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How To Assert Yourself

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 17 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Personal Care Depressed Depression Anger

For some people assertiveness comes naturally and for others, it takes time, effort and a strong focus to learn assertive skills. When you don't assert yourself, you may find that people are not attentive to your desires and needs, and this can be particularly frustrating for you. Learning assertive skills can help you in coping with depression and can leave you feeling confident and capable to meet daily challenges.

An Assertive Person versus a Non-Assertive Person

People who are assertive tend to be aware of their emotions and communicate these in an honest and straightforward manner. Assertive people are confident in their abilities and are able to make and meet goals and challenges through respect and perseverance. If you know people who are particularly assertive, you may have noticed their body language, which involves a clear and strong voice, eye contact and a steady self-assurance.

Many of us have moments where we are not assertive and perhaps feel intimidated or nervous to communicate our wants and needs. A non-assertive person may feel helpless and may find that others are in the leading role and making all of the choices. A non-assertive person may also feel guilt at this lack of confidence and this can lead to depression over time, as well as making depression more difficult to handle. Think about those who have non-assertive body language and you may notice that they tend to avoid eye contact, fidget, and speak in jumbled, confusing tones.

Learning to Say No

It can be difficult to say 'no,' especially when the desire to please someone is strong and you wish to avoid confrontation. People who are depressed can feel that their needs are secondary to everyone else's needs and they may struggle to decline a request. By not saying 'no' when you mean it, however, you are left dealing with the unfavourable consequences and perhaps even guilt for not expressing yourself as you intended. It is not an easy task to say 'no' but you may wish to:

  • Be direct but try to state 'no' firmly and without apology
  • Consider clearly explaining the reasons for your refusal
  • Try to think about and suggest alternative ways of dealing with the request

Self Confidence and Positive Thinking

How you view yourself is an important part of strong self-confidence. Oftentimes, people who are depressed feel poorly about themselves and in fact, have a very distorted view of their capabilities. You may feel fear or apprehension in stating your needs and may feel you are not deserving of wonderful things or good enough for them. Try to think about a time when you did feel confident. What aspects of yourself did you like? Focus on the positive things in yourself and try to remember what made those qualities so clear to you then.

Manage Anger

Being assertive does not mean that to obtain your needs, you have a free pass to be rude, condescending or otherwise cruel to another person. In fact, the reactions you may get to such behaviour can leave you feeling alone and depressed, as people will often withdraw from an angry person. Be firm when expressing your desires but do so with respect for others-people are more likely to listen to what you say if you communicate without aggressiveness and anger. If you feel yourself becoming angry:

  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Consider taking a few minutes away from the situation
  • Try to think rationally and consider how best to communicate your anger

Set Personal Goals

Sometimes setting standards too high can set you up for immediate failure. You can assert your short and long term goals and desires, but you might want to ask yourself: where do my standards for success and achievement come from and what do they really mean? Try to be realistic and set small goals that are achievable within a reasonable time frame. You can enjoy the success of meeting them and if you do find you miss a deadline, know that you are only human and resolve to meet your next goal. It can feel devastating when things don't go as planned, but by offering yourself acceptance and forgiveness, you can help to prevent feelings of self-despair and sadness.

Assert Yourself With Toxic People

When you are depressed, you might be quick to judge that all problems in career and personal relationships are your fault. While you should take the time to be aware of any patterns of behaviour you may be exhibiting that negatively affect relationships, don't be too quick to accept all of the responsibility.

Look at your relationships logically and carefully and you might discover that there are 'toxic' people who are causing you distress. These people may be rude, difficult or angry on a consistent basis and can have a damaging effect on your life. You will need to evaluate whether to keep these people in your life and if unavoidable, consider how you can deal with the feelings of hurt and anxiety that they trigger. Ultimately, you may have to be assertive and remove certain toxic people from your life, however difficult the act itself may be.

Your emotional and mental health is important and part of handling depression is to embrace those people who leave you feeling positive about yourself and eliminate or avoid those who push you deeper into depression.

Personal Care

Being assertive with yourself is also important in that you are able to acknowledge when you are exhausted or fatigued. If you need support, be assertive and ask for help. It's okay to admit that you are overwhelmed and by seeking help and looking after yourself, you can help to prevent episodes of depression as well as handle depression when it does occur.

