In Assertiveness

Standing up for yourself can be extremely hard for some people, especially those who suffer from anxiety. You don’t want to be aggressive, but you also want to prove a point. You want to command some respect, but fear that asserting yourself firmly may be seen in the wrong light. Improving how you stand up for yourself will not only help you feel confident, it will also increase your self-esteem. Knowing that you deserve respect will enhance your sense of self-worth. It won’t happen overnight, but the best way to nurture this sense of self-respect is by taking action.

Seeking out advice is the first step and indicates that this issue is one that truly matters to you. Be proud of the proactive position you have taken and keep reading to learn how to stand up for yourself, how to feel confident if you have trouble standing up for yourself, and specific steps to take to achieve your goal.

Get Comfortable With The Idea

The first thing you need to do when asking how to stand up for yourself is to visualize yourself the way you want to be seen.

The more familiar we get with the idea of being assertive, the easier it will be to feel comfortable when putting it into action. Putting yourself out there is an incredible step, so don’t be fearful. Congratulate yourself and continue to seek out advice.

Over the years I have noticed that in certain scenarios, most people fall back on people pleasing rather than taking an independent and assertive stance if it runs against the popular view. Working with a clinical psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or a psychotherapist can really help you stand up for yourself, work on changing people pleasing behaviour and assist you in your relationships with others.

Remind yourself that you’re taking the first step and ignore any thoughts that make you feel like you don’t deserve respect or that your needs aren’t as important as other people’s needs. We can set safe boundaries using the right words, choosing the right moment to speak up, and slowly working towards increasing our confidence.

woman gazes off while stressed out about extra work her boss just gave her

How can I learn to stand up for myself without anxiety?

Many people struggle with anxiety, and there are actually over 6 common types of anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Speak With a Doctor or Therapist

The best thing you can do is get ahead of your anxiety by speaking to your doctor and a counselor. Psych Company has therapists specializing in this area who can lead you towards effectively curbing your anxiety in the long-term. If you’ve already sought out help, or feel you don’t need it, trust us, there is still more that you can do. Your daily routine can actually have a huge impact on your anxiety levels and, as such, you want it to be a positive one. Here are some tips on how to see this through.

Visualize what gives you anxiety – this may be uncomfortable for some, but the more we experience what causes us fear, the less impact it will have on us.

Having a good sleep routine – going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day is key. It may sound silly, but maintaining a sleep schedule provides many health benefits.

Eating right and exercise is also important – while you don’t need to be a keto body builder to see the positive effects, just being conscious of eating a balanced diet and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle is important in maintaining healthy hormonal levels.

Caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety – we recommend you steer clear of both while learning how to stand up for yourself.

These are just some of the examples of how living a healthy life can ease symptoms of anxiety and many other conditions. Remember to seek out help if your anxiety is beginning to affect your life.

two office workers disagree about who is going to stay in late to complete the project

How to stand up for yourself

The best thing you can do is put yourself in other people’s shoes for a moment and be aware of their feelings. The person you want to stand up to may be unaware of their effect on you. That person may think that what they’re doing is innocent, when, in fact, they are causing significant harm. There could be a misunderstanding where your boss doesn’t realize that keeping you late everyday impacts your family life – your boss may think you don’t mind staying late one bit.

On the other side, they may know what they’re doing, but not the severity of it. If you have trouble standing up for yourself, you may notice you get stepped on quite often in various settings, such as at work, at home, and in social situations. Those responsible may believe their actions are justified for whatever reasons, but know that taking advantage of others is never okay. Having sympathy goes a long way and can prevent most conflicts from arising.

Be assertive, not aggressive

It’s important to remember that you can stand up for yourself without being a bully or attacking people. You can do this by choosing your words carefully. Do not call the other person by any names, or place blame on them. Consider your body language carefully, and be aware of others’ feelings. Nobody likes to feel attacked. This can create unwanted conflict.

For example, consider these scenarios:

“You treat me horribly by forcing me to stay late”. Instead try saying, “Staying late this often is severely affecting my health and family life. We need to come up with a solution.”

“You always make fun of me and make me feel bad”. Try saying, “I know you’re only joking, but it hurts my feelings when I’m being made fun of.”

worker confidently actively listens during meeting and shares valuable information

Applying your assertiveness at work

Many people will suffer through being treated poorly at work because they believe they’re getting paid to do whatever their told. But this shouldn’t be the case. If done correctly, you can stand up for yourself at work without causing conflicts, or risking your chances at that promotion.

Keep an eye on your body language

Unconsciously, many people can appear more aggressive with their body language. Get familiar with checking your posture and body language while in social situations. Having clenched fists while standing up for yourself may make you appear more aggressive than you’d like.

Taking deep breaths and relaxing your body can help with this. Stand tall when being assertive. You don’t want to be seen as uncertain or fearful while taking a stand. Our body language can come across in ways we don’t intend. So, be mindful of how you are expressing yourself through your body language as much as through your speech to ensure that the message you wish to convey is the one you are actually putting out there.

