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How to Stand Up For Yourself – 9 Steps That Really Help

by Andrea M. Darcy

Is there a situation in your life you’ve let go on for far too long? And you know you need to stand up for yourself?

9 Steps to standing up for yourself in life

So where to start?

1. Make sure you’ve read the situation right.

Sometimes our thinking isn’t correct. We can get caught up in what are called ‘cognitive distortions’. This means we think we know what’s real, but we are thinking in extremes, or  ‘catastrophising‘ and  assuming the worse.

2. Try different perspectives.

Taking the time to see different perspectives puts you on better footing for negotiating and being heard. If you were the other person, with their experiences and life, what might this situation look like? 

And what about if you zoomed out to an even bigger picture? If this situation was a film, and you and the other person just characters, what else might you notice as a watcher? 

3. De-charge in advance.

How to stand up for yourself? As calmly as possible.

Emotions are useful things that help us recognise our limits and set boundaries.

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But when it comes to speaking up for ourselves, they muddy our thinking and can make us incoherent when we try to speak. Or we come across as unstable and hard to take seriously. 

So the less emotional you are when you go to stand up four yourself, and the more neutral, the better. 

Take time to recharge in a way that works for you. This might be taking paper and free-form journalling, furiously writing out any wild and crazy thing that comes, then ripping up the pages. Or it might look like a long run, a session with a punching bag, or punching pillows. 

4. Be sure of what you are standing up for. 

If we rush into telling someone else what is what, we can end up asking for things we later realise don’t even work. We tell them we want them to carry their weight more in a joint project, forgetting to say what parts we still want to do ourselves. Or go on about how we want respect, but then end up coming across as not wanting any future contact when we do.

Get to the heart of what you need and want. Not what you think you ‘should’ need and want, or what others around you seem to think you need or want from the situation. What would actually work for you personally.

This is best done on paper, or by talking it through out loud to yourself, both of which can draw things from your unconscious into awareness.

Talking to someone you trust can at times be helpful. But if you are the sort who struggles to stand up for yourself, you are also likely the sort who falls into pleasing others. It would be better to talk things through with a professional counsellor or psychotherapist who is trained at listening over giving out advice.

5. Communicate in a nonviolent or manipulative way.

how to stand up for yourself

photo by: Mimi Thian

Good communication is an art and a skill. It doesn’t come naturally to many, but is something we can all learn and get better at with practice.

The key things to keep in mind are:

  • Be clear and to the point.
  • Don’t make excuses or explain, which just makes you look uncertain, and gives the other person leverage to talk you down. Just state your needs and wants.
  • Do not bring blame into it. Start sentences with ‘I’ and not ‘you’. “I feel this about the situation, and I want that from the situation.”
  • Keep your voice and energy calm, grounded, and open. Take your time when speaking.
  • If you feel you are getting angry or want to blame or manipulate, ask if you can continue the conversation at another time and get away.

6. Stick to the subject at hand.

Don’t bring in other people when talking, called ‘triangling’. This looks like, “Well our colleague Jan agrees with me on this….”. Keep the conversation to the people in the room.

And don’t bring in the past or other situations, unless they are directly connected. This is just a backhanded way to bring blame into the mix, and you risk taking the conversation so off topic you end up not standing up for yourself.

7. Be a broken record.

What if the other person is trying to blame or manipulate you? If the more you try to stand up for yourself, the more they try to bully you?

Then use the ‘broken record technique’. This means you repeat the same thing in slightly different ways again and again, and offer nothing else.

For example, let’s say you are standing up for yourself by refusing to do a proposal for a colleague and cover for them yet again. This technique would sound like, “No, I can’t do the proposal for you. It’s not possible. No, I can’t do it tonight. I can’t do it. Sorry, no. I’m not available this time”. 

Again, don’t give excuses or explanations. Just repeat your bottom line. 

8. Find the compromise.

Sometimes a conversation leads to new information and insight. We realise the other person doesn’t disrespect us as they hate us but because they are insecure. Or that our work colleague is secretly attending chemo, which accounts for their exhaustion.

New information does not mean we throw our own wants and needs out the window. It means we might need to find a middle ground we haven’t yet considered. If you aren’t sure what that is, and need to have a think, ask for the time to do so.

9. Keep trying.

If you have spent years living life as a carpet, letting others take advantage of you? Standing up for yourself one time is not likely to change everything. 

Others have a set idea of what you and aren’t available for. So it might take a few tries before they ‘get’ that the deal has changed, and you are setting boundaries.

Don’t feel disheartened if you first attempt at standing up for yourself only achieves a day’s worth of respect. See it as one step of the dance changed. And keep going. Eventually, others will realise you are serious about the limits you’ve stated.

Always have drama?

Always having issues with others? And often feel rejected? Prone to emotional outbursts? It’s worth looking into borderline personality disorder, which leads to making negative assumptions about situations and others.

A review of research on the neurocognitive profiles of people diagnosed with BPD shows that it leads to deficient feedback processing, black and white thinking, jumping to conclusions, blaming others, and thinking in ways that make you paranoid.

How to stand up for yourself with an abuser

What if the person you want to stand up to is actually someone who is abusing you?Either physically, sexually, psychologically, or financially

An abuser is not going to suddenly stop being an abuser. And they might see any attempt to negotiate as an excuse to hurt you more. 

The best way to stand up for yourself with an abuser is to physically stand up and walk away for good.

Of course getting out of abusive relationships is hard, as they are addictive and confusing. So use what energy you have available to find support, such as calling a charity or reaching out to trusted friends. 

Need help raising your self-esteem or learning how to relate to others? We connect you with a top team of London therapists known for their expertise and commitment. Or use our booking site to find a UK-wide therapist or online counsellor now. 

Still have a question about this article and how to stand up for yourself? Ask below. Note we cannot offer free counselling over comments. 


Andrea BlundellAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert trained in person centred counselling and coaching. She was raised to be pleasing, and had to learn how to stand her ground, so knows it’s possible! Find her on Twitter and Linkedin

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Blog Topics: Relationships, Self Esteem

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