Don't feel so bad; you are only 24, right? I've spent twice the amount of time expending an awful lot of energy making everyone else happy.
To hit that sweet spot of standing ground in a calm, unrelenting Jedi fashion I strongly believe emotional control is key. If you can keep emotions out of the picture that's most of the battle; then you won't fly off the handle or back down from the strain of making someone unhappy.
That's the theory anyway. It's been very difficult for me to put it into practice, I have an extra 25 years of buried rage to deal with.
Part of being assertive and not being a pushover is knowing which battles to fight. Example a child wants cookies instead of an apple for a snack. You feel he is not eating enough healthy stuff. Do you fight him over it, compromise, or give in? If that same child wants to run across a busy street do you let him or do you stop him? (severe examples).
Most of the time if the issue is unimportant compromise is the best solution. The apples vs. cookies example I would let my 5 y/o have a couple of cookies if he agreed to have apple slices for his next snack or include the apples with the cookies. Or, if I can give him a healthy snack later that day. But if an issue is important immediate danger, potential danger, risk of harm then there is no compromise.
Oh, I almost forgot. Good leaders are not dictators. Good leaders will ask for input from their followers and take that input into consideration in their decision. But, the decision is not the followers it is the leaders to make. Only when there is no real choice would I not ask for input from my subordinates but I always let them know, unless it's classified, what we are doing and why.
I think this is the most important part. KNowing what battles are worthy of being fought.
Something I still struggle with, yet hope I am getting better at.
Here's someone who fought for what he believed in without bluster or bullying.
...in a calm, unrelenting, nonaggressive way (AFAIK).
Maybe he will inspire.
"I always knew what the right path was; without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too...damn...hard." - Col. Slade, Scent of a Woman
"When they come a wull staun ma groon
Staun ma groon al nae be afraid." Sgt. McKenzie
Doing the right thing, not the expedient, is one of the hardest things for anyone to do, and it takes courage and resolve. Integrity is one of the hallmarks of manhood and of good character.
Yet, to be uncompromising in all things is a failure in leadership. A good leader always knows what's right, but also recognizes that at times what's right is not what will get the job done in the time allowed or what will inspire those being led into putting forth their best efforts. At times the job getting done far overshadows the methods chosen to do it. Mature leaders recognize that and deal with it accordingly.
A man must learn to compromise because life is not all black and white, rather infinite shades of grey. Recognizing when the right thing or the expedient is called for is a sign of wisdom and maturity and takes time to develop; however, anything that compromises morality or endangers others' lives or the mission itself ought to be avoided.
At times one must pull from the well of one's total life experiences and knowledge in order to make the best decision. However, once the decision is made do not hesitate, do not vacillate, do not let those you lead feel you to be weak and indecisive or you will be taken advantage of, especially by those who seldom if ever do what's right.
Always bear in mind that people will follow with pride a man who demonstrates integrity because they can retain their own dignity in doing so. Also know that people tend to love and do their very best for a leader who sometimes does the expedient on their behalf, because the right thing is just too painful and no gain is to be had from it. Just don't make a habit of it. If caught having compromised, a leader with integrity will claim full responsibility and accept the consequences.
Putting the welfare of others before your own is the first sign of maturity and is what all true men will do. Only in war can the mission never be compromised.
A good leader isn't one who always knows what's right; no one can always know what's right it's not possible. A good leader is one that knows he doesn't know everything but knows who to ask and how to make the hard decisions and how to take responsibility for those decisions.
If one has a conscience and a proper upbringing in morality, the right thing to do is instinctual. Doing it, however, is another matter. That can demand courage. I am not talking about knowing all aspects of the job nor how to be a leader and mentor. Much needs to be learned in those regards. New leaders especially are not expected to know all the correct and expected business procedures right off the bat, but are expected to ask if in doubt. I was not talking about knowing one's job fully, rather making correct choices based on moral principles. I think you know that.
I've had leadership positions from twenty years of age (assistant Mgr of a fast-food restaurant), through a full military career and on to managing and leading security teams until I fully retired a few months ago. Like Col. Slade in the quote I offered, I always knew what the right (moral and honorable) thing was, and I am not exceptional by far in that regard. Like him, I did not always choose rightly, and I have some serious regrets.
