Standing up for yourself sounds like a fairly straightforward act wherein you know who you are, set limits on who and what you’ll tolerate, pick your battles, and start no wars.
But when current consensus blares that you must “stand your ground” or “make yourself great again,” what does standing up for yourself look like?
Who are you standing up for? If you had to describe yourself and your inner character to a stranger, would they get a sense of who you are?
Right off the bat, it’s crucial to know that an opinion is not necessarily your identity. We get swayed to think one way or another and, because of the myth of the rugged individual, we easily manage to convince ourselves that the thoughts are ours.
Protect what’s yours, right?
Except, quite often, our own opinions don’t sit well with our selves.
Isn’t it foolish standing up for a façade?
Instead, practice mindfulness. There are readily available books, videos, and websites to get you started.
Mindfulness helps free ourselves from the ever-active Id, and in doing so allows us to see – and appreciate – who we really are.
When you appreciate yourself, you stand up for yourself, not a pasted-on version of you.
No matter how helpful you are, there will always be somebody who thinks they can bully you into doing more, giving more, and being more.
Standing up for yourself means setting limits so that you’re not a bag of depletion, which can lead to being a bag of anger.
If you’re a work-from-home type who’s often interrupted by people asking if you wouldn’t mind running errands for them (since you’re not at “work”), letting them know your office hours are such-and-such will work wonders for your backbone’s health.
Let lovers know what you like and dislike. Let friends know what is and is not acceptable.
Most of the people in your inner circles will accept that your time is not infinite, nor are your resources inexhaustible.
Saying no to others isn’t a sign of selfishness or meanness, whereas anyone who expects a yes out of you at all times is definitely indicative of something unpleasant.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As in all things, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Standing up for yourself is no different.
It’s even helpful to start at the source: you.
Standing up for yourself often means doing a tango with the face in the mirror. Standing up can be as simple as overriding that negative voice that says “Why bother?” when you’re excited and motivated to make positive changes.
Eat that fruit instead of that handful of gummy bears!
Eschew the incessant demands of social media for the quiet bliss of alone-time and a book!
Standing up to yourself helps you stand up for yourself.
Know Your Rights
Since countries unfathomably define rights as though fashion statements (what’s in, what’s hot, what’s couture!), we’ll clarify this by saying “Your Human Rights.”
You have the right to be respected. Recognize that.
You have the right to be cared for and loved. Recognize that.
You have the right to understanding and empathy.
You have the right to fail.
You have the right to succeed.
You have your right to silence.
You were born with the right to bliss.
We could go on and on. No one has the right to treat you badly. No one has the right to harm you. No one should seek to contain, own, or otherwise neglect you.
We’re human, none of us more human than another. Beware those who live their lives as if being a fist is a badge of honor.
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Learn The Value Of Silence
Know the old saying “Speak softly and carry a big stick”? Take that a step further: speak softly – and sometimes not at all – and people may come to respect and admire your restraint.
There’s something to be said about the warrior who throws no blows, or the sensei whose sword never leaves its scabbard, or that quiet kid in school who never got picked on because people appreciated her quietly off doing her thing.
They were able to stand up for themselves without extra effort because people knew not to provoke them out of silence.
That, too, can be you.
Standing up for yourself can actually be as simple as literally standing up… straight!
Body language plays a huge role in how people choose to interact with us. Slouching, hand-wringing, barely making eye contact with others – all contribute to situations wherein you may be treated in such a way as to have to stand up for yourself.
The good thing about body language is that these are habitual responses, not ingrained. You can train yourself out of them to present a much more confident, resolute you.
Pick Your Battles
As stated at the opening, life can seem like an open call to war re-enactors. Everyone is fighting either an old war or someone else’s war.
Not every interaction is one where your fortitude is being called into question. Those who feel they must incessantly defend either themselves or a position they’ve latched on to might think they’re being assertive, when in reality they’re jerks.
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t feel the need to jump to your feet, ‘splain, pontificate, refute, and/or chest beat at every opportunity. You’ll come off as insecure when you imagine you’re direct; insufferable when you feel you’ve scored a personal point.
Defensiveness is not appealing, no matter how much it may want to dress itself up as “standing up for” itself.
Offensiveness is doubly ugly.
Honest people generally have an easier time standing up for themselves because they don’t waste precious energies protecting elaborate facades.
This counts in relationships, this counts at work, even in random encounters with strangers at the grocery checkout.
If you’re honest in your beliefs and approach to the world, standing up for yourself is simply a matter of stating XY and leaving others to do with it what they will.
You won’t feel a need to sway to make yourself feel larger; to out-talk someone in order to denigrate them; not even to assert yourself so that others can’t take advantage of you.
As with the silent person, you’ll find that under honesty’s umbrella you don’t come up against a lot of instances where people decide to use their whims as a means to knock you down.
Chew, Don’t Swallow
How many times have you bit your tongue rather than voice your mind? This is unhealthy in so many ways, but for the purposes of self-gumption, it’s incredibly self-defeating.
If you’re the type to swallow your words rather than chew and digest the meat of an interaction, take a deep breath, realize that nothing reasonable coming out of your mouth is liable to be met with horror, and speak.
Things left unsaid are the number one self-saboteur of otherwise healthy, normal interactions, including disagreements.
Speak up and stand up for yourself by finding ways to say what’s on your mind that best suit you and your needs.
This is done by listening instead of reacting; digesting instead of trying to hold so much in that it eventually – and, often, as unpleasantly – comes vomiting out as verbal and emotional bile.
“But hang on a minute,” I hear you cry, “you said earlier to embrace silence. Which is it?”
Good question. Well, in the earlier instance, it was all about displaying strength without having to go on the verbal offensive.
Here, it means being willing and able to speak candidly in order to make your wishes or opinions known to others. It’s about the ability to communicate effectively with others so as to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.
Standing up for yourself need not be a Herculean undertaking. Actually, it shouldn’t be, because if it is, there’s something out of whack with your life’s track.
There will always be times and people that test us; people who whiff out vulnerabilities and pounce to attack.
But realizing first and foremost that you owe no one more of you than you’re willing to give is a way to give yourself a huge standing ovation, and to dramatically decrease the number of times you’re likely to be pounced on.