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Throughout our lives, we are bound to find ourselves in situations where we need to stand up for ourselves. For some people, doing this comes with ease, but for others, it is extremely difficult. 

There are many other reasons that may have influenced your ability to stand up for yourself. Perhaps you prefer avoiding confrontation, or maybe you struggle with recognising your own needs and setting boundaries. 

Remaining passive might seem like a good thing to do, but in the long run, allowing people to walk all over and violate your boundaries will likely leave you feeling angry and resentful – you may eventually overreact and have an outburst of anger and frustration. 

It’s generally best to avoid a situation like this, which is why building learning how to stand up for yourself is necessary and important. Here, we describe what it is to stand up for yourself, some of the reasons why it may be difficult to be stand up for yourself and well as eight ways you can make a start with standing up for yourself. 

What is standing up for yourself?

Learning how to stand up for yourself is another way of saying you are learning to be more assertive. Assertiveness is the ability to clearly communicate how you feel and what you need in a calm open style. It is needed in all areas of life from work situations, relationships with friends and family, to buying something in the supermarket. Assertiveness is the middle ground of communication between a passive style of relating and an aggressive style of relating.

If you struggle to ‘stand up for’ and assert yourself you can easily be taken advantage of, and end up having too much responsibility for work tasks or family commitments as people become more likely to pile things on you.

Although feeling unable to assert yourself may at times leave you feeling powerless, it is helpful to remember that effective communication is a skill which can be learnt like riding a bike or playing an instrument. If you pay attention to the way you feel when relating to others and make a commitment to try and change the way you approach situations, in time you can learn to be more assertive and learn how to stand up for yourself.

Why can it be hard to stand up for yourself?

Regardless of your personality, standing up for yourself should be instinctual, to some degree. However, if you really struggle to do this, the reason for it may stem from your experiences as a child – typically, it happens to those who have learned to suppress their needs because they felt that they weren’t as important as those around them. 

If your parents were strict, they might have tended to punish, ignore or abandon you when you tried to express your feelings or needs. This may have led you to suppress your thoughts or needs. 

Alternatively, if your parents were not aware of your needs, you may have come to the conclusion that your needs weren’t ‘worthy’. If your parents were overly reliant on you, you might have also felt the need to suppress your thoughts or needs in order to protect their feelings. 

Often, getting to the bottom of these issues will require deep reflection. Going to a psychologist can assist you in understanding what has influenced your self-esteem and ability to stand up for yourself. 

Whatever the case may be, know that you are not at fault and it is possible for you to become more assertive and improve your self-esteem. It’s also important to remember that standing up for yourself will not necessarily cause conflict – but is extremely important for anyone to take in making their needs heard and setting boundaries. 

8 Ways To Stand Up For Yourself

At first, standing up for yourself may seem extremely daunting; however, over time, you will start to feel less anxious or nervous. As they say, practice makes perfect. 

1) Stick To Your Guns

Setting and communicating healthy boundaries is an essential part of any relationship – it lets the person know where the line in the sand is. People don’t always mean to overstep; they often just aren’t aware of what the boundaries are. Once you’ve told someone what you will and will not tolerate, it’s important to stick to your guns and not allow them to walk all over you.

2) Saying ‘No’ Can Be A Good Thing 

This may seem like a small step. But saying ‘no’ to things you do not want to do or are uncomfortable with is an act of bravery. It’s also an easy way to set a healthy boundary with others. Saying no, can be difficult because you may be concerned about upsetting people. There are ways of saying ‘no’ that can still be polite and respectful to other people and you can tailor these to different situations. Such as, ‘I would love to help, but I’m fully committed’ or ‘Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t do that’. 

3) Think About The Ways You Might Be Giving Too Much Of Yourself 

Whether it’s at work, home or in your relationships, it’s important to realise when you are giving too much of your energy and time to others and leaving yourself feeling depleted. 

Take the time to reflect on situations where you have felt angry or resentful because you have had to put someone else’s feelings and needs before your own. Once you have become aware, it’ll be easier to start setting boundaries. 

4) Push Through Any Feelings Of Guilt 

When you’re not accustomed to standing up for yourself, you’ll likely feel guilty for stating your needs when you do start to be more assertive. That’s not a bad thing, but do not let the guilt take over. Simply acknowledge the feeling, put it aside and push through. After some time, the feeling will subside until you no longer feel guilty at all.

5) Know When To Take A Step Back 

When you stand up for yourself, you may be met with resistance. Sometimes, the person you’re talking to may not really be interested in listening to what you have to say. This can create a toxic atmosphere, and trying to discuss the issues you have at that time will likely lead nowhere. 

In situations like these, it’s important to know that you can take a step back and remove yourself from the situation. Remember that doing this does not mean that you’re conceding, but rather that you’re removing yourself from a toxic situation and looking after your own well-being. 

6) Be Conscious Of Your Body Language 

We all know the importance of body language – it can often be a dead giveaway as to how someone is really feeling. When standing up for yourself, you need to come across as confident, as this will help you remain more assertive. Be sure to stand up straight, maintain eye contact and speak clearly and calmly – this will show the person that you mean business.

7) Using your tone of voice

Much of the impact of verbal communication is in how we say things not what we actually say. When trying to assert yourself speak slowly and clearly allowing yourself pauses and time to take a breath. Try to vary the pitch of your voice to maintain interest and emphasise any key points. However try to avoid becoming very high pitched as you will end up feeling flustered and the person you are speaking to will have less of a chance to take on board what you are saying. As part of your work to improve your assertiveness skills, try practicing changing the tone of your voice at times when you are alone, it is striking how much tone can change how you are conveying a message.

8) Learning How to Handle Interruptions

If you find that you are frequently interrupted, or there is one particular person who always does this to you. The next time this happens wait for the person to finish what they are saying when they interrupted you. Calmly and politely say something like “Just a minute please, I hadn’t finished what I was saying” or “thank you for that I understand, but to go back to what I was saying as I hadn’t finished” This is truly assertive as you are acknowledging the other persons point, but not allowing your own to be dismissed.

If you require help in learning how to be more assertive reach out to us at Select Psychology and we will help you through guided therapy to improve your self-esteem and develop assertiveness.