Standing up for yourself can be really challenging if you’re used to letting others have their way or you’re a people pleaser. When you trim yourself down to suit everyone else, it’s all too easy to whittle yourself away; learning to stand up for yourself is a way of ensuring other people respect you and don’t try to push you around or manipulate you. Unlearning the old habits of self-effacement and gaining the confidence to stand up for yourself won’t happen overnight but the journey to improvement starts with the first step; and here is how
Want to make a change. The will to change how others perceive you and how you interact with them is vital. If you’re tired of being a doormat, a people pleaser, intimidated, and pushed around, then you’re ready to get started.
Believe in yourself. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, it will be difficult to succeed in anything; people don’t look up to or respect a person who is incapable of exuding self-confidence. It’s easy to spot a person down on their luck and lacking in self-confidence, and mastering self-belief is the first step to standing up for yourself. If you’re confident, people will be less likely to tease you.
- Learn how to make decisions based on your own experience of what works and what does not work. If you’re always ready to take on board the thinking of others without formulating what you believe in deeply and truly, then you’ll be overwhelmed by what someone else is thinking every time.
Set your own agenda. There are a lot of rules out there about how to live, how to behave, how to get along with others, etc. (to avoid irony, hopefully you’re reading this very article in the spirit of a guide, not a rulebook!) If you tried to follow everyone else’s advice, you’d never have time to be you. Instead, look inside and form an agenda that suits who you are and follow your own drum beat. Rules, fads, and what’s popular will change; your basic essence won’t.
Set goals. Goals give you a sense of purpose, a sense of control over your own destiny and help you to know what you want. And knowing what you want is the secret to not having other people insert their wants into your life without your acquiescence. When you achieve goals, recognize your endeavours and pat yourself on the back for believing in your ability to achieve things.
Change your attitude. Your attitude is everything and will impact how other people perceive you, right through to the signals you’re unconsciously sending out. Your attitude sets the tone of your voice, the quality of your thoughts, and is reflected in your facial expressions and body language. And attitude is infectious. If you’re bubbly, happy, and bright about things, you’ll encourage those around you to feel good about themselves and the world around them. If you’re morose, pessimistic, and down about everything, you’ll soon infect others with the same negativity. We naturally prefer to be hanging around the person who makes us feel good about ourselves, and we’re more inclined to listen and respond positively to someone who has a good attitude; by the same token, we’re more likely to dismiss a person who tries to play the shrinking violet, the victim, or the permanently oppressed. Make the choice to feel and have a positive attitude and you’re on your way to standing up for yourself.
Seek to undo the damage wrought by life’s hardships. For many people, an inability to stand up for oneself is rooted in a series of experiences in life which resulted in negative outcomes that were turned inward, and became a reason to put themselves down around others. The reality is that everyone experiences life’s vicissitudes; it’s how we respond to them that changes everything. By choosing to take the negative occurrences personally and to retreat into your shell, you stop standing up for yourself and start letting life buffet you about. Taking action can be as easy as making a decision to stop taking negative things personally, but for most people it requires working through the resulting negative thinking patterns and learning to reroute them. Some key things to keep in mind include:
- Beware of staying in victim mode: When you behave as a victim, you do the very opposite of standing up for yourself. Instead, you’re seeking to shrink away from the responsibility of a situation and often to target the blame for what’s happening onto someone or something else. If terrible things have happened to you in the past, talking out the root causes with someone trusted will help you to start reframing them as “experiences you’ve lived through” rather than hiding behind them as a reason why people “should understand” you. Nobody has the time to “understand” you unless you’re reciprocating or paying!
Beware against taking passive aggressive responses toward people and situations: Passive aggressive responses are ones in which you begrudgingly do things against your will and end up filled with resentment, anger turned inwards, hating people who “make” you feel this way, feeling depressed and helpless, etc.[This infects your relationships and can take a huge toll on your physical and emotional health. Most of all, a passive aggressive approach to life will never enable you to stand up for yourself.
