Despite assertiveness being foundational to healthy boundary setting, it doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, many people need to practice the skill for it to be impactful in their lives.
When you struggle with anxiety, however, being assertive can create unexpected roadblocks. Unsurprisingly, this could easily dissuade your efforts to be more assertive, making you feel as though it’s just not possible.
Yet, being assertive and overcoming the associated anxiety is manageable. Doing so requires a healthy dose of self-awareness and a commitment to making deliberate changes.
Here’s why being assertive can make you anxious, and tips to help you overcome this kind of anxiety.
Why Being Assertive Can Make You Anxious
Being more assertive is a healthy goal to set for yourself. After all, people who are assertive tend to increase their overall well-being tremendously. But this doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Here are a few reasons why being assertive can make you feel anxious.
It’s sometimes hard to locate your feelings.
If you already struggle with anxiety, then you know how difficult it can be to trace your true feelings. Often, you might feel “off” but can’t pinpoint the origin of that negative emotion.
This inability to locate your own feelings is the main driver in why being assertive can cause anxiety. It’s tricky to determine exactly why you feel the way you do—especially when it’s related to setting healthy personal boundaries.
Communicating your needs is often difficult.
Along those same lines, finding it a challenge to locate your emotions often means having a difficult time expressing what you need from others. Mostly, because you might not know or realize your own needs.
Furthermore, being assertive supports the idea of respecting and honoring yourself above others. Communicating to others that you’re unavailable to help, unable to attend an event, etc. might feel like you’re letting them down (at first) rather than taking care of yourself.
It’s common to feel misunderstood.
Navigating your emotions and communicating those emotions are both tall orders. With that said, it’s incredibly easy to feel like people aren’t really understanding you.
For example, you may feel as though they believe you to be selfish for saying “no” to them. Or, you may simply struggle with establishing your more assertive self. Either way, it’s common to feel misunderstood.
How to Overcome Anxiety Related to Assertiveness
As mentioned, it is possible to overcome anxiety that bogs down your efforts to be more assertive. Here are a few tips:
Practice locating how you feel.
To be more in touch with how you feel at any given time, it’s important to practice. Do “check-ins” with yourself, identifying the emotions that you’re feeling during the process.
No matter if it’s a positive or negative emotion that you feel, make an effort to pinpoint the origin of that emotion. This will help you be more confident in knowing what you really feel.
Keep communication simple with “I” statements.
When you struggle to communicate your needs, using “I” statements can often help you to find resolve in this area.
Plus, it’s probably easier than you think! Begin your statement with “I,” and follow it with a verb—I feel, I would, etc.
Communicating in this way allows you to express yourself without putting any unneeded pressure or blame on the other person. As a result, this eliminates more misunderstandings.
Encourage confirmation from others.
As well as using “I” statements, encourage others to participate in the conversation more fully. Ask them if what you said makes sense or something similar.
Also, be open to validate what others are feeling or thinking. This will, in turn, encourage them to do the same for you. It communicates that you truly care about the situation and respect that person, and at the same time are dedicated to your own personal boundaries.
Take the first step…
If you struggle with anxiety, and you’re ready to start resolving those issues, I would like to help.
Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT