On any given day, you may find yourself in a situation or two where it's necessary to know how to stand up for yourself. From someone cutting in front of you in line at the coffeeshop, to a coworker snagging your idea in a meeting, there really are endless opportunities to speak up. And yet, it can be so easy to let these moments slide.
Of course, it's always OK to brush off small slights and move on. But it may be necessary to be more assertive, too, in order to get what you want, speak your mind, effectively share ideas, and so on. The trouble is, learning how to stand up for yourself can be tricky. Not only can it be uncomfortable from a social standpoint, but certain scenarios can also dredge up old insecurities.
For example, some "people with a history of trauma [may be] more likely to be victims of future mistreatment," clinical psychologist Dr. Kim Chronister, PsyD, tells Bustle, meaning it may be tough to stand up for yourself if you've been through toxic situations in the past. There is good news, though, in that you can decide to make a change.
Whatever your particular reasons may be, it's always possible to practice standing up for yourself and get better at it with time, so that you can be more assertive when necessary. Read on for some littles ways to start, according to experts.
1. Get Comfortable With The Idea
If the mere thought of being assertive makes you feel uncomfortable, you're definitely not alone. It can be tough to speak up, especially if you're used to staying quiet or going with the flow. But remember that doing so is actually a positive thing, and thus isn't anything to feel bad about.
In fact, true assertiveness is all about asking for what you want in a manner that respects others, according to Psychology Today. So the next time you hesitate, it can help to change your perspective and realize that boosting yourself up doesn't mean putting others down. Hopefully, that will help you approach this new habit from a more positive standpoint.
2. Be Deliberate With Your Words
"Speaking up and using one's voice is the best way for others to not only understand you but to learn how to respond to you," Sharon J. Lawrence, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Selah Wellness & Therapeutic Services, LLC, tells Bustle. This might look like saying exactly what you want, instead of skirting around the issue or hoping others will read your mind.
3. Choose The Right Time To Chat
If you have something on your mind, it's best to bring it up when the other person will be most willing (and able) to listen. So if something extra important needs to be said, it can help to find the right moment instead of blurting it out on the spot.
"Setting a time to chat and packaging your message in a way where it can be received can be extremely helpful to you and to the overall relationship or friendship," Lawrence says. "Bringing up a matter at the wrong time, and in the wrong place, will go left real fast."
4. Be A Bit Selfish
Filling your days with the schedules, hopes, and dreams of others may seem like a nice thing to do. But this habit can leave you feeling worn out and resentful, while also making it difficult to meet your own needs.
And that's why being just a little bit selfish is actually a good thing. "It means you are learning to prioritize yourself when necessary," Lawrence says. "You should always be the priority, but it is understandable that there may be multiple priorities competing with one another. However, your needs are important, you should come first, and you should not suffer at the expense of someone else's negative actions."
5. Say "No"
If you're used to saying yes to everything, and trying to make others happy 24/7, then this habit might be a tough one to break. But it is an area where you can find more balance, if you decide to do so.
"'No' is always OK when it comes to prioritizing you," Lawrence says. "Learning to say no is one of the most freeing things to ever take place emotionally." Once you start to feel comfortable with the word, it'll hopefully have a ripple effect on the rest of your life, and make it easier to stand up for yourself.
6. Be Aware Of Your Body Language
If you have trouble standing up for yourself, it can help to pay more attention to your body language not only for a little confidence boost, but to also ensure you're sending a clearer message to others.
This might mean standing up straighter, instead of slouching, in order to appear more assertive — or it can mean having open body language, such as standing with your hands relaxed at your sides, so you seem more receptive to conversation.
In order to truly project an assertive image, though, it can help to work on how you feel about yourself. "Start with feeling good from the inside out," Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Get enough sleep, eat [nutritious food], work on your mental health, connect with those around you, etc. If you’re feeling good on the inside, this should show up on the outside as well."
7. Pick Your Battles
Again, there will be moments in life where it just isn't worth it to stand up for yourself, McBain says. And part of being more assertive is knowing the difference.
"If it’s a one-time thing that may be a result of someone having a bad day, then maybe it’s something you may want to try and let go in that moment," McBain says. "If it’s something/someone who has been an on going problem in your life, then you may want to address it head on. This might be in person, on the phone, in a email, etc."
8. Set Boundaries
Boundaries are where it's at if you want to not only stand up for yourself, but to give others a better idea of how they should treat you. After all, "boundaries are simply those actions that you will not take or tolerate from others," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "What is OK and not OK to you, and what you are willing and not willing to do, say, or hear or accommodate from others, and so on. Once these boundaries are set (and they can change over time) you are now in a position to stand up for yourself."
9. Stick To It
Even though it may feel like a knee-jerk reaction, try to resist the urge to apologize after stating a request, Dr. Klapow says. Take, for example, asking a partner or roommate for more help around the house. As Dr. Klapow says, this should be a straightforward, "I need some help around the house. I can’t do all of this myself. Can you please help with these chores?"
Notice how this request doesn't include apologies, but simply states what you need while also offering a solution. "Standing up for yourself doesn’t guarantee that your partner, or anyone else, will agree or accommodate," Dr. Klapow says, "but it does mean that you are clear, specific, and hold true to your boundaries and beliefs."
10. Remember, You Deserve Respect
Since there's a very close connection between push-over tendencies and low self-esteem, it can help to remind yourself that no one has the right to ignore you, be rude, or deny your feelings. Say that, and then keep the mantra playing in your head wherever you go. "Assure yourself that — without your consent — no one has the authority to invalidate you," said Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., in Psychology Today.
11. Practice, Practice, Practice
If you think you could use more assertiveness in your life, decide to practice it in small ways on a daily basis, perhaps by trying some of the things listed above. And if it takes a while to sink in, that's completely OK. In fact, "research now shows that it takes 66 days to form a new habit," Dr. Chronister says. "Practice asserting your needs daily for 66 days and watch it become automatic for you."
And remember, being assertive doesn't mean controlling others or bossing them around. There's definitely a happy medium between going overboard and being assertive. With a little practice, you can figure out that perfect balance, and successfully stand up for yourself in a variety of situations.
This post was originally published on 2/23/2016. It was updated on 6/12/2019.
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