If put in a leadership position, it is expected you know what the right things to do are, i.e., you are expected to be honorable and moral in your choices and lead by example in that regard.
If you are an employee of a company, the right thing is to follow the rules of the company and support that company's mission without reservation. If you accept an employer's dollar, the honorable thing is to do nothing less or to resign if forced into a compromise that goes against your moral principles.
In the military it is following the rules of the service and letting nothing get in the way of mission accomplishment, especially when others' lives and the security and safety of the nation are on the line. Just as in civilian life, one must choose to do that expected of you by the job, or leave the service. It is a choice many have had to face.
With that, I would argue that for most people, the moral and honorable (right) thing to do is always a known factor, unless you are a singularly amoral or psychopathic individual. If you accept a leadership position and do not know what the right thing to do is, you are not fit to lead. Those who are to be your followers look to you to be the example in all things.
Can you help?
Yes, I can. This is one of my specialties, and I'm currently writing a book on the topic.
My dad is the type of person who will raise his voice at anyone if he feels slightly taken advantage of-- for example- if someone is even somewhat rude at the market he causes a scene, I HATED this hyper vigilance and found myself being a very agreeable person just to counter what I saw in my dad.
The acorn doesn't fall all that far from the tree, eh?
Your different symptoms stem from exactly the same problem: both of you are too needy for other people to think, talk to you, and treat you in a way to validate your sense of self. He needs them to show him respect; you want people to believe that you're Mr. Nice Guy, that is, you want their approval--without taking advantage of you of course which would just make you feel like a doormat.
Suppose you walked up to a counter for service, and someone refused to serve you. That has happened to me many times; this is a very radical city and you're going to find a lot of extremes of behavior incuding some very hostile patterns. I've been assaulted by a bus driver, several bus drivers have gone postal on me, several have told me to get off the bus because they don't like my kind, and I've been refused service at service counters point blank. Once was in a grocery store where Caucasians almost never shop, and the cashier not only refused to ring up my order but insinuated I didn't have the funds to pay for it. It was right in front of my cousin and I was humiliated by the cashier's arrogant and hostile attitude, like I was riff-raff. I've been in a number of those situations--it's a tit-for-tat thing based on status.
Now, imagine a situation like that. You might reasonably feel enraged--like your dad might. I used to too. It was particularly bad when someone insulted my intelligence, because I had always been told I was "smart", so I was stupidly trying to defend a self-image as if their opinion of my intelligence was even vaguely relevant--I was allowing myself to get sucked into THEIR sense of reality.
Now, I don't. When someone is pointedly rude to me, I say "it's too bad YOU feel that way", tip my hat, wish them a pleasant day, and saunter out the door whistling a merry tune. No negative emotional reaction at all, or if there is just a smidgeon, I can resolve it in one short breath.
I do not allow others to have more control over my emotions than I do!! I do NOT react with negative emotions in those situations.
It's the same with grovelling for approval. You don't need to do that either. Politeness is good, but not a sort of servile need to ingratiate. You need to convince yourself that you do not require anyone else's approval. That you can be a happy and successful person without their permission if it comes to that.
Now, I hope that you let go of any negative feelings you might have for your dad. For one thing, you're doing something equivalent for the same reasons. For another, you'll both be happier if you accept him the way he is, lovingly accepting his limitations just as you accept your own. If you can grow out of this need for validation and approval, perhaps you can help him by example.
One thing that might help is meditation. It trains your brain to be able to over-ride habits and impulses. When you catch yourelf acting like a doormat, you can STOP and remember to POLITELY assert your rights.
Great success to you, bro.
HOWEVER as I enter manhood (I'm 24 now)
You've been legally a man for 6 years now, and physically so probably longer than that. I can help fill the gap there too, but I'm not prepared with comments off the top of my head at the moment. Wait for the book, and friend me if you want to be alerted when it's ready.
Repeat after me.
It's really just that simple. Assertiveness really is just the willingness to stick to your principles. In your example of the summer camp, the kids were asking permission from you as an authority figure. Yes. No. Later today. Realize and accept that these are your choices, not theirs.
The real trick is to balance assertiveness with aggressiveness. You don't want to fall to the side of aggression.