Clarify first, without attacking

When you feel you may be the target of mistreatment, calmly approach the other person. As we said earlier, they may merely be unaware of what they’re doing, so giving them a heads up could change everything quickly and simply. Communication is very important. The other party may not be a bad person at all, but remember, you’re still not wrong in standing up for yourself and your feelings. 

When someone attacks, wait them out

Things don’t always go smoothly, and sometimes conflict can arise. Nobody wants to hear anything negative about themselves, and it’s our natural response to become defensive and even attack.

If you ask someone politely and assertively to correct something and they attack you, a good idea is to say nothing. Do not interrupt them. Focus on your breathing and on remaining calm. Let them get their anger out of their system, and retreat. We recommend hearing them out, but when they are finished speaking, just walk away without saying anything. This person is upset and nothing will come out of the conversation at this point.

Although it may be difficult while someone is attacking you, remaining calm and unaffected is the best way to move forward. Once the person has calmed down, they may initiate conversation again. Although you likely did nothing wrong, tell them that you didn’t mean to upset them and that you just wished to find a solution to the problem. This makes you the bigger person, and makes you responsible for deescalating the situation. This knowledge will assist your confidence when learning how to stand up for yourself. 

woman stares out of window in an office building while avoiding her duties

Why is it so hard for me to stand up for myself?

So you want to stand up for yourself and have done lots of research on how to go about this, but you’re still struggling to put theory into action. That’s okay! It’s very hard to be assertive for the first time. Don’t worry, there are lot’s of other smaller steps you can take to prepare yourself. There’s no rush. Remember that you’re growing a character trait that, once ready, will be a very powerful tool for you. There is no timeline for when you’ll be ready, you have to take things at your own pace.

Take small but powerful steps

When you struggle to be assertive, you need to stand by standing up for yourself in small ways. Simply walking more confidently and fixing your posture will improve your confidence, on the inside and outside. You’ll find situations in life where you can practice being assertive in a minor way, such as politely telling the waiter that your order is wrong, or, honking your horn when somebody cuts you off, rather than just ignoring it. You may already be doing these types of things, but now you can view these little steps as examples of you being assertive and standing up for yourself.  

Be deliberate

When you stand up for yourself, don’t settle for less than what you need. Don’t fear the fact that you have a point to make, and your feelings matter. It’s common for somebody to stand up for themselves, receive an apology, and then say “You know what, it’s okay I’m just being overdramatic.” Don’t do that! You’ll never get what you need and you’ll only escalate your frustrated feelings. Don’t back down, and definitely don’t feel bad for asking for something you need.

Be a little selfish

Everyone, by nature, has some selfish instincts. That may even be the origin of your conflict. Perhaps your colleague is hogging all of the desk space. This happens at times-we’ve all been there. However, there’s nothing wrong with saying something about it. You need that space just as much as them. You need to start prioritizing yourself because, consider, most people around you are doing that precise thing. If you keep focusing on pleasing others to your detriment, you’ll always be viewed as a walk-over and will be left feeling frustrated and used. You need to make yourself a priority because nobody else will.

Stand by your time

We often feel pressured to say “yes” to everything, even when it negatively affects us. You may have plans tonight, but your colleague has asked you to stay late to help them finish their work. Sometimes it’s easier to say “yes” and avoid the possibility of conflict. The truth is, if you politely tell somebody “I would love to help you, but I have really important plans tonight, sorry!”, there will be no conflict because you’ve done absolutely the right thing by just being honest.

Chances are, that colleague is only asking in case you may have nothing else to do, but if they knew you were busy, they wouldn’t want to put you out. Regardless, your time is valuable and it’s important to stand by your time. The time is yours. Push back when necessary or carefully disengage in situations that can clog up your time.

Pick your battles

While being assertive and standing up for yourself is a very important skill to have, it’s shouldn’t be used in every circumstance. You can’t always have your way when it comes to minor things. If something is affecting you, then, of course, it’s important to stand up for yourself. That doesn’t mean you should turn every situation into a battle because, after time, engaging in so many wars will take its toll. Plus, people will start regarding your behaviour as unreasonable. There are moments in life that are worth just letting others have their way and learning to recognize them will take you far.

Recognize that no one can invalidate you

You are your own person, no one controls what you do or say. You are your own person and nobody has the right to invalidate your feelings. This goes both ways. You cannot invalidate somebody else’s feelings either. If standing up for yourself diminishes the needs of another person, finding a middle ground is key. It may feel scary, but you can get people to respond positively when seeking compromise. You will avoid future mistreatment and not feel guilty when you take a stance.

woman stands confidently addressing coworkers during tense meeting

Practice makes perfect

Standing up for yourself can be a difficult skill to learn, and there is no timeline. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become. You’ll learn what battles are worth fighting for and which ones you might consider dropping. You’ll also learn valuable conflict resolution skills which come in handy all throughout life. Conflict follows us no matter what we do, but we can learn how to quickly resolve these situations in a way that is harmonious for everyone if we pay attention to certain key principles.

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