How Being Assertive Makes You Less Anxious

Let’s be honest, you can’t go around being completely honest with people. It’s a fact of life.

Whether it’s your spouse, child, friend or boss, sometimes you have to hold back or risk leaving a flaming wreckage behind you that could take a lot of work to fix.

Or even worse, you could destroy an otherwise good relationship.

However, there are times when you should, when you must, stick up for yourself.

It’s not because you need to prove anything to anyone, rather it’s because not being assertive can make you more anxious than you already are.

Holding in emotions causes problems because it often leaves you with feelings of regret, anger, and frustration. But that’s not all.

Where do you suppose those unshared feelings go? 

They go to your stomach, muscles, chest, or wherever, but they do go somewhere.

Regret, anger, and frustration, especially when they’re constantly absorbed, build up over time, and in the end, can leave you with physical symptoms like chest pain, heartburn, headache and so on.

The bottom-line is that physical symptoms like these cause a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.

Being more assertive can help you break this cycle by allowing you to stop the build up of negative emotions.

How to be Assertive

Being assertive isn’t a license to hurt people. The fact is, we can’t get away from the social rules we live under.

Instead, remember this: You can still be assertive in a constructive way.

For example, say someone is talking and talking and upsetting you with every word. 

This might cause your back muscles to tense up, and you may even feel like you’re going to explode with anger, but then you swallow your feelings because you’re afraid to show how you really feel.

Thing is, you don’t have to swallow your emotions because it’s possible to share your feelings without being out of control.

Being assertive means being confident, direct, or bold. It doesn’t require aggression.

In this regard, it’s OK to show anger, as long as it’s controlled. That means not hurling personal insults, or talking about unrelated issues.

It also means expressing yourself effectively by talking only about the content of your conversation and not the approach someone uses to communicate their point.

When you stick to the facts it’s harder for people to escalate a situation.

So speak up for yourself, be calm, and be free from fear. This won’t guarantee that you’ll win every argument, or avoid all injustice, but it will go a long way toward allowing you to release the stress and anxiety that would have otherwise built up because of regret, anger, and frustration.

Do you have trouble being assertive?

Tell me about it in the comments below.


  1. Sylvia says

    I don’t think it is assertiveness that I have issues with. At least it doesn’t appear so to me. I can be and have been assertive when advocating for others….. Now I must think about if I am truly assertive for myself? Ugh

    I know I have to learn not to take others words personally. When they are critical or judgmental, it is their issue not mine…It is something I have to keep reminding myself. I allow their words to affect me, causing the symptoms you mentioned to build up inside. I think this may be a different issue than assertiveness.

  2. Marco says

    This explains a lot in my case. I work in a call center and must absorb angry (justifiably) customers’ words for 8 hrs nonstop,no “calm down” breaks allowed. My job requires me to swallow and not respond to the emotions. They say “I’m not angry with you…” and then launch in to an irate tirade. I’m afraid my nervous system does not know the difference. No wonder I’m on 2 bp medicines since I started working there 3 years ago.I know it’s no good for me but financial problems have me chained to this job. Your ebook/audiobook and podcast has helped a lot though with not letting symptoms spiral out into panic.

  3. says

    Hey Marco, sounds like a tough job! That kind of stress can certainly play tricks on your nervous system. As long as you find healthy outlets for your nerves though you should be able to cope. Ever thought about getting a new job? Might take awhile in this economy but it could be worth it.

  4. says

    Hey Sylvia, you know, this could be the case for you like you mentioned – assertivness not being the issue – so perhaps you have to think about what is the issue, for you at least. It’s always worth thinking about those types of things. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself when you make the effort.

  5. Bryan3000 says

    Great post, Paul. It’s funny because like so many thing with anxiety, we assume that by finding a way to avoid something (in this case conflict)… we’ll avoid nervous issues. But, of course… this isn’t always the case. I’m becoming more and more a believer that just these types of examples build up in your system and cause more turmoil than would have been experienced by simply confronting the issue.

    Anyway, thanks again… look forward to the next post/podcast!

  6. says

    Thanks for your thoughtful insights. I very much agree, as i said to Andrew, that its a learned skill. And with low self esteem the problem is recognising that you are not responsible for others actions or emotions, true friends will respect you if you state your point of view. Someone who has been taking advantage of your passivity may be a bit shocked and put out!

  7. Jessica says

    Great post!! I would love to share this article but do not have twitter or facebook. Is there an easy way to share via E-Mail similiar to the FB/Twtitter icons?

    Thanks again, it was a great read and really helpfull!!

  8. rick says

    In one of your other post you hit the nail on the head with doctors proscibing meds they also presibe meds that are totally wrong for ppl and other ppl have to fix that mistake I’m going through that

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