Beware of resorting to aggression. Aggression and violence are not forms of standing up for yourself; rather, acting aggressively is like acting out your pain in full technicolor. It’s not a constructive way to get what you want and it will put people offside. Scared or annoyed people will leave you alone but then you have nothing but loneliness and a lack of fulfilment left.
Trust your instincts about other people and act on them. If someone doesn’t feel right for you, don’t hang around them; be courteous but don’t be a limpet. You don’t owe difficult people any explanation for your need to spend less time around them. Avoid bullies, negative people, and sarcastic people . You don’t gain anything by being in their presence and they’re not doing anyone favours by taking out their own inadequacies on other people. Keeping away from sources of discomfort and trouble is not running away; it is still very much about standing up for yourself because it demonstrates that you won’t let nonsense and nastiness impact your life.
- If you’re not sure about whether or not being around someone is good for you, ask a friend who doesn’t know the person in question what they think
Learn assertiveness. Assertiveness is the key to standing up for yourself. It isn’t just a cliche, it’s a bona fide means for improving your chances of getting what you want and for being heard properly. Being assertive enables you to express your wants, needs, and preferences in a way that shows you’re prepared to stand up for yourself while still respecting the other person. Assertive techniques improve your self-confidence and displays that you value yourself.
Learning to say no will help you to stand up for yourself with friends as well as people who intimidate you. Think about that friend who keeps borrowing money but never pays it back; assertiveness will enable you to ask for that money back and to say no next time, all while maintaining your friendship.
Improve your physical strength. While you don’t need to look like iron man or iron woman, your appearance does matter and looking fit and being able to defend yourself is an important part of standing up for yourself. Look on this step with enthusiasm because keeping fit and strong is fun and very rewarding.
- Check your posture. The manner in which you stand, walk, and sit makes a big impression on people. Slouching, trying to shrink away, and carrying yourself poorly will give the impression that you’ve given up and unfortunately, it’s almost an invitation to being pushed about.
Consider starting a martial arts or self-defence class. The inner discipline taught will improve your confidence a great deal and the moves you’ll learn to defend yourself will double your confidence.
Take up a sport or form of physical exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Something that helps to improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility will improve your physical appearance and will increase your physical strength. Choose the activity according to your body type, personal interest, and time availability.
Use your own body language to your advantage. Use open body language to garner respect, agreement, and trust. Body language is a very important means for deflecting people who would otherwise seek to undermine you; whether or not they consciously register your positive pose doesn’t matter because they’ll sense it regardless and leave you alone.
- Open body language includes leaning forward, eye contact, standing with your hands on your hips and feet apart, slow and deliberate gestures, facing your heart to people when you meet them, and uncrossing arms or legs.
On the other hand, closed body language sends negative signals and could leave you open to attack. Closed body language includes crossed arms, clenched hands, fast and evasive gestures, fidgeting, avoidance of eye contact, and turning your body sideways.[
Defend yourself verbally when attacked, provoked, or sidelined. Take care of yourself when someone tries to put you down, box you in, or even hurt you physically. Naturally, the manner in which you defend yourself will depend on the situation and if someone is volatile, always put your safety first. Don’t stand there smoldering; it’s far better to speak your mind. Even if the end result doesn’t change, you’ve demonstrated to yourself and others that you won’t stand for disrespect. More often than not, a polite but firm clarification of the disrespectful comment or behaviour will be enough to draw attention to the need for it to change, especially where there is an audience. For example: “Excuse me but I was next in line and I’m in just as much of a hurry as the person who pushed in.”
- Practice speaking under pressure. Sometimes it can appear that you’re not standing up for yourself simply because you cannot articulate what needs to be said at the right moment. Take the time to write out good responses to difficult situations and practice them with a friend using a timer. Have your friend pretend to be a difficult or intimidating person who showers you with put-downs. Put on the timer for about 2 minutes and respond away! Keep doing this until you get the hang of it (and try to pick a friend who is already very good at standing up for herself).
