“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.” ― Edith Eva Eger
Going through a toxic relationship is hell, and one of the worst parts is that it tears us down, bit by bit. We lose our SELVES, and we lose track of our boundaries. We forget how to assert ourselves. We forget that we are allowed to do so – and we get into a very unhealthy pattern of letting life happen to us.
But if we’re going to fully heal and recover after a toxic relationship with a narcissist, we must learn and employ assertiveness in our lives. What do I mean by assertiveness?
Assertiveness is that fine line between being aggressive and passive. Aggressiveness and passiveness can be advantageous at times, but an attitude of assertiveness is most often the most effective position to take.
When you’re assertive, you’re willing to make your needs known and to take responsibility for your life. There are many advantages to being assertive.
Follow these strategies to learn to be more assertive and take control of your life:
- Understand what assertiveness really means. Some people are reluctant to be assertive because they consider it as similar to being aggressive. One definition of assertiveness is, “The ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights, without undue anxiety, in a way that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.”
- Assess yourself. Some people would benefit by being more assertive in every part of their lives. Others are assertive in some areas but lacking in others. In what part of your life are you either too passive or too aggressive?
- Decide how you can be more assertive in those situations. Suppose you’re not assertive in your romantic relationships. Think of ways you can be more assertive. Have a plan and start working on it.
- Take responsibility for the challenges in your life. Passive people hope that someone else or fate will solve their challenges. Assertive people take care of their own messes. Passive people blame fate. Aggressive people blame others. Put yourself in the position where you can take credit for your ups and downs.
- Avoid feeling responsibility for the behavior and feelings of others. If you’re constantly submitting to the wishes of others, you feel some responsibility for their feelings. Worry about your own behavior and feelings. Others can do the same.
- Give your opinion when asked. When someone asks you where you want to go to dinner, or what movie you want to see, give them an answer. You’re not being nice by responding, “I don’t care. Where do you want to eat?” If someone asks your opinion, give it.
- Start saying “no” more often. The ability to say no is the sign of a healthy relationship. It’s okay to tell people no when saying yes would be too inconvenient for you. You don’t gain anything by making yourself miserable. Be willing to say “no” when necessary.
- Practice. Some situations are just psychologically easier to manage when you’re learning to be assertive. You might speak up and give your opinion in a meeting or tell your teenager what you expect from them regarding the cleanliness of their room. Choose a few situations in which to practice.
- Pay attention to your body language. Assertiveness isn’t only demonstrated through your words. You broadcast your level of assertiveness with your body language. Work on your posture and eye contact for starters. Practice in front of a mirror and with your friends.
- Build your social skills. If you’re not comfortable socially, you’re likely to either be passive or aggressive, but not assertive. Social skills can be developed and provide a foundation for assertiveness. Work with a friend that has excellent social skills or get your hands on a few good books on the topic.
Assertiveness has several advantages. Assertive people suffer from less stress and anxiety. Assertiveness also provides a feeling of control over your life.
It’s not easy to move from passivity or aggressiveness to assertiveness, but the advantages are considerable. Be patient with yourself and begin your journey to taking more responsibility for your life, emotions, and challenges.
Read More: Get back your personal power
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.