In the simplest terms, to assert oneself is to be able to identify and express one’s needs to another person. And while this quality may come naturally to some people, many find it much more difficult to practice and deal with anxiety around it. This often comes up during relationship counseling sessions in our office. Three simple steps below can help you move towards asserting yourself more.
Perhaps the possibility of being more assertive causes you to fear rejection or conflict. Or maybe expressing your own needs might feel like you’re inconveniencing others. While being assertive can sometimes leave you dealing with anxiety in the moment, the Mayo Clinic has found that it has long term benefits like increased self-esteem and decreased stress levels. In a way, asserting yourself more is a stress-management strategy. By being assertive, you are communicating that your feelings, needs, and ideas are important — and worth sharing with others.
1.What are you feeling? Are you dealing with anxiety?
In order to assert yourself, it is important to first be aware of what you’re feeling. Are you feeling disappointed, scared, angry, sad? What, specifically, made you feel this way? Knowing how you’re feeling and why will help you more clearly articulate your thoughts to others.
2. What do you need from the other person?
Once you know what exactly you’re feeling, determine what you need from the other person. In some situations, you might want someone to take action. If this is the case, what sort of action would be helpful to you? Do you need space, stress management strategies, extra help with a task, or for someone to stop doing something that is upsetting you?
Other times, you may need the person to simply hear you out and validate your feelings. Think about what would be most beneficial to you in this particular situation.
3. How to communicate your needs. We share this in our relationship counseling:
When you’re ready to communicate with the other person, using “I” statements can be an empowering way to assert your needs. By using the word “I,” you are taking ownership of your feelings and opinions. Some helpful examples include:
I need _______ in order for me to ___________.
I feel _______ when _____________ .
I don’t like ________ because it makes me feel __________ .
I need help with ___________.
Although asserting yourself can feel difficult and you may have to deal with some anxiety along the way, it is an important way to communicate your needs with others, while also building your own sense of self-esteem and self-worth. It is a reminder to yourself, and others, that your needs matter.
If you would like to improve your ability to be more assertive, book a relationship counseling session with one of our skilled psychotherapists.