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Assertiveness: The Struggle Of Being Assertive.

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Do you have difficulty saying no when it is warranted? Are you often told that you have no boundaries? Do you find yourself constantly overcompensating for the sake of others?

If yes, then you have a problem with being assertive. It does not mean being outrightly rude to someone. Although this is how most people view assertiveness, it is not the same as being aggressive or unaccommodating.


What is Assertiveness

Assertiveness means making a space for your needs and wants to be heard and understood while respecting those of other individuals around you. It encompasses how you communicate, behave, think and respond to situations.

Even if your opinion differs from that of everyone else around you, you should take a stand for your beliefs. This is an essential quality and should be practiced in order to avoid later resentments, regrets, or sudden outbursts of long-suppressed anger with managing stress and practicing personal rights.


What Stops People From Being Assertive

There may be various reasons why individuals fail to be assertive when the situations demand it and end up feeling powerless or frustrated. A few common causes may be:


This is one of the most severe barriers that individuals encounter when trying to be assertive. This fear can have many faces. It can be the fear of sounding or coming across as aggressive- a character trait that is often looked down upon.

It can be the fear of hurting the other person’s sentiments either with words or denial of the action requested by the person. This extends to include the fear of another individual’s anger or showcasing of displeasure/disapproval.


Guilt has historically been known as the perpetrator of deeds that were regretted later on. Oftentimes, we agree to things that we regularly wouldn’t due to guilt or trying to overcompensate for some past error on our part.

Balance of assertiveness

Similarly, a sort of guilt crops up in individuals when they think of placing their own needs and desires foremost. They feel guilty for such selfish thoughts, decide to keep their needs last, and passively agree to what others want.


Another barrier is the discomfort people feel when they try to showcase their preferences as supreme. The fear of being judged, appearing selfish, or being disliked follows this discomfort closely. Thus, to avoid the awkwardness of their wants being possibly rejected, individuals choose not to be assertive.

Trauma or Neglect

Individuals who have experienced some kind of trauma in their life tend to feel unassertive. This is a continuation of the powerlessness and the lack of agency that the traumatic event may have made them feel.

Similarly, children who suffered neglect from parents or guardians grow up believing that they deserve whatever bad things happen to them. When they absorb the idea that their feelings and boundaries are not important, they carry the same into adulthood.

Insecurity or Low Self Esteem

Feeling insecure goes closely in hand with being unassertive. Insecurity leads to an individual constantly questioning their own judgments. Thus, they find it difficult to take a stand for themselves or even trust their own decisions.

‘Not Me’

Most people believe that assertiveness is a personality trait. This is far from the truth. Being assertive is a skill that is acquired through practice and can be learned at any point in an individual’s life. Thus, dismissing assertiveness by stating, “It’s just not me/my style,” is an incorrect assumption.


Why is This Problematic

When you decide not to be assertive and just go with the flow, it gives a clear indication that your opinions or needs are not as important as that of another individual. Thus, in an attempt to avoid conflict, you end up dismissing your own self.

If you are unassertive and passive, it allows others or rather gives them the license to treat you as they may. This ultimately results in a complete disregard of your feelings and emotions.

Now how long can an individual live that way? All that pent-up frustration and anger at being so easily cast aside is bound to erupt one day or another. And when this happens, we pity the one at the receiving end of that backlash.

To avoid stress, resentment, regret, a feeling of victimization, and the kind of anger that may lead an individual to want to take revenge, assertiveness is important.


How to Practice Being Assertive 

Assertiveness is not a skill that can be mastered in a day. It is a long-drawn-out project that requires patience and practice. Similarly, as mentioned above, assertiveness should present itself in various modes. Here are a few tips that will help you get started.

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication shown by dialogue bubble

Speaking in a way that makes your stand clear and gets your feeling warranted is extremely important for your mental well-being. The first step towards this is assessing yourself. You need to take a look at how you respond in situations that require you to voice your opinion.

Then, instead of adopting passivity or staying silent, practice making your voice heard in strong statements. Using “I” instead of “You” is a great way to start, as it prioritizes your feelings rather than the other person.

Build Self Esteem

Valuing yourself is foremost when it comes to being assertive. If you do not give importance to yourself, how will others follow suit? Thus, working on your low self-esteem becomes paramount.

This can be done either through exercises that build self-image and value or by seeking the help of a mental health professional who will guide you through the steps of attaining good self-esteem. This in turn will allow you to say ‘no’ when it is needed and practice assertiveness without turning to passivity.

Maintain Healthy Boundaries 

There has to be a ‘me’ space and a metaphorical line that you should draw around yourself. Healthy boundaries lead to healthy relationships that are founded on mutual respect.

Without said boundaries, others get the right to infringe upon your rights, space, and emotions, which leads to resentment in the long run. A lack of personal boundaries, aggressive behavior, and communication style that seems non-assertive severely impair individuals feeling of self-worth.

‘No’ is the keyword here. Additionally, making firm decisions and sticking by them is another way of practicing assertiveness.

Adopt Assertive Body Language

Yes! Your stature says it all. Standing straight up with parallel shoulder blades gives out a positive and strong vibe. When speaking, ensure that you maintain eye contact at all times (do not look down!), make gestures while speaking, and look calm, relaxed, and composed throughout.


To Sum Up

Group of friends enjoying food together

Assertiveness is an essential skill that helps an individual live a happy, fulfilled life without regrets or anger. It is not the same as being aggressive, where you argue as if in a confrontation.

Assertive behavior leads to the development of good relationships where both parties respect each other along with aiding stress management. Behaving assertively also helps an individual feel satisfied and improve their self-worth and self-confidence.

Begin practicing assertiveness today and see how it transforms your life for the better.

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