The Art of Standing up for yourself or the lack of it!
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
I used to struggle a lot with saying ‘no’ to people – especially the ones close to me or who I revered. As a result I found taking up jobs that were too belittling or mundane and not to my liking. This usually left me feeling resentment for that person and it eventually would take a toll on my relationships. I remember feeling ‘powerless’, ‘helpless’, ‘a pushover’! This occurred not just in my personal space but my professional life as well. But all this changed when I realized I will feel powerless only if I allow myself to be. I didn’t recognise my own needs and put others’ needs before mine. That meant I had a problem with setting boundaries.
I’ve recognized, after a lot of introspection, that my people pleasing behaviour was a coping mechanism I learnt early in my childhood. With one parent being absent completely, and the other one being inconsistent with their parenting style due to dealing with their own pressures – I learnt not to burden my mum with my troubles and always be on my best behaviour. Sadly, I believed that love was something to be earned and not be given freely. This lead to a lot of struggle accepting and being accepted in my future relationships. Since I was boundary-free I was also open to being taken advantage of a lot.
Then I learnt the art of setting boundaries – both – emotionally and physically. It was an all too powerful tool that could easily be misused if being assertive was confused with being aggressive. Being a pushover takes a hit on one’s self esteem and that changed for me.
Things I did were
Figuring out the difference between aggression and assertion and learning to stand ground without every battle ending up in fist fights.
I got comfortable with being a little ‘selfish’ if that meant taking care of myself over others.
Learning to voice my feelings in a deliberate manner without losing my cool and being unafraid.
Learning to make ‘No’ my favorite word – especially when I felt coping with the task would be more difficult than saying no upfront. (I still struggle with this one though)
I stopped justifying my reasons for refusing to do something. I actually felt I don’t owe anyone any excuses for saying no.
Sometimes (Ok will be honest here – Mostly) I practice what I am going to say ahead of time. This gives me the prepping and the confidence I will need at the time. It also prepares me to deal with the possible outcomes – good or bad.
I realized I have the right to demand respect from people. No one can disrespect me or dismiss me or not listen to what I have to say.
I observed my body language while asserting myself matters a lot. Looking people in the eye and facing them squarely helps!
I made a promise to myself a while ago that I will not leave anything unsaid. Whatever I feel I must express (civilly – of course), especially if I feel wronged or disregarded in some situations.
Believe me this last point gave me a lot of peace, and others – well they now know not to mess with me as I will give it back as I see it.
Being assertive and standing up for yourself doesn’t mean being rude. It doesn’t mean being a tyrant or being aggressive. Standing up for yourself is simply having confidence in the authenticity of your feelings and the validity of your worth. So, stand up straight and speak up when it matters. You’ll find yourself feeling a little braver each time you do.