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How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

Hi all, 


I've been emotionally conflicted for a while. 

 My life for the 2 years before this one had been full of much more drama than I desired, and I'm pretty much sick of it all. I want to minimise my incidences with drama.

But as a result, I've become really passive.


For example, I was recently confronted by this teenager younger than me(around 17) that used to order me around when we were younger. We were at an event where I wasn't close to anyone. I just kept to myself. No one was really talking to me much and I tried not to mind it. The one time anyone talked to me, it was her. And she only did it to ask me to do something for her. 


I couldn't say no for some reason. In the past I would go along with her because I wanted to be accepted, but now I didn't really care but I still struggled to decline. Instead, I said I might do it, did some of what she asked of me and then abandoned it and gave it back to her. I just wish I had said a firm no at the start. I know this interaction wasn't much but she was YOUNGER than me and I couldn't even stand up for that tiny thing from the start. 


It shows in other situations too, when an acquaintance of mine- someone who I used to hang out with but distanced myself because I felt like he was toxic- grabbed my work without asking me and copied off me in class. I didn't want him to do that but I said nothing, and instead glared at his back. I wish I could've told him off for it.


I've stood up for myself when things get really bad and turn to a heap of trash. I will talk to people and call them out for their unfairness or wrongdoing, when it gets too much for me to handle. But for mild or little things like this I struggle to do. I tend to freeze up or my voice comes out jumbled.

I want to start standing up for myself before it gets to that point, where I've had to put up with toxic things for a few months before saying anything firmly or concretely. It just annoys me 'cause I feel so passionate about certain issues or about spitting out a comeback, but I always freeze up to not cause any further disturbance until I eventually burst.


How do people even know the right thing to say, so fast? Does anyone have advice on how to stand up for yourself more? I was thinking of joining the public speaking club at university, hoping it'll help me feel more comfortable being assertive.


Re: How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

Hi @AlyssinWonderland. Speaking assertively is something I've struggled with for a long time, and I know how you feel. Joining the public speaking club sounds like a great idea! 


My way of minimizing drama while still standing up for myself is to ask:

1) Does anything need to be said about this?

Sometimes things can be a one-off incident and small enough that it's not worth the conversation. Someone accidentally bumping into you for example, can probably be left alone.

If it needs to be brought up, I ask myself the next question. 

2) Was it an honest mistake or misunderstanding? Did the person have good intentions? If the person had good intentions or made a mistake, I try to bring it up in a way that won't cause drama, usually by explaining my concern politely, and asking for a specific change. "Sorry, I'm finding that music a bit too loud, could you turn it down a bit please?" 


If the person was trying to cause issues, or doesn't care about the issues they already know they are causing, I tend to be a lot blunter.

Sometimes just an "Excuse me?" with a bit of a glare works, because they know what it is they've done. If it doesn't or I just get a blank look, it at least buys me some time to think of what to say next. 

The time it takes for me to glare at them, say "excuse me", wait for their response and listen to it is a surprisingly long amount of time in a conversation, and usually by the end of it I've gotten enough words together to respond properly.

It can work fairly well with harassment; for example: "Excuse me? (pause) Do not ever say that to me again, that is the most disgusting thing I've heard."

Re: How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

Woah @Tiny_leaf , that is some really solid advice, thank you! I guess whenever I think of myself  "standing up" for something it's dramatic, it's sassy- like in all of those tv shows or coming from the mouths of more assertive people.


I definitely will ruminate over your words, especially that last piece of advice. I'll probably be practicing that one the most. Smiley Happy


Re: How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

@AlyssinWonderland I'm glad some of it was helpful!

And I know what you mean. I think that part of the reason sassyness is used so much in tv shows is because it's funny, rather than because it works in actual conflict, but for me it's still fun to imagine.

One of my favorite phrases is "argument squirrel", meaning someone who stores up a heap of comebacks for hypothetical arguments that probably won't happen - it describes me pretty well I think. Smiley Tongue


Re: How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

Hi @AlyssinWonderland! Welcome to the forums!

I understand what you mean. I also struggle with being assertive. Sometimes, this has led to me being taken advantage of, such as with friends and when I've worked for people. For example, there are times when my fellow group members haven't contributed anything to a project, forcing me to do all of the work. A few times, I have also been convinced to volunteer my time for an organisation or company, only for them to go back on their promises or not pay me for tasks that a paid employee should be doing. I regret not speaking up more about my rights and how I felt like I was being used. Sometimes, it is useful being assertive in these kinds of situations because it can show people's true colours. I remember once I helped a 'friend' out with nothing in it for me, but then he kept pestering me to keep helping him. When I politely said I couldn't keep helping him any more, he swore at me and ended our 'friendship'. I realised he was just using me.

One way to stop yourself from agreeing to things that people ask you to do is to say to them, 'I'll have a think about it and let you know'. You could also try saying to them, 'Thanks for asking me to do that, it shows you trust me. But I've already made other plans.' Remember, you don't have to agree to everything that people tell you to do. Saying no from time to time is good for your mental wellbeing. It's important to remember that in most circumstances, people cannot force you to do something. You also don't have to be aggressive in your refusal.


Re: How do I stand up for myself and things I believe in?

Thanks for the welcome!


It really sucks that you had to go through those situations @WheresMySquishy. Smiley Sad And I definitely get where you're coming from. It really proves who actually cares about you in the long term, and who's just using you as another one of their resources.


I meet a diverse range of people at university that ask me to do things for them or tell me to hang out with them. It takes a whole chunk of effort to refuse but I'm starting to do more of that now- slowly. It still feels terrible to do most of the time, but I really need to focus more on my own mental health as well as my family and other close friends.


I have been looking for a more 'polite' way to say no, so cheers for the tips. Smiley Happy