Disclosure: this page contains affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you understand why you let people walk all over you and what you can do to stop. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.
How often have you found yourself in a situation that you didn’t want to be in, but had to deal with, nonetheless?
Or perhaps someone overstepped your boundaries and now you’re miserable about it.
Situations like these can make us feel immensely disrespected and disempowered. They can inspire the feeling that we’re not sovereign in our own lives, and that we’re subject to the whims and wants of others, while they get to treat us however they want.
So the question is: what made them believe that it was okay to treat you that way? And furthermore, why are you allowing them to do so?
Why do you let people walk all over you?
The key to figuring out how to stop people from walking all over you is to work your way backward to when and how that behavior began. By understanding how and why it started, you can unravel the motivations behind why they’re behaving that way, as well as why you continue to tolerate it.
Here are some of the reasons why you may be dealing with this kind of behavior:
1. Previous negative experiences with trying to stand up for yourself.
If in the past, someone tried to uphold their boundaries or stop people from mistreating them, the backlash may have been absolutely terrible. As a result, they’ve learned that standing up for themselves has dire, far-reaching consequences.
For example, someone who asked a parent to knock before entering their room might have had the door removed entirely. Or resisting a parent’s unreasonable demands may have resulted in the parent withdrawing all financial support in a “my way or the highway” scenario.
As such, the lesson learned is that defending oneself will end up making the situation far worse than just laying back and taking the abuse. If you’ve experienced something similar, you may feel that not only is it easier to just take it, but any action you take will backfire anyway.
When people grow up in this kind of environment, they don’t learn how to develop strong personal boundaries. After all, they’ve been taught that their boundaries don’t mean a damned thing—people are going to walk all over them anyway and even punish them for trying to have boundaries to begin with.
2. Fear of confrontation.
Many people hate confrontation and are afraid of even the thought of calling someone out on poor behavior. This often comes from past history of needing to “keep the peace” by staying quiet about horrible things going on around them, especially in an abusive or dysfunctional family environment.
If this has been part of your life experience, then you might not stand up for yourself (or anyone else, for that matter) because you’re afraid of the avalanche that may ensue.
For instance, stopping a parent or sibling from mistreating you may result in your entire extended family blowing up your phone with abuse, causing you intense stress.
So you just bite your tongue and take it. Even thinking about taking action to stop something may cause severe anxiety or panic attacks, so you might disassociate and pretend everything is okay, when it’s not.
3. Fear of stepping into your own power.
Some people let others walk over them because they don’t want to grow up.
To them, there’s a certain degree of comfort in remaining childlike and letting others call the shots for them. Sure, they don’t get to make many (any?) decisions for themselves, nor do they have any responsibilities. Some people even weaponize incompetence so that others will take care of them the same way they did when they were kids.
Of course, just like when they were children, they undoubtedly have a lot of resentment about lacking autonomy, but not being able to call the shots may be a small price to pay for being pampered.
They’re housed and fed by others who have complete control over how much freedom can be had within their domain, and as such, they don’t get to have any say in how their own lives unfold.
4. Lack of self-esteem/belief in yourself.
It’s easy to become worn down by others constantly belittling you. If you’re repeatedly being insulted and put down by those around you, then chances are your self-esteem is in pretty bad shape. As such, you may let people walk all over you because, on some level, you might think you deserve it.
If your self-esteem has been worn from people calling you names and making you feel worthless, it’s difficult to convince yourself that you are, in fact, worthy of being treated with respect and courtesy.
When other people are awful to you, it rarely has anything to do with you personally. Rather, it’s a tactic used by those who feel weak and powerless. They attempt to wear you down and overpower you so you’ll become malleable to their needs and demands.
In reality, they’re so terrified of not being in control—of you as well as their own lives—that they’ll behave atrociously just to maintain the facade of keeping things going the way they want.
5. A habit of people-pleasing.
You might derive your sense of self-worth from what others think of you. As a result, you may place your own needs and desires behind making others happy. This can extend to laughing along if they mistreat you or allowing them to take liberties in your life so as not to disappoint them.
For instance, if you’re financially well off, you may have family members constantly clamoring for handouts. Since you don’t want to be thought of as cheap, you’ll give them what they ask for. Otherwise, they might trash-talk you and tarnish your good reputation.
Alternatively, you may go out of your way to do nice things because you’re genuinely a lovely person, but then they take advantage of your good nature. Hey, remember that time you baked some muffins for the church bake sale? Well, we need 300 of them for this event: that shouldn’t be a problem, right?