Practice your tone of voice. Avoid whispering, mumbling, or speaking too quickly. The tone of your voice and the speed of your delivery are an important part of clarifying what you want and how confident you’re feeling.
Turn the negatives into positives. Another way of standing up for yourself is to take the negatives thrown at you and to transform them into good things. In the process of turning attacks inside out to find the good, you’re often unearthing jealousy or insecurity from the person who threw the put-downs your way. For example:
- If someone claims you’re bossy, rather than letting it cause you to shrink some more, take this as evidence that you’re a natural leader, able to manage people and projects well, and a proactive change agent.
If someone claims you’re shy, take it as a compliment that means you’re not ready to jump on the latest bandwagon but like to reflect over the consequences first and then make up your mind.
If someone says you’re too sensitive or emotional, let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let everyone see it.
Or maybe someone suggested you’re not career-minded enough – for you, that confirms you’re living a stress-free life that will help you to live longer.
Don’t give up. No matter how hard you try to improve yourself, to come out of your shell, and to increase your confidence, there will be days when you feel that you’re backsliding. Feeling sick, a bit blue, or tired, are often reasons for feeling that everything is on top of you. Rather than seeing this as a defeat in your attempt to learn to stand up for yourself, see it for what it is – a day or so where things went off the tracks temporarily before you feel better and bounce back. Some tricks to use include:
- Fake it till you make it. Even if you don’t feel confident, act as if you do.
- Be consistent in your approach. People will grow to expect that the person you are now is a person who stands up for himself.
- Expect some people to find your more assertive stance challenging. It can take time to reshape the patterns you’ve formerly established with people who used to walk all over you. In some cases, you’ll find you no longer want to be a part of their lives; take it as it comes.
- Don’t let your past weaken your self-confidence because you are going to need it in order to stand up for yourself.
- Make sure to think about what you are going to say or do beforehand.
- Think you are not smaller than others but equal to others.Say anything which feels good and profitable to others.If you are saying straightly definitely others will accept.
- Be brave and don’t listen to other people.
- Don’t overdo it. Standing up for yourself and appearing strong is one thing, but looking ridiculous while doing it is another.
- Love yourself as much as you can. Don’t shame yourself for being afraid, know that step by step you are becoming less fearful.
- Use a confident, strong, and steady voice. Talk with authority and confidence. It will help you to put your own thoughts and ideas out there.
- Avoid yelling or shouting at people; it provides intimidating people with a reason to laugh at you or make the situation worse and it clearly demonstrates that you’ve lost control. Even a scared person will react in disgust ultimately.
- Smile. If you’re not scared or intimidated, you smile, and that shows people something about you– that you are not afraid.
- Rely on friends and trusted people when you don’t feel you can go it alone – standing up for yourself doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.
- Avoid saying things like “I’ve got to stand up for myself”. This informs people you’re in training rather than confident enough yet. Don’t give them that inch; instead, let them assume you’re already standing up for yourself.
- Don’t worry about people who find the more assertive you confronting; you can always suggest things they can do to help themselves but you don’t need to explain yourself, apologize, or stay glued to them. It’s your life; keep standing up for yourself!
- Expect that sometimes, other people who need to learn to stand up for themselves will prove to be troublesome adversaries. You’ll instinctively sense their pain and weaknesses because they’re reflecting your own experiences but this is not a reason to let down your guard and let them hurt or disrespect you. Help them to see their way past insecure behaviours if you can but don’t join their misery spiral.
- Don’t try to fit in with people who are going to change you. Find friends who accept you for who you are, and make sure they are good friends.
- This is a guide, not a rulebook. The rulebook should reside in your own heart, built from your own experiences and preferences. Take from it what you will; discard what isn’t applicable to you.