Being assertive, openly expressing yourself and setting boundaries is critically important during recovery. It takes away a lot of ED’s power. Here are some ways to take back control:
1. Prepare and practice. Prepare a plan of action. Write down what boundaries you need to defend and how you’ll do it. List the people in your life you need to be particularly assertive around and how you’ll do this. Practice in front of a mirror on your own to start. Start slow. Come up with 3 or 4 ways of saying no if you can’t manage a blunt “no” to start.
2. Do your research. Learn all the things that go into being assertive. If you can, take an assertiveness or self-defence class (self-defence classes are a great way to build up your confidence). Remember that assertiveness is not just about saying no- it’s also about your body language, the words you use and way you convey your message.
3. Use D-E-A-R-M-A-N- This is a fantastic Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) tool created by Dr. Marsha Linehan for approaching tough interpersonal situations. I recommend doing a quick search to read more about it, but essentially the steps are- describe what you want, express yourself, assert your needs, reinforce what you want and why, stay mindful and don’t get distracted, appear confident and be willing to negotiate.
4. Practice “post-assertiveness” self-care- Setting boundaries can be really tough especially when you’re just starting. You won’t be used to it, others won’t be expecting it. Guilt is not uncommon. I would often play out the scenario over and over again even days after the fact. So practice self-soothing after being assertive. Affirmations and healthy distractions can be particularly helpful.
5. Debrief. Talk to someone who understands. Tell them about the situation and how you handled it. Talk about what you did well and how you could improve. Having some reassurance in the beginning can make a big difference.
Assertiveness is all about taking responsibility for your power and taking up space in the world with confidence and pride. This strips the eating disorder of a lot of its purpose and power. But it’s not easy. Take it one step at a time and make sure to ask for help.
Keeping fighting Warriors!
– Sonia Seguin