6. You have no other choice.
Depending on how old you are or what your life circumstances are like, you may feel that you have no other choice but to let people walk all over you. Because, if you don’t, you might not have a place to live, food to eat, a job, and so on.
For example, if you’re a young adult living with abusive, domineering parents/caregivers, you may not be legally allowed to go and live on your own yet. If you don’t meekly obey what you’re told to do, or accept abusive behavior, then you may be faced with anything from a severe grounding punishment to physical violence.
Alternatively, you may be in a situation in which other people might bear the brunt of your defiance, such as your siblings or a vulnerable parent being abused because you “rocked the boat.”
This type of scenario isn’t limited to the young, either. Those who are disabled, elderly, and otherwise dependent on others can be subject to horrific treatment as well. It’s difficult to stand up to people who are mistreating you when you’re completely dependent upon them for your wellbeing and continued survival.
How to stop letting people walk all over you.
If you’re ready to stop people from walking over you, there are some firm actions that you can take.
Many of these might be intimidating to you and may require some mental rewiring to make them happen. After all, most of us have been conditioned to believe that being submissive means being good and that being confrontational is somehow aggressive and wrong.
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to take the necessary steps to stop others from walking over you.
Let them have enough rope to hang themselves (especially in public).
One of the best ways to stop a person from mistreating you is to call attention to their actions without being rude about it.
Most people who mistreat others are happy to do so in private, but they maintain a different public facade. Or they want to be perceived a certain way by those around them, and as such will behave in a manner that will make them seem strong or powerful.
Let’s say that you’re being walked over by a colleague at work. If you’ve already confronted this person about their behavior and they persist with it, then draw attention to what they’re doing.
For example, if they make a rude “joke” about you in front of others, maintain your composure and ask them to explain to you why this is funny. Imply that you don’t get it, and they’ll either be forced to explain their racism/sexism/whatever-ism they’re mocking you for, or they’ll drop it and go silent.
This is a great strategy for curbing inappropriate behavior toward you without being the jerk in the situation. Furthermore, it’s a good way to determine whether this is a healthy work environment or not. If your boss and colleagues have your back, you know you have their support. If they don’t, then find another job.
Change your own behavior in order to change theirs.
The situation you find yourself in will partly determine how you go about stopping people from walking all over you. For example, a lot of the time—especially in a work or peer environment—people unconsciously mock others if they find themselves in a comfortable groove.
Perhaps you always buy your friend an extra round of beer or do the washing up at home. Over time, that friend might come to expect that you’ll keep buying the beer, and your roommate might never do the washing up because they figure you’ll take care of it.
With these types of small transgressions, the best thing is not to say anything but simply change how you behave. Stop buying beers or doing the dishes, then observe how the others react to your shift in behavior. Do they step up and even the playing field? Or will they complain that you’re no longer behaving the way they want you to?
Loudly declaring things rarely changes anything, but action will.
Create strong personal boundaries, with consequences for overstepping them.
The best way to stop someone from walking over you is to create rock-solid personal boundaries. Then define clear consequences for breaking them. Defend them with all you have, even if it means upsetting those around you (which you will).
For example, let’s say you’ve told your partner or housemate that the next time they use up all of something (coffee, milk, toilet paper), then they have to replace it. You’ve been buying this weekly for ages and they haven’t reciprocated, so now it’s their turn.
They’ll likely try to weasel out of it the next time it runs out by “forgetting” to pick it up when they’re out. This is intentional because they want you to take care of it as usual.
You’ve told them that you won’t do this, and now it’s on them. If they don’t buy it, there will be none in the house until they do. Expect sulking and remarks about how unreasonable you are, especially if they keep promising that they’ll get it “next time” and you stand your ground.
They are unhappy that you’ve pointed out their sh*tty behavior and that they now need to make good on past promises. They don’t like being made to feel bad for what they’ve done; they were enjoying the status quo just fine and now you’ve gone and changed that.
Change environments that you’re able to change, and leave the ones you can’t.
This goes along with upholding boundaries as mentioned above.
If you aren’t living with the person/people walking over you, then the best option is to create and maintain distance. Usually, the most troublesome individuals have short attention spans. As such, removing yourself from their circle and politely declining all future invitations is the most effective way of preventing further transgressions.
Regardless of whether you live with someone or not, you can create consequences (as mentioned).
Let’s say a family member has a type of behavior toward you that you despise. You’ve asked them to stop, and they don’t. So, make it clear that if they do it again, you won’t speak to them for two weeks.
