person, by phone, via text/email, and on the Internet. Though, I haven’t really had true confrontations with friends. That’s only happened once or twice, and in those situations, they hurt my feelings so badly, that I decided the friendship wasn’t worth mending.
    Just yesterday, I had an awkward conversation with my MIL. And like I’ve told her before, I don’t appreciate the way she and my husband (and sometimes my FIL) “gang up” on me sometimes. Instead of shrugging it off, I put my foot down. I came right out and told her exactly what I didn’t like about the conversation and why. She couldn’t understand why I would feel the way I felt, so I reminded her in a reasonable fashion why, just like the past couple of times…..that just because she was raised in one way and she raised her children one way, doesn’t mean I was raised by my parents the same way and I had to behave like her or her sons. Every one has a unique background, and we react and behave differently as a consequence. I told her I make it a habit to try to empathize with others. We are, after all, the product of our genetics and environment.
    I spent the majority of my life meek and lacking in self esteem. But just in the last couple of years, I’ve grown in self confidence. All my life I have found it difficult to find a mentor. I decided I was tired of waiting for one and advocating for myself as much as I can. Doing that and maintaining cool was not possible until recently. I think I have finally acquired the emotional intelligence (EI) needed for me to be noticed and more successful at my job and in life in general. Corporations now offer EI training. I could go on and on but will just say that being your own advocate is critical. In any situation–be it with family, friends, or colleagues–trying to avoid situations from compromising your values while at the same time commanding respect is challenging!

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