Being Assertive When You Have Anxiety Is Hard, But Necessary

June 13, 2022 Shubhechha Dhar

For people with anxiety, being assertive and upfront about how they feel and what they think can be hard. As someone with social anxiety disorder, I was no different. 

"Let's hang out at my place on Sunday. What do you say?" one of my closest friends said. 

"On Sunday? I have a math test on Monday, but if I say no to my friend, she's going to be upset and won't like me," I thought to myself. 

"Sure. Let's hang out." I replied. 

I didn't want to disappoint my close friend and lose them, so I said "yes" even if it was inconvenient for me. Saying "no" would cause me to go down the anxiety spiral. However, being assertive is an important life skill.

Assertiveness refers to being straightforward, standing up for yourself, and expressing your thoughts and feelings. Being assertive is necessary because, without it, we would be putting others ahead of us, constantly compromising, and letting others walk all over us. Being assertive helps us form honest relationships, be confidentincrease our self-esteem, and live life on our terms. 

How I Learned to Be Assertive as Someone with Anxiety

I have come a long way in my journey of treating anxiety and no longer shy away from stating my opinion and saying "no" to others. Here's what helped me:

  1. Learning to say "no" without feeling guilty. I would often feel guilt when saying "no" or turning down invitations from friends. However, I have realized that it is okay to set boundaries as boundaries help us build healthy relationships. I have learned to say "no" with kindness. I usually say, "That sounds great, but I'm swamped this week. How about lunch next week?" or "I won't be able to make it, but thanks so much for inviting me." 
  2. Realizing that it is not my responsibility to please others. I used to be afraid of talking about my favorite television shows, food, song, colors, or even stating my opinion. I often worried about giving a "socially acceptable" answer and thought others would judge me for my choices and opinions. This would cause me to give an opinion that I thought others would like instead of talking about what I honestly felt. I soon realized that it is not my responsibility to please others. Keeping everyone else happy is not only impossible, but it will also lead to feeling stressed and unhappy. 
  3. When being assertive, I use "I" statements. I have noticed that using "you" statements causes the other person to feel like they are being personally attacked. For example, saying "You don't care about me," causes the other person to think that I'm putting the blame on them and might cause them to get defensive. Replacing this "you" statement with an "I" statement like, "I'm hurt by what happened the other day. It made me feel like I'm not cared for," makes a huge difference. By doing this, I'm telling the other person what meaning I'm attaching to the incident and taking the responsibility for my interpretation of the incident. 

Do you struggle with anxiety and being assertive, and how do you cope with it? Tell us in the comment below.

APA Reference
Dhar, S. (2022, June 13). Being Assertive When You Have Anxiety Is Hard, But Necessary, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Shubhechha Dhar

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