Good Girls Can Be Gutsy, too. Using Assertiveness to Treat Anxiety

December 20, 2011 Kate White

All too often women are presented with the black/white thought that they can be either 'good', or get what they want. Not true!

First, what do we mean by 'good'? Every girl grows up learning what this means in her family, school, and eventually professional life. Whatever your definition, whatever 'the rules' are for you, they're probably more flexible than you imagine. Even if you experience anxiety (really).

Second, strength isn't being tough on yourself

It may take much inner work, courage you fear you do not possess, but feeling good about being who you are and getting what you want at the same time come from the willingness to make sure you're not a doormat; Those moments where you know, really know, that you don't have to compromise on etiquette or good judgment to make good decisions for yourself. It's your life. That simple (or maybe not). But it isn't about having mountains of self-esteem, or hanging around to see if self-confidence shows up.
Don’t wait. It’s too important.


I'm often told I must be afraid to say no. Like the word itself makes me swoon and reach for the smelling salts. Or that it’s just my black/white thinking. I'm most often bothered by the consequences of saying no. Those are generally very real (unfortunately) and aren't uniquely about my black/white thoughts though yes, I do tend to think like that.

When it comes to managing anxiety in social situations, it's complicated. I'm complicated. Not unique in my fears, certainly but they show up differently for each of us. I don't necessarily want to say no to the world, though it's not always so easy to say yes. Sometimes life is like being invited to a party only to find my ego's the piñata. How do you be OK with that?
With an anxiety disorder on top, I have to factor in whether there's clear and present danger too; No matter how determined I am to be present and make choices from a place of strength, PTSD tells me there are hyper-surreal levels of danger in even discussing asserting myself.

When is a choice not really a choice? Anxiety's involved


Assertiveness requires bending without breaking 'the rules'. I can handle that; Relatively gracefully decline what I don't want but I'm still going to have felt a whole bunch of anxiety along the way. "Just do it" isn't always a helpful approach since it doesn't necessarily get me farther along the path I want to go- to where I know myself, understand the way I respond and believe in it.
Having an anxiety disorder doesn't have to mean living your life listening to anxiety, tending to it, like it knows better than your head and heart put together. Sometimes panic is a life-saver, mostly it gets in the way of making the best decision I could but it doesn't mean I don't have a spine. I think it makes me wonder, question things about myself and the decisions I make, that I wouldn't otherwise. That's something I can live with so long as each night I remind myself that whatever decisions I have made, they're mine. That I did 'OK' because the effort is going into who I want to be, not just that feeling of 'if only' which goes along with anxiety. It makes recovery feel real, and I can be there in it. There's a kind of wisdom in that gentleness which I think a lot of us forget while we're trying so dang hard to be strong.

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, December 20). Good Girls Can Be Gutsy, too. Using Assertiveness to Treat Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Kate White

Leave a reply