How to Assert Yourself

We all want to be respected, valued and recognized in the social sphere. So why is it so complicated sometimes? We offer you some answers.
How to Assert Yourself

Last update: 04 July, 2022

Your social relationships have a huge influence on your well-being. Every day, you interact with friends, family, bosses, colleagues, and strangers. All of these interactions have an influence on your mood. For this reason, if you have problems asserting yourself, you may suffer damage to your self-esteem and end up with more suffering than gratification from your relationships with others.

Ideally, we should all be respectful, empathetic, and kind to those around us. Nobody deserves to be belittled, ignored, or emotionally hurt. However, there’s no doubt that your attitude influences the treatment you receive from others. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to protect yourself from comments or acts of others that may be harmful. So how can you defend those boundaries of yours that no one should cross?

Two wrong attitudes you use to assert yourself

There are two typical attitudes that you might find yourself using to try and assert yourself that don’t give the results you hope for. The first one is to adopt an aggressive and hurtful attitude, confusing respect with fear. Treating other people this way may prevent them from taking advantage of you, but it’ll ultimately cause relationship conflict and discomfort for both of you.

On the other hand, perhaps you try to increase your value in the eyes of others by constantly pleasing them. It’s certainly true that altruistic people who are willing to help are usually valued positively. Nevertheless, there’s an important difference between giving voluntarily and giving to avoid being rejected. In the second case, there’s a risk that others won’t value you for who you are, but for what you can give them.

A couple practicing assertive communication for couples.

How to assert yourself

Bearing in mind that neither of these two positions is any good, how can you assert yourself?  Here are some guidelines.

1. Increase your self-confidence

It’ll be difficult for you to assert yourself if you’re not aware of your own worth. Low self-esteem and insecurity often lead to you allowing abusive treatment or to you constantly trying to please others.

An increase in your self-confidence allows you to be assertive in your interactions. This is also reflected in more appropriate non-verbal language. For example, a more upright posture, a higher tone of voice, or better eye contact.

2. Set boundaries

Although the ideal would be for everyone to be treated with respect and kindness, the reality is that you show others how to treat you.  Therefore, you must establish boundaries and ensure that they’re not crossed.

For example, you may decide that it’s unacceptable for another person to raise their voice at you or make hurtful or teasing comments. In that case, you need to tell them in an assertive manner. You might even want to remove yourself from the relationship if necessary in order to prohibit such behavior.

3. Value yourself

If you want other people to value and respect you, you have to start acting that way yourself. This implies prioritizing yourself, taking care of yourself, and respecting yourself in your day-to-day life. For example, if you consider yourself to be valuable, you’ll try to give yourself good relationships, good habits, and healthy routines. You’ll also take care of any information you consume and the activities in which you invest your time.

When you become your own priority, others perceive it and your relationships are more likely to align with this new conception you have of yourself. In fact, you’ll only allow those who treat you with the same respect and consideration that you offer yourself to remain in your life.

4. Work on assertiveness

Assertiveness is the ability to express your feelings, opinions, and needs clearly and honestly, without being either aggressive or passive. It means respecting others but, above all, respecting your own needs.

An important factor to keep in mind is that there’s nothing wrong if your ideas or opinions don’t coincide with those of others. As a matter of fact, it’s completely normal.

5. Don’t try to make everyone like you

As you know, it’s impossible to please everyone. However, many people, especially those with low self-esteem, have an overwhelming need to be liked by everyone. It’s only then that they feel validated and recognized.

Unfortunately, this brings nothing but frustration. Indeed, behind the fact of being too accommodating, is usually the expectation of obtaining something in return (recognition or affection) from the other person. Unfortunately, they rarely respond in the desired way.

“You are not living to satisfy other people’s expectations, and neither am I. It is not necessary to satisfy other people’s expectations.”

 – Ichiro Kishimi

6. Believe what you say and say what you believe

As we mentioned earlier, it’s important that you know how to communicate your wishes, opinions, and feelings. However, there are times when you must stop to think about what you’re going to say, either to choose the right words, be more objective, or put your emotions aside.

This is in order not to be hurtful or to say things that you may later regret. In the long run, it conveys to others that you’re consistent and as good as your word.

Two people talking, depicting how to assert yourself.

7. Project confidence in yourself

Your body language says much more than a thousand words. For this reason, your gestures and non-verbal expressions convey security and confidence in yourself. Here are some keys to achieving it:

  • Maintain eye contact with whoever you’re talking to.
  • Relax your muscles and move your arms freely, while you speak.
  • Keep your head and back straight. 
  • Maintain a moderate tone of voice, in accordance with the situation.

As you change these expressions, your personality will also adapt to your body language, making you feel more confident.

8. Learn from respectable people

Taking respectable people as references can be of great help. You can analyze how they express themselves, what habits they have, and what strategies they applied to get where they are.

The ideal is that you model yourself on those people who project the way you want to be.

9. Avoid losing your temper

Asserting yourself doesn’t mean being aggressive and feared by others, as we mentioned earlier. In fact, it’s important that you learn to channel your emotions in the best possible way to avoid disrespecting others.

This doesn’t mean that you should remain silent or repress what you feel. Instead, you must apply effective strategies to process your emotional states without harming others or yourself.

Knowing how to assert yourself makes you feel good

At first, it may seem that the fact that others accept you and recognize you brings you happiness and well-being. but the relationship actually works in reverse. Value always comes from within and is then reflected on the outside; not the other way around.

Therefore, you must begin to feel good about yourself, empower yourself, and strengthen your self-concept. If you do this, your attitudes and behaviors will be automatically modified. It’s these changes that’ll transform your relationships with others. So start by working on yourself.

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