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Find Your Voice



Assertive communication is an important relational skill that can be challenging for someone with an eating disorder. Communicating assertively involves expressing our needs, desires, thoughts and feelings with openness and clarity. It can be helpful to understand assertiveness by comparing it to the alternatives:

Passive / submissive communication: yielding to others preferences while discounting your own needs or desires. Passive communication is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and fear of imposing on others.

Aggressive communication: includes demanding rather than requesting or stating, using abrasive or hostile language, and attempting to push an agenda through intimidation or defensiveness.

Passive aggressive communication: expressing feelings of anger or hostility indirectly rather than addressing the issue directly; this might be done through giving someone “the silent treatment” or expressing anger about other situations or occurrences other than what you’re truly angry about.

Manipulative communication: attempting to have your own desires met through attempting to cause others guilt or pity for your situation.

It’s important to remember that even if someone does not respond to your assertive openness in the way you desire, this does not mean you are doing it wrong or do not deserve to be heard. The goal of assertiveness is to express yourself regardless of another person’s response, because how you feel and what you have to say is worth expressing and being heard.

As stated earlier, communicating assertively involves expressing our needs, desires, thoughts and feelings. This can be challenging for someone in recovery from an eating disorder, as feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt can creep in. However, choosing not to speak assertively can have consequences for our relationship with ourselves and with others. You might end up committing to obligations that you have no time or interest in completing. This can lead to feelings of bitterness or frustration. Speaking non-assertively also lowers our self esteem, by invalidating our own emotional experiences. What are some costs you experience when you don’t practice open assertive communication?

It takes courage to be open about our needs, wants, thoughts and feelings. When we do this we open ourselves to the opportunity to be heard, validated and accepted. “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable, it means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling, to have the hard conversations.” Brene Brown.

Let’s find our voice!

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