After those two weeks are up, expect them to do it again to test the boundary. So this time, the consequence is zero communication for four weeks. If it happens again, increase that to two months. Keep adding time on as needed until the message is finally driven home.
Be prepared to repeat this process when they inevitably try to get away with it again sometime down the line. People don’t like to curb their crap behavior and will overstep whenever they think they can get away with it.
Don’t let them.
If you’re in a situation where you know you can’t change those around you, then leave. Move across the city (or country). Put distance between you and those who are walking all over you. If desired, you can even tell these people why you’re leaving.
Tell them they do X, Y, and Z and you’re not going to tolerate it. You may contact them at some point in the future if they make a solid effort to treat you properly. Deliver this information brusquely and without emotion. When they start spluttering, don’t get drawn into any argument. Just end the conversation calmly.
You can expect them to gossip negatively about you and divulge secrets you told them in confidence as a form of retaliation. Display little interest when this gets back to you, showing everyone how little they matter to you. This will show everyone concerned that you act with grace and are not to be trifled with.
Learn to say “no” and mean it.
Does your roommate have the munchies, so they’re looking through cupboards and asking you if they can have some of your cookies? You’re entirely within your rights to say “no” if you don’t want to share them.
They’ll try to convince you otherwise, and call you a greedy jerk if you don’t share them, but hold your ground. No means no. In fact, call them out on why they’re trying to overstep. Do they not understand the meaning of the word “no?”
Humor often works wonders too, like saying “Are you really asking to eat some of my cookies after you literally ate all my groceries last week and didn’t replace them?”
This gives them the opportunity to display their intentions while still calling them out on their actions and reinforcing the fact that you already said “NO.”
They may get defensive and say they’ll replace them, so once again you remind them of their past behaviors, and reiterate that you said “NO.” If they get aggressive and insulting, remain stern. You’re not being mean at all; they’re transgressing and trying to redirect attention away from their poor behavior. You’ve drawn attention to them being greedy and disrespectful toward you and that you aren’t going to stand for it. That’s all there is to it.
Practice maintaining composure while you stand your ground.
Many people avoid confrontation because they know how flustered they get in these situations, and they don’t want to be mocked or embarrassed. If they get red in the face, stammer, and can’t get their words out clearly, they feel like they won’t be listened to or respected.
The best way to get over this is through practice.
That doesn’t mean that you should go picking fights with people so you can work on ways to defend yourself. Rather, try to drum up the emotions you’ll face during confrontations so you know how to control them.
The easiest way is to imagine yourself remaining calm and collected while someone else rages at you. Stay calm, and focus on keeping your breath and voice measured and even. If your heart rate starts to climb and you feel like you’re getting anxious, practice packaging up your emotions and setting them aside temporarily. This will help you face any challenging situation with grace and strength.
If you have a close friend who has a very good handle on their temper and a decent emotional constitution, you can practice this with some roleplaying. Each of you can try being the calm one and the other the abuser, then switch. Take regular breaks during the practice and expect a lot of different emotions to come up!
I used to do this with friends when we were training in martial arts. There was a lot of laughter, a few tears, and you end up getting closer with your friend. You might have some epiphanies, such as realizing that you fear being told off or hit because that is what your parents did when you were younger, hence the anxiety about confrontation.
This is why childhood and adolescence are referred to as “formative years”; we’re literally formatted a certain way during this period. And by doing this exercise, you’re reformatting your program.
The focus of the exercise is not to win. Rather, the point is to learn how to stand your ground and show you’re not a pushover. Through trial and repetition, what was once unbearable and scary becomes more of a struggle not to laugh at their ridiculous tantrum.
Stop being the peacekeeper.
If others are rocking the boat (or threatening to), then let them. Or challenge them.
You’ll probably feel tension in the air, but that’s okay. Let it be tense. Many people back off at this point to avoid feeling that tension, or they don’t want to “cause a scene,” but that will allow things to continue as they always have.
This situation doesn’t have to be heated or even tense (well for you anyway). Simply call them out on their sh*t. Ask them to explain their actions in a simple way, with a neutral tone. Namely, why they’re doing it and whether they think this is okay.
There is no need to feel tense or agitated; stay loose and relaxed with even breathing. After learning why, you can either let them know if this continues there will be a consequence, or, if you’ve already had “the talk,” then initiate the consequence.
