How to Stand Up for Yourself – and Blossom!
Yes, you can learn how to stand up for yourself without offending your loved ones, coworkers, neighbors, or pets. Here, you’ll find helpful quotes from Martha Beck and an inspiring story about being called something I don’t like by a man I love.
“I felt too weak and scared to stand up to people who hurt me emotionally and physically,” says Lydia in response to 7 Steps to Forgiving Someone Who Broke Your Heart. “I was scared they wouldn’t liked me anymore. I know how twisted that sounds, but I grew up in an atmosphere filled with hostile words and alcoholic codependency. I didn’t feel I had the right to stand up for myself or defend myself even when wrong things were directed toward me.”
It doesn’t sound twisted at all – it sounds normal. It’s hard to know how to stand up for yourself when you aren’t taught. It’s especially difficult if you were raised in an environment of fear, anxiety, and tension (like I was). Learning how to stand up for yourself is a process, but I suspect you’ll Blossom quicker than you think with these tips…
Several months ago I received an email from Martha Beck (well, the woman herself didn’t email me – it was her newsletter). This email was a surprise, because it described a relationship that was unbalanced and unhealthy. Here’s a summary:
“Cynthia and Rob’s romance was based on lots of give and take,” writes Martha. “Cynthia gave back rubs, compliments, and gifts while Rob took full advantage of her without ever reciprocating. Cynthia’s endless tolerance appeared to stem from a deep and abiding love for him, it was based more on fear: fear of anger, of conflict, of losing control, of emotional abandonment. It was the passive response to an aggressive attack.”
Martha adds that trying to change unfair behavior with submissive niceness (instead of learning how to stand up for yourself) is like trying to smother a fire with gunpowder.
“[Not standing up for yourself] isn’t the high road; it’s the grim, well-trod path that leads from aggressive to passive, through long, horrible stretches of passive-aggressive,” she writes. “The real high road requires something quite different: the courage to know and follow your own truth. If anyone in your life is exploiting your courtesy and goodwill, it’s time you learned how all of this works.”
How to Stand Up for Yourself
Remember that learning different strategies for standing up for yourself takes time and energy – especially if you’re a 46 year old woman who grew up being docile and submissive! Like me. Like many women my age.
Know how valuable you are
Would you stand up for someone you don’t respect, like, or care about? What about someone you loathe? You probably wouldn’t cross the street to talk to someone you don’t value, much less stand up for her.
The most important thing to be aware of when you’re learning how to stand up for yourself is your own self-perception and self-image. How you see yourself and what you think about yourself will determine how you treat yourself…and how you let others treat you. If you think you’re garbage, then you’ll let people treat you like garbage.
If you feel worthless or filled with self-loathing, how do you convince yourself that you’re valuable? This is a true question for you. How do you improve your self-worth? Tell me in the comments section below. If you have no idea – and you want tips for improving your self-image so you can learn how to stand up for yourself – let me know! I’d be happy to share my thoughts and write an article about it, if you’d like. You may also find How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Feel Good Enough.
Identify what boundaries have been crossed
This isn’t easy because sometimes it’s just a feeling of being “wronged” or insulted. Other times people disagree with us, saying there is no need to get our noses out of joint or our undies in a knot (which is another insult added to the original offence). Sometimes we can’t even described what the offence is…but we know we need to stand up for ourselves in some way.
If you have time, give yourself a breather so you can think. Take time to figure out what’s happening and how you feel about it.
Here’s a recent example from my own life: my husband used to call me “sneaky” when I did something smart. I hate being called sneaky! So I’ve reminded him several times that it’s not okay with me. In fact, it angers me. I’d rather be called clever or sharp-minded. He’s pretty good about not calling me sneaky these days – and every time he calls me clever, I feel so happy and proud that I stood up for myself!
Don’t brush off the baby steps
Asking my husband not to call me sneaky is a baby step. But that’s how I’m learning how to stand up for myself – but taking small steps that will eventually lead to bigger leaps towards fearlessness, confidence, and freedom.
It may be easy for you to find small ways to stand up for yourself. Great! Perfect. Practice those, and keep your eyes open for bigger and more important situations. The more you practice, the easier it’ll get when push comes to shove. And instead of getting shoved around, you’ll find yourself pushing back.
Know that every situation is different – yet the same
I can’t share every possible tip for how to stand up for yourself because I’m not writing a book! And every situation is different. For instance, your husband may laugh you off if you ask him not to call you sneaky. Learning how to cope with a critical husband is part of learning how to stand up for yourself – but it’s also a bit more complex.
And yet every situation is similar. Every healthy interaction with any person on earth requires you to:
- Recognize when your boundaries are being crossed;
- Identify what emotions and thoughts you’re having and how to best express them;
- Value yourself enough to invest time and effort to learn how to up for yourself in healthy ways.
Standing up for yourself requires retraining your brain to recognize and respond differently. It also requires retraining your loved ones, coworkers, neighbors, and even your pets. Just like you don’t learn something overnight, your “peeps” will need time adjust to your new way of being.
What to Do Next
Read Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others by Judy Murphy. She describes how to attain a balance between considering your own wants, needs, and goals with the wants, needs, and goals of other people.
Aggressive people act in self-serving ways that lack respect for others; passive people act in ways that show no respect for themselves. Using a list of principles called the Bill of Rights of Assertiveness, Judy Murphy will help you see how you think about yourself, how you communicate, and how others view you. Then, you’ll be in a much better position to stand up for yourself!
Tell me: what is holding you back from standing up for yourself? What stops you, and how can you help yourself get past it?
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share what you know about how to stand up for yourself.