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[Add a Comment]
Hyy, I'm a student pursuing my B.tech carrier,currently in the final year of it. criticism and comments arouse out of some of my foolish actions but later on they became so intense and viral that I 'm completely deprived of my self esteem needs. I feel like I ve lost my memory. Only negativities especially my mistakes always propel into my mind. I behave in an awkward manner. I have developed a fear of facing the world. I cry at times.....at times I get angry. sometimes it feels as if I m a useless creature on planet earth who is of no use. From the past 45 days I ve been suffering. No one except my family is with me. And I feel as if I ll never ever stand high in life amidst all odds. It feels as if my heads gonna burst off....
debily - 17-Jun-17 @ 11:20 AM
Have had several depressive incidents in the past, both reactive and through steroid side effects. In each case, once on meds have returned to full sense of self with no issues. This time, post a nasty virus (I now have a low immune system) I sank into a deep depression which seemed to mirror extreme side effects of my current med (which had initially been increased to combat said depression). Was weaned off this med over 4 weeks, replacing with previous successful med, building the dose over same period. Am now well enough to have completed week 1 of 4 week phased return to work which I am pleased about. However, unlike previous returns I only feel 75% back to 'normal'. I am working more slowly and hesitantly and although I manage to find solutions I am far more anxious than usual. Most concerning, I do not have the zest for my work which I have always had previously. Can I expect to get this back or should I lower my expectations and learn to view work as a necessary negative like so many of my colleagues past and present? Your experiences welcomed.
Mrs P - 9-Jun-17 @ 7:57 PM
I am suffering from anxiety and severe depression. I am not able to concentrate on any thing. If i read a sentence it can not be remembered for minutes so i have to go back to see again what i read. I am 56 years old. Since my childhood I have some kind of fear that still haunts me. During my graduation days i used to miss classes for unknown fear or depressive mood. In my job also i never take initiation. Thoughts never comes to my mind for any creativivity. Some times I feel embraced in front of junoirs who look at me forsolution. I am totally dependent on my subordinates. I feel hopeless every time. I feel worthless. I am just hanging on my job and not contributing any thing. How can i overcome this problem. I want gain confidence to do work. please advice me.
KAKU - 13-Aug-16 @ 5:20 PM
Hi, I have read everyones' stories and they break my heart.I understand and sympathize. I want to let you know that all is possible, you can work through the despair, hopelessness, dark imaginings.Find a focus. Bear with me, but I want you to see... I hope that you don't mind that I tell my story- I hope this helps. I am skipping my less than happy childhood and unappreciative mother story. My first marriage at 20 was abusive.It made me tough-I thought.I left after 3 years. I remarried- a man 14 years my senior, had a child.This man treated me with kindness, respect and dignity.....then left me after 18 years. No real explanation, cheated, left me with no job and a 13 year old hormonal, angry boy.I was in school, working at the college and caring for home and son.I made 640/month, my rent was 540. I did not want to uproot the angry son and I did not have money to move.The home was my brothers who said we could stay if I could continue the rent.My husband would not pay all of the court ordered child support so I lived on credit cards. My husband just walked away after 18 years, left me and my son and never looked back.I never figured out what I did to deserve it- everything I did was for him and my son.I survived the depression, no panic yet, I had a focus-to survive for my 13 year old.I had to provide no matter.I was blessed to have what I now call my guardian angels-people whom I had encountered at the college, recommended me for a job.I survived only because I had to for my son.So many opportunities to end it all...but then I thought of my son and what it would do to him, who would care for him. After my son graduated from High School(no easy task) I moved to another state with my job.A man who was associated with my job and approved my work began verbally abusing me.When I stood up for myself, he began disapproving my work, making me late for deadlines, got my supervisor on his side- they were trying to fire me from the job that saved my life 5 years before.Everyday, I got caustic emails, phone calls, had 2 on 1 conferences where I was told that I was incompetent. My previous evals were spotless, but they never let up.The panic attacks began, the anxiety compounded.Nothing I could do, they were taking the job that helped me and my son to survive-I crashed and burned, ended up in a behavioral (mental) hospital.I could not take the meds due to neurological side effects.It took me 5 years after being plagued with anxiety and panic attacks, living day to day.I still had to work to help my son in college.Again, I survived-but again because I had a focus-my son.The only reason I toughed it out.Now I am a successful career person who has been blessed to help my son to a Masters degree.I only see my son 1 or 2 times a years, talk to him maybe once amonth. A year and a half ago, after 20 years of avoiding relationships, I decided to take a chance.He had a neurological disease well
Eileen - 7-Jun-16 @ 5:07 PM
I have had a year of what I thought was depression, but it turns out stress had shut down my logical thinking and I was on fight or flight mode with quick decisions and not accessing my logical thinking. I gave up a good job a year ago could not understand why. Got a different job still in the same state, applying for jobs I wanted, had been prescribed anti depressants, but could not reason to take them, rejected a good job.had to give up the job ai had, could not cope. Realised too late what the problem was my wife has had enough and closed ranks with her family and wants me to leave as if I meant it and am lazy. None of these decisions were made with a sound mind devastating. When the chips are down beat some one some more
