The Importance of Assertiveness for People in Recovery

Sometimes people need to stand up for themselves. Failing to do so can mean not having their needs met and may lead to others taking advantage of them. It is therefore important that people learn to be assertive. When an individual escapes addiction, they need to rebuild their life. This requires approaching life in a new way. The addict’s tactics of using manipulation, or open aggression will no longer suffice. It is therefore a good idea for those in recovery to learn to be assertive. There is a difference between being aggressive and assertive. The latter allows people to get their needs met while still respecting other people.

Assertiveness Defined

To say that people are assertive usually implies that they are willing to stand up for themselves. Such individuals are disposed to confident statements and behavior. Sometimes assertiveness is associated with aggressiveness and pushiness, but this is only when it is taken to extremes. By learning to be assertive, the individual is able to get their needs met in an honest and safe way. It means that people do not have to resort to manipulation or other underhand strategies in order to get what they want. Being assertive also means not allowing other people to take advantage of them. It is having the confidence to say, “No, that is not OK.”

Assertiveness and Self-Esteem

Assertiveness is closely related to self-esteem. If people value themselves highly, then they will want to stand up for their own rights. Such people will also be far less willing to allow others to manipulate them or tell them how to live. The individual with high self-esteem knows that they deserve the good things in life, and this gives them the confidence to be assertive about getting these things. Those with a healthy level of self-worth will not need to resort to manipulative techniques to get what they want. They have respect for the rights of other people. People with low self-esteem tend to be highly submissive. This means that they put up with abusive relationships and are prey to scam artists. When they do try to be assertive it comes across as aggression.

Assertive Rights

It is suggested that people have ten assertive rights which include:

* _The right to judge their own behavior, emotions and thoughts and to take responsibility for these.
* The right to be the ultimate judge of their own behavior. They do not have to offer a justification for this behavior nor do they need to rely on other people to judge if it is right or wrong.
* The right to decide if it is their responsibility to find solutions for other people’s problems. The individual may feel a great deal of compassion and good will for other people, but they ultimately only have responsibility for their own happiness and well-being.
* The right to change their mind. Life is complicated and full of uncertainty so it is considered natural that people should need to change their mind from time to time.
* The right to just not know.
* The right to make mistakes and be responsible for the outcome. The individual does not need to allow other people to use these mistakes as a tool of manipulation. For example, there is no need to give in to other people when they insist that there is a need to make up for a mistake by doing certain things in the future.
* The right not to depend on the good will of others before taking any action. Not everyone is going to be happy with the decisions the individual makes, but this does not mean that they should not make these decisions. Ultimately, the individual is responsible for their own decisions, and dealing with other people’s disapproval is a part of life.
* The right not to always make logical choices. There are many gray areas in life, and logic is not always effective. Sometimes the individual will decide to make a choice on the basis of a hunch or because it just feels right. It is permissible for them to make illogical choices.
* The right to not understand something. Everyone has gaps in their knowledge.
* The right not to have an opinion on everything. It is fine to say that they do not care about something.

Assertiveness and Recovery from Addiction

When people escape an addiction, they open up a world of possibilities. The path of recovery can take people on a wonderful journey, but they will be required to put in a great deal of effort if they are going to get the best out of life. Stopping the use of alcohol or drugs it is a great start, but it is not enough in itself to ensure success. The person needs to make things happen. To do so, they may need to rely on their own assertiveness. Most addicts suffer from low self-esteem, so they may need to develop their assertiveness. This is a skill that can be developed.

Reasons for Non-Assertive Behavior in Recovery

If people are non-assertive, it is likely to get in the way of their recovery. They will find it harder to get their needs met, and they may fall into a position where they are being manipulated by other individuals. The most common reasons for non-assertive behavior include:

* Low self-esteem
* Fear of not being liked
* Mistaking assertiveness for aggression
* Cultural influences. For instance, in some parts of South East Asia, there is a cultural emphasis on saving face rather than asserting the rights of the individual. If the individual made other people feel bad while asserting their own rights, then this would be viewed negatively within that culture. In some societies even mild assertion could be viewed as overly aggressive.
* Blind spots in regards to certain people. The individual may be assertive most of the time, but they might hold back due to love or a feeling of owing something to these other individuals.
* Lack of importance regarding a particular issue. A person is unlikely to be too assertive about something they are not compelled to take a stand for or against. They may feel that their rights are being violated, but not to such an extent that they need to make a big deal about it.

How to Be Assertive

There are steps that people can take in order to be more assertive in their life:

* Assertiveness training courses can be a good option for people who struggle with developing this form of communication.
* It is difficult for people to be assertive if they are dealing with low self-esteem. It is therefore recommended that they work on their own sense of self-worth. This can be done by challenging negative thoughts and deliberately cultivating a positive view of life. Putting a great deal of effort into one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health can increase self-esteem. Helping other people is also effective, because it makes the individual feel worthwhile and useful.
* An important element of assertiveness is that people take responsibility for their own needs. It also means believing in the right to stand up for these needs.
* Honesty is vital when using this form of communication. If people try to disguise their meanings, it puts the other person on the defensive because they feel they are being manipulated.
* There are different assertiveness techniques that people can use depending on the situation. One example would be empathetic assertiveness where the individual expresses empathy for the other person’s position but continues to assert their own rights. The most basic form of assertion is where people just use the words “I want…” or “I expect…”, but this might not always be appropriate.
* Assertiveness is just like any other skill. The more it is practiced, the easier it becomes. It can be a process of trial and error, but eventually the individual reaches a stage where they are automatically assertive when the need arises.
* Role playing is an effective way for people to develop assertiveness. Here they can practice by pretending to be in different situations where they would normally struggle to be assertive.
* Positive visualization is another way to practice assertiveness. Here, the individual imagines that they are in a situation where they need to be assertive. They then mentally go through the steps they would need to take. When it comes time to face the situation in reality, the individual will feel better prepared.