Speaking Up | How To Be Assertive

Resting hand on head in a chair.

Speaking up is hard to do even when we know we should.

Being assertive was unknown territory for me. I preferred to be the “going with the flow” type because it allowed me to remain passive. Standing up for myself would be the hardest thing I had to learn.

I remember it being difficult for me to stand up for myself when I was pregnant. People are naturally attracted to pregnant women and someone always wanted to rub my belly. I had to work hard to gain the courage to say, “I know you are excited and so am I, but it makes me uncomfortable when you touch me without my consent”. After saying it, I felt so proud of myself for honoring my feelings and my body.

I used to have so much anxiety surrounding vulnerability, telling people how I felt or what was on my mind. I always thought it would make the situation worse. I was afraid of embarrassing myself and causing a scene. I didn’t want people to think I was rude and impolite. Unknowingly, I had this anxiety due to the people I chose to be around. The space was not safe. I had to make a decision: stand up for myself or continue to allow people to treat me any kind of way.

How to be Assertive

Start with positive self talk to gain the confidence to speak up. Think about things you like about yourself or your situation. List your positive attributes, goals, dreams, anything positive.

Know what is okay for you and what is not okay. I had to write down what makes me triggered and uncomfortable. Literally pen to paper. I did not know my boundaries so how would I know when someone crosses them? Once I allowed myself to be vulnerable by expressing my boundaries I felt free. I was in control of myself. I didn’t have to make myself small for someone else to feel comfortable.

Writing down what I wanted to say and practicing saying it out loud, also helped a tremendous amount. Hearing myself say, “No”, made me realize it is okay to say no.

Being assertive when we aren’t triggered gives us more control of our emotions. I noticed when I run on emotions I don’t usually make the best decisions.

It is okay to disagree. We don’t have to make everyone agree with us. I still have to remind myself of this. As long as we have voiced how we feel and what is on our mind and heart, we did our part. There are some people who intend to argue but try not to let negativity consume you. Sometimes people wont allow you to talk, they’ll question you, put you down, interrupt you, or keep raising their voice to keep you from being assertive. They are bullies who think they are above you and want to intimidate you. You will have to decide if there is potential for communication to improve and if not, I would encourage you to distance yourself from that relationship. People who respect your boundaries are people who respect you.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where people take advantage of those without boundaries. Being nice doesn’t mean you let people walk over you.

Do not allow anyone to shame you for expressing yourself. Toxic people love to keep you in a cycle of shame and doubt. Just because someone previously did something kind for you, does not give them the right or a free pass to hurt you. If they are wrong and crossing your boundaries let it be known. You will feel stronger and more in control.

You are valid and you have the right to share what your truths are.

You have a voice. Use it.

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