This year I have started gardening. We are starting pretty basic with tomatoes, mint and peppers, along with a hanging strawberry plant and a potted aloe plant. Our green thumbs have been hard at work, and over the last few weeks we are starting to see the tomatoes and peppers blooming.
Our garden isn’t much of a garden since we live in a townhouse. But with so many other gardeners around, we haven’t had any problems with people bothering it; that is until yesterday evening when I spotted our new neighbor’s toddler digging up the dirt within inches of our newly blossoming plants.
This is where my anxiety and stress kicked in. I didn’t know what to do. I have never met the neighbors before so I had no relationship with them. I didn’t want to make them mad by appearing mean or bossy to their child. I don’t like confrontation, even with a little 3-year-old. So I stood in my kitchen staring out the window afraid to look away in fear that he might pull up one of my hard-worked plants that I have patiently been laboring over.
He would run away, then come back with a new stick to be used as a shovel, each time returning closer and closer to my garden. So I thought to myself, am I going to let someone ruin something I worked so hard on because I am too afraid to politely ask him to stop? This little child did not know what he was doing, but I did, and I was making myself feel helpless when I wasn’t. So I took a deep breath and took my first step to action.
With a big smile, I bent down close to his eye level and politely asked him to watch out for these particular plants. He looked a little scared to talk to me at first, but then his mom peeked out with a smile as he energetically said “okay!” and continued to tell me how much it had rained that day. Well, that was probably the easiest conversation ever.
It is easy to feel like you’re being selfish or mean when you make a request, and fear that people will, for whatever reason, not like you. But this irrational anxiety causes us to all too often sit back and let others walk over us (or our gardens). It is crucial we understand that assertiveness isn’t bad, and in fact is a necessary skill to master. It is giving your self the same respect, thought and love you give to others.