Neily - 26-Oct-15 @ 6:54 PM
my dearest friend and someone that adopted me 27 years ago died 2014 of april then june of 2014 my oldest son 35 died tragedicaly. I was literaly thrown away, from my family, my grandchildren were taken from, I lost my home, most my belongings, left with what few items and what was on my back, thru Gods divine intervention and weeks of grief recover, I became stronger a new me was born. I am in a situation while waiting on my new home to close and move in that is so wrong for my healing, I still have a lot of problems with my memory. I don't want to revisit my past, I have my memories and deal with the ones that come back, NONE of these people care! I am dealing I guess that is good, I am homeless and have been for 6 months. I have no choices or options. what do I do!
andi - 12-Dec-14 @ 1:03 AM
@Nicky. Take each day at a time and you will get there eventually.
OvercomeDepression - 10-Nov-14 @ 12:38 PM
We had a successful hair salon for 25 years it was my place of comfort , I was fearless and young then . Our business began to decline in 2008 , my partner which is my sister ( whom has a strong personally ) she could pick up the slack for me , well in 2013 she had enough and we decided to lease the place , not my ideal but I kinda had no choice . Well at 52 I found a hair salon job in the mall , I was doing great for two months , then I began to anxiety , my boss was really pushing for me to get new clients , Sho I found another place in spring I thought I fit in perfect , it paid minimum wage I worked from the time I walk into the , yes I was doing great but alli my effects went into that place . When schooll started I acciententally burnt my knuckles unable to work I started mobing around that's when my wife freaked on me ,. , any after two weeks I went back but my knuckles never healed properly I cutting and always worried about my fingers . I then started getting insomnia I couldnt work anymore , that when my breakdown occurred , now I feel I have lost my confidence ,and nerves , so I seeing doctors and taken meds , I pray that I can go back to whom I was , and most days I feel I don't know what to do , my conclusion is this was meant to be Its been the most difficult time of my life , remember don't take anything for granted , I pray everyday that I will be able to work again .
Nicky - 7-Nov-14 @ 5:10 PM
@Fran. Yes it does make a lot of sense and we're glad you're slowly finding your way through. Thanks for sharing your experiences, we're sure they will be helpful to many others reading this page. Keep it up and take care.
OvercomeDepression - 14-Jul-14 @ 11:33 AM
The roots of my depression sprung from a childhood of neglect and bullying.As I moved into adulthood I tried to escape that negativity by marrying young, and to someone who neglected and bullied me.I held on to the relationship for 26 years.That is how little I thought of myself.When we divorced I moved to the middle east to work, where I suffered neglect and bullying.When I moved back to Canada, I finally had a breakdown.It was safe to do so.It is five years of moving back into the light.There are moments now when I feel joy, and if anyone looked at me they would never know how much I suffered/am suffering. The good news is that the above advice really works.Be kind to yourself, and move slowly.Some days you will feel like a failure others you will feel like you are making progress.Being in nature was and is a great healer for me, as is avoiding toxic people.This can be difficult because fear of loneliness is integrated with depression.Try to move forward in some small way every day,even if it means washing your dishes.Soon things will become more manageable.Especially if you find people to talk to.I realized I wasn't a freak or a loser for suffering. Hope this makes sense.
Fran - 14-Jul-14 @ 2:30 AM
The short version: I am currently dealing with the effects of an acute breakdown (I am a year into it now) brought on by devastating events in my life. I (was) a successful business woman, mother and grandmother. These are the things that defined my life. After losing everything that was important to me (all previous things listed) I now have no idea who I am, or any idea what to do or even how to respond to anything. It has caused me to question everything in my life (including asking myself why I'm still here). I am 53 yrs old and that is not something that I see any point in having to do at this point in my life. I worked hard and diligently for my place in this life, with respect for others and (I thought) a great appreciation for what I had and who I was. It's all gone now. And I have no idea what to do now. That is where I am at now.
Mia - 22-Jun-14 @ 12:29 AM
I could relate to all the qualities suggested, hiding in depression and be overwhelmed alone and bring little acknowledgment of myself has resulted in reacting to other's behaviours and existence in most scenarios. Not only do I jump to a quick judgment forothersbeing overly dominating, as oppose to leadership. Please give suggestion on how to draw the line and gain understanding on the subject. I found alot of these people loud, forefront and abrupt and often thinking they are just inconsiderate. I struggled to determine if it is others who are being opinionated and judgmental, and not acting with values that are fair to others for political reasons particularly in work environment or it is for my lack of understanding of self or fitting in to the social dynamic.The line of being respectful and considerate cloud my understanding from me being assertive, but feeling unjust, leading to anger. Is there techniques I could use to help 1) First - register and acknowledge my feelings and opinions internally and 2) Speak out and articulate to "demand" for respect for my opinions and view points. I feel like I bring my preconceived values from unable think my ways through to better communicate.
Anna - 30-Oct-13 @ 10:25 AM
Reading this made me feel better and calm. I have suffered from anxiety, depression, and lack of confidence since I was a little girl. I am now in my 20's and I want to thank you for putting this up here for me to read.
Sarah - 23-Dec-11 @ 8:20 PM
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