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How to Stand up for Yourself

Three Methods:Believing In YourselfLearning To Be AssertiveResolving Conflicts

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.

Method 1
Believing In Yourself

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    Have confidence. Developing a strong sense of self-confidence is the first step towards standing up for yourself. If you don't have any confidence or belief in yourself, how can you expect other people to?
    • It's easy for others to spot when someone is down on their luck and lacking in self-confidence -- which makes them an easy target. If you're confident, people will be less likely to tease you or identify you as weak.
    • Confidence has to come from within, so do whatever it takes to make you feel better about yourself. Learn a new skill, lose some weight, repeat positive affirmations daily -- nothing will change overnight, but your confidence will grow in time.
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    Set goals for yourself. Goals give you a sense of purpose and control over your own destiny, and they help you realize what you truly want. This is an essential part of standing up for yourself and preventing others from walking all over you.
    • Motivate yourself by setting an ambitious but achievable goal over the next few weeks, months or years of your life. It could be anything -- a promotion at work, a top grade in your next college paper, or running a half-marathon -- as long as it's something that gives you a sense of self-worth.
    • When you finally achieve your goals, remember to take a moment to look back on how far you've come and appreciate how much you have achieved. Make a vow that you will never let yourself regress into the unfulfilled person you once were.
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    Develop a good attitude.Your attitude is everything -- it impacts how other people perceive you and even how you see yourself. Your attitude sets the tone of your voice, the quality of your thoughts, and is reflected in your facial expressions and body language.[1]
    • Remember that 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.
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    Stop viewing yourself as a victim. When you behave as a victim, you do the very opposite of standing up for yourself. Instead, you tend to shrink away from the responsibility of a situation and blame your problems on someone else.
    • For many people, an inability to stand up for oneself is rooted in the fear of being rejected or laughed at, as a result of similar negative experiences in the past. By choosing to take these negative experiences personally and retreating into your shell, you stop standing up for yourself and start playing the victim.
    • If you've had negative experiences in the past, the best thing to do is to try to talk through these experiences with someone you trust. This will help you to figure out the root cause behind your victim mentality and allow you to work past it, rather than hiding behind it.
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    Feel good about yourself physically. While you don't need to look like iron man or iron woman, your appearance does matter and looking fit, strong and healthy will give you greater confidence and help you to stand up for yourself.
    • Choose an activity that you enjoy doing -- whether it's weight training, running, dancing or rock climbing -- and throw yourself into it. Not only will you look and feel better physically, you'll also have lots of fun and become a more interesting, fulfilled person in the process!
    • You should also consider starting a martial arts or self-defense 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 and allow you to stand up for yourself should you ever find yourself in a physical fight.

Method 2
Learning To Be Assertive

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    Be assertive. Assertiveness is the key to standing up for yourself. It isn't just a cliché, 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. It involves being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings, while trying to work towards a mutually satisfying solution.
    • When asserting your feelings and opinions, it's recommended that you use "I" statements, rather than "you" statements, as this is less accusatory and will prevent the other person from going on the defensive. For example, instead of saying "you never ask for my opinion", say something like "I feel ignored when you make decisions without me". [2]
    • Assertiveness is, for the main part, a learned skill, so don't feel bad if it doesn't come naturally.There are many excellent books and courses on assertiveness training available. You might like to start by reading the classic When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel J Smith, and Your perfect right: A Guide to Assertive Living, by Robert E. Alberti. See also How to be assertive and Communicate in an Assertive Manner.
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    Learn how to say no. Learning how to say no is one of the hardest but most important ways of standing up for yourself. If you tend to be a "yes" person who never wants to let anyone down, you risk becoming a door-mat who everyone walks all over and takes advantage of.
    • For example, if your boss keeps asking you to work late when your co-worker has no problem skipping out the door at 6pm, it can be very difficult to say no. But if this extra workload is putting your personal life and relationships under pressure, you need to put your foot down. Don't put someone else's needs above your own -- learn to say no when necessary.
    • 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.
    • People may be taken aback at first, but they will learn to accept your new-found determination and may even come to respect it.
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    Use body language. The manner in which you stand, walk, and sit makes a big impression on people. Positive body language can be used to garner respect, agreement, and trust, while negative body language (slouching, trying to shrink away) is practically an invitation to being pushed about.
    • Using open body language shows people that you are self-assured, confident and not to be messed with. Open body language includes leaning forward, making eye contact, standing with your hands on your hips and feet apart, using slow and deliberate gestures, facing your heart to people when you meet them and uncrossing your arms or legs.
    • Closed body language, on the other hand, sends negative signals and could leave you open to attack. Closed body language includes crossing your arms, clenching your hands, using fast and evasive gestures, fidgeting, avoiding eye contact eye contact, and turning your body sideways.[3]
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    Practice standing up for yourself. For many shy people, standing up for themselves is not something that comes naturally, but that's okay. All you need to do is practice -- soon you'll become more confident and more assertive about making your voice heard.
    • Sometimes you may fail to stand 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.
    • You can also practice standing up for yourself in small, everyday situations. For example, rather than quietly accepting the wrong coffee when the barista gets your order wrong, learn to say "excuse me, I asked for non-fat milk. Could you please make me another?" Soon you'll have the confidence to tackle bigger, more important issues!
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    Stay away from negative people. Another aspect of standing up for yourself is trusting your instincts about other people and learning to act on them. For example:
    • If another person is bringing you down with their negativity, don't hang around them; start to politely but firmly distance yourself. You don't owe difficult people any explanation as to why you're spending less time around them.
    • Avoid bullies, negative Nellies, and sarcastic Sams. You don't gain anything from being in their presence and you're not doing them any favors by putting up with their nonsense or rewarding them for bad behavior.
    • Remember -- keeping away from sources of discomfort and trouble is not running away; it is an important part of learning to stand up for yourself, because it demonstrates that you won't let nonsense and nastiness impact your life.