There will be lies, defensiveness, and misdirection as they try to justify their behavior. Some might even whine that they’re “just trying to help.” Listen to what they have to say, and then make it clear to them that their behavior is inappropriate and has to stop.
Expect a childish response, such as hysterics, dramatic yelling or screaming, threats, guilt trips, or storming off stomping and slamming. Then they will likely try to get various friends and family members on their side to help punish you.
Stay calm. Their terrible behavior isn’t your problem to fix, so stick to your guns, and follow through with what you said you’d do. There will be tears or tantrums, as well as naysayers who try to tell you to ease the transgressor’s punishment.
How much kindness or respect was being afforded to you? Probably none. Sadly, it’s usually through consequences that most people learn their lessons.
That said, there will be a few who are genuinely sincere once they’re made aware that their actions are causing pain. If they’re awesome, they’ll stop, apologize, and try to make amends. If you come across this situation, then definitely reward the positive behavior. If their apologetic actions are sincere, be generous with forgiveness.
When the right time comes, be ferocious.
People are much less likely to take from you and walk all over you if they know that you won’t tolerate any of their BS.
That doesn’t mean you need to be a “big bad wolf” and terrorize those around you, but rather find a middle ground between that and being a doormat. You can be kind, graceful, and noble, but resonate strongly with the energy of “thou shalt not f*** with me.”
This can be accomplished by cultivating that reputation through small yet consistent measures. When and if people overstep, call them out and make it clear their behavior won’t be tolerated. Not by yelling, but by responding clearly and firmly.
You can show your power with a straight stance and a hard, level gaze. Also known as a “stare down.”
Keep in mind that most people are cowards. Most of the people who are gossiping about you or passively sniping at you want to dominate you but are too scared of your strength to do it directly.
Quite often, people who get taken for granted or walked over are physically smaller or weaker than those who are mistreating them. That’s not okay, and it is a gross misconduct by those who should be defending and protecting them instead.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be big and muscled in order to be a strong person. Sure, keeping your body fit and healthy is helpful, but intelligence, quick wit, and iron-clad integrity will go a long way too. Think Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones vs. his brother Jamie.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the mind is sharper than both.
Being a good role model is far better than being a constant confidante.
In other words, lead by example, and don’t tolerate situations that you find excruciating.
Those who walk all over you are generally not happy in their own lives, and thus need your energy to feel better. They need to denigrate your life choices in order to feel more comfortable about their current state.
You might be the default counsellor of your group and spend countless hours listening to sob stories about people’s misery. Very rarely does just talking accomplish lasting meaningful change. In fact, most people endlessly regurgitate the same information and do nothing to change.
How many minutes do you have left in your life? And do you want to spend them listening to Jay whine about the same girlfriend issue he’s had for three years? What about hearing Rebecca complain that she can’t get fit despite pounding wine every night and comfort eating during her hangovers?
Lead by example by living your best life. If people want you to be a counsellor for their misery, then make it clear that you’ve been listening to them be broken records for X amount of time, and they should sh*t or get off the pot. Do something, or do nothing, but don’t waste your time in the process.
Get help if you need it.
Most of the suggestions here on how to stop people from walking all over you assume that you’re able-bodied, independent, and have the ability to drum up the strength you’ll need to make it stop.
That may not be the case, especially if you’re underage or if you’re dependent on those who are mistreating you. If you’re living in an abusive situation that you aren’t able to change or leave, then please get help. There are emergency helplines you can call if you’re in excruciating circumstances, and social networks can help you escape from them.
Similarly, if you can’t seem to boost your self-esteem enough on your own to stop people from treating you badly, then find a great therapist who can help you get there. You’ll likely need help to undo years of negative programming so you can make real, positive changes in your life. A supportive counsellor who can be your rock and your cheerleader can help make this a reality, but you must take the steps to get to them.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’re the author of your own story, and only you can decide how people are going to treat you. If you allow them to walk all over you, then they will.
So if you want them to stop, you have to stop them.
You may also like:
- How To Stop Letting People Treat You Like A Doormat: 5 No Bullsh*t Tips
- How To Overcome Your Fear Of Confrontation And Deal With Conflict
- How To Stop Being A People Pleaser: 15 Tips That Actually Work!
- How To Respond To Guilt Trips And Stop Someone Guilt Tripping You
- How To Deal With Someone Who Repeatedly Disrespects Your Boundaries
- How To Say No To People (And Not Feel Bad About It)
- Are You Tired Of Being Nice? Read This
- How To Get People To Respect You: 7 No Bullsh*t Tips That Actually Work