Understanding and Building Assertiveness


Whether you’re nervous to speak your mind in a company staff meeting, afraid to ask if your ‘plus one’ wants to make it official, or fearful to tell your parents about your plans for a cross-country move, asserting yourself is hard work.  Assertiveness goes so much deeper than simply using your voice or making the first move, it requires courage, autonomy, and belief in your own worth. 

Think about it – when are you most likely to “go for it?”  Most certainly not when your bumble date just canceled on you, your boss offered you constructive feedback, and your roommate left you a sink full of dishes before skipping town for the weekend. Feeling empowered much?  Didn’t think so. 

That’s because empowerment is rooted in autonomy and self-worth.  When you feel valued, you feel worthy– worthy of respect, love, and effort.  When you feel worthy, you feel capable – capable of making autonomous choices on your own terms. When you feel autonomous, you’re setting yourself up for happiness.

More impactful than external circumstances (even if it’s the third time this week your roommate ‘forgot’ to take out the trash) is the role your internal dialogue plays on your self-evaluation.  Negative self-talk is that grade school bully preying on your insecurities and vulnerabilities, except this time that bully is none other than you.  The best way to fail, get rejected, or feel stupid is to tell yourself you’re going to fail, be rejected, or are stupid. 

The next time you find yourself in a spiral of ruthless self-criticism, challenge yourself to put those negative self-statements on trial.  What evidence do you have that supports your statement?  What evidence do you have against it?  Looking at all of these facts, can you formulate a more balanced statement that is a bit more realistic than your original claim?

Catch yourself early on in this road toward negativity, as it is a path paved with shame and self-doubt. Re-route immediately.  By engaging in healthy communication with yourself, you set the tone to expand that interactional style with those around you. 

Believe that you have a right to use your voice, and then actually go out and use it.