Method 3
Resolving Conflicts

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    Defend yourself in a calm and reasonable manner. Defend yourself verbally when attacked, provoked, or sidelined and take care of yourself when someone tries to put you down, box you in, or even hurt you physically.
    • Don't just 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 behavior 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."
    • 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.
    • Naturally, the manner in which you defend yourself will depend on the situation and if someone is volatile, always put your safety first.
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    Don't be aggressive. You should never resort to outright aggression in the process of standing up for yourself. Being aggressive, or even violent, is counter-productive and will not win you any friends.
    • Acting aggressively -- verbally or otherwise -- is like acting out your pain in full technicolor. It's not a constructive way to get what you want and will simply turn people against you.
    • You are far more likely to achieve a positive result if you approach any issues as calmly and objectively as possible. You can still stand your ground and be firm and assertive without having to raise your voice or get angry. [4]
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    Avoid being passive aggressive. Be wary of 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 and anger, hating people who "make" you feel this way, feeling depressed and helpless.
    • This negatively affects 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.
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    Try to turn negatives into positives. Another way of standing up for yourself is to take the negatives thrown at you and transform them into good things. In the process of turning attacks inside out to find the good, you'll often find that feelings of jealousy or insecurity are at the root of the attack. 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.
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    Don't give up. No matter how hard you try to increase your confidence, there will be days when you feel that you're backsliding.
    • 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 temporarily off-track before you feel better and bounce back. Some tricks to help the bounce-back process 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.


  • Love yourself as much as you can. Don't shame yourself for being afraid, know that step by step you are becoming less fearful.
  • Make sure to think about what you are going to say or do beforehand.
  • Don't let your past weaken your self-confidence because you are going to need it in order to stand up for yourself.
  • 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.
  • Seek to undo the damage wrought by life's hardships. The reality is that everyone experiences life's vicissitudes; it's how we respond to them that changes everything. 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.
  • Smile. If you're not scared or intimidated, you smile, and that shows people something about you-- that you are not afraid.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Remember, always be confident! You can never stand up for yourself with a bad attitude.
  • 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.
  • If you find yourself in doubt when defending yourself, shelve it and mull over it later. While in the thick of standing up for yourself in front of others, doubt will only cause you to stumble. There is plenty of time for reflection after the defense.
  • 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.
  • Recognize that terms like "won't stand up for themselves", "people pleaser", "passive-aggressive", "empath", "controlling", and others are codes for codependency, and if these apply to you, seek out liberating resources such as a seminal work on the subject, "Codependent No More", or other resources which can alleviate this over-arching problem.
  • Forgive those close to you for the bad things they've done you. It's easier to want to tell someone about your problems when you feel you need some guidance if you don't have anything against them.


  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 behaviors if you can but don't join their misery spiral.

Sources and Citations

  1. Nicholas Boothman, How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, Chapter 4, (2000), ISBN 0-9578081-8-6
  3. Nicholas Boothman, How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, pp. 49-50, (2000), ISBN 0-9578081-8-6
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