After being told for so long that your opinion wasn’t valid, it can feel really exciting to start finding your voice again after narcissistic abuse. We have ripped off the gag. There is no need to sensor our words. You are free.
For me this freedom, resulted in a desire to suddenly tell the narcissist exactly how I felt and what I really thought of them. It isn’t safe for me to do this to their face as it would impact those I love, so I did it here instead!
Empaths have many amazing skills in life but being assertiveness isn’t necessarily one of them. We tend to put our own wishes and feelings to one side to please others. Because we feel others pain and emotions, expressing their feelings can feel as if we are expressing our own but it isn’t. Instead our thoughts, feelings and opinions get pushed down as we deal with others.
Being assertive isn’t about being forceful or aggressive. It’s simply about recognising and VALUING yourself.
The advantages of assertiveness
There are many advantages of assertiveness, most notably:
- helps us feel good about ourselves and others
- leads to the development of mutual respect with others
- increases our self-esteem
- helps us achieve our goals
- minimises hurting and alienating other people
- reduces anxiety
- protects us from being taken advantage of by others
- enables us to make decisions and free choices in life
- enables us to express, both verbally and non-verbally, a wide range of feelings and thoughts, both positive and negative
The narcissist will obviously HATE this sudden change in you. They much prefer it when you prioritised them and will guilt trip you, rage at you and shame you into trying to take top stop again. But don’t give in. Healthy relationships involve respect. The more annoyed they get, the more you will see how unhealthy this situation is/was.
Assertiveness is the courage to show the world who you really are
Characteristics of assertiveness in communication
There are six main characteristics of assertiveness in communication. These are:
- eye contact: demonstrates interest, shows sincerity
- body posture: congruent body language will improve the significance of the message
- gestures: appropriate gestures help to add emphasis
- voice: a level, well modulated tone is more convincing and acceptable, and is not intimidating
- timing: use your judgement to maximise receptivity and impact
- content: how, where and when you choose to comment is probably more important than WHAT you say
The importance of “I” statements
Part of being assertive involves the ability to appropriately express your needs and feelings. You can accomplish this by using “I” statements. These indicate ownership, do not attribute blame, focuses on behaviour, identifies the effect of behaviour, is direct and honest, and contributes to the growth of your relationship with each other.
Strong “I” statements have three specific elements:
- Tangible effect (consequence to you)
“I feel angry that you arranged that appointment without consulting me. It means I have to rearrange my plans”
Five tips to finding your voice
1. Let your self-belief flourish
Self-belief is the foundation of assertiveness. Develop a strong sense of self-belief by challenging yourself to try new things and by learning new skills. Acknowledge and celebrate your successes. Be kinder to yourself and this included how you talk to yourself about yourself. Every time you notice a negative statement, turn it into a positive. With practice it will become a habit and you will start to truly believe it.
2. Develop your emotional intelligence (EI)
There are two elements to EI:
- identify our own emotions and the emotions of others
- manage our own emotions, and the emotions of others, whilst under pressure
Empaths have incredible EI but often we forget to identify our own emotions, instead prioritising others. The key to finding your voice is to begin to feel again and become more comfortable with that. It isn’t selfish, it is natural. Your feelings, even when subdued, don’t go anywhere and can come out in other ways. Developing your EI can help you to find healthier ways to deal with those uncomfortable feelings.
You probably know someone who is always assertive and has no problem expressing their feelings. They own them. It might be someone in your circle or it could be someone famous. It doesn’t matter. Just watch them, pick up clues from how they hold themselves. How others react to them. And begin to follow their lead. You’ve heard the phrase “fake it til you make it”, well with assertiveness you can practice what it would feel like to be self assured and confident before you are ready to go public. The mind will develop a neural pathway for that behaviour and before long it will simply be second nature to you.
Listening is a key technique in the assertiveness toolkit. But after years with a narcissist your listening skills will be pretty well honed. But what about listening to yourself? What do you want to do? Who are you? It will probably take time to figure these things out but that is OK. It is kind of like meeting someone new for the first time!
5. Stay calm
You could be suffering from PTSD and will definitely feel anxious following a relationship with a narcissist. You will have had to walk on eggshells and be constantly looking for subtle clues in their behaviours, preparing yourself for the next outburst. Unfortunately this can have a real long term damaging effect on your adrenal glands because you are living in a constant state of arousal. There are ways to deal with this and being removed from the threat will help but if you have children together, you will probably find yourself triggered again from time to time. These two techniques may help but seek professional advice if you are really struggling:
- Practice holding your thumb and forefinger together whilst in a state of calm. It can help to think about a place or time during which you have felt extremely calm and relaxed. Next, ‘anchor’ the calm feeling to the thumb and forefinger action. Practice until you are able to prompt the feeling of calm just by placing your thumb and forefinger together. This enables you to use the thumb and forefinger technique, on its own, during times of anxiety, to evoke your moment of calm.
- Breathing exercises are also a popular way to effectively handle anxiety. Breathing is connected to, and influences, all aspects of the mind and body. Research has shown that inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds five times per minute prompts the body’s mechanism for reducing anxiety into action. This technique enables you to manage difficult situations and respond assertively.
I hope that these tips will help you to find your own voice and move past narcissistic abuse. If you are struggling and would like more support though please do book yourself in for a free 30 minute Break Free session with Sarah