How To Stand Up For Yourself

Editors Note: This is a fantastic guest post by Stuart Mills of Unlock The Door

“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” – Raymond Hull

Standing up for yourself is a trait that people admire in today’s society, even if they hate it when they’re the one that you’re standing up to! It’s admirable because it shows resilience, self-confidence, and a certain element of guts. And aren’t these attributes that everyone wants to have?

It’s a silly question; of course they are. But the reason that most people want to be able to stand up for themselves is because they currently don’t have the ability to do so! If someone challenges them then they’re likely to either fold and withdraw, giving up their defence, or they’ll lash out and start an argument, seeking to undermine the other person at all costs.

Neither of these approaches are beneficial to you.

When you back down from opposition, you give up your self-worth and say to the other, “Your needs are greater than mine”. You let them orchestrate the discussion, and the topic of the discussion, so that their needs are met, but not yours.

It’s like whittling away at wood; the wood gets trimmed down to suit the carver’s needs, but eventually, the wood gets whittled into nothing, a small stump of what it once was. It then gets discarded, as its no longer useful. If you let yourself be whittled away by other people, by ‘carvers’, then you’ll eventually get discarded too. You certainly don’t want that.

At the same time, if you fight back at every sign of opposition, if you defend your corner like a prize-fighter, then you won’t be whittled away. Instead, no-one will come near you for fear of upsetting you! You’ll be like Jake LaMotta from Raging Bull, always lashing out at those who loved him, resulting in nobody wanting to even know him. That was a sad movie, but it doesn’t have to end that way.

What To Do

Learning to stand up for yourself will ensure that other people respect you, they aren’t afraid that you’ll bite their head off, and they won’t try to push you around or whittle you down to suit their own needs. Before I share some tips on developing this trait, I must state that changes will happen gradually, not over-night. Take your time, accept the steady changes as natural, and you’ll improve one step at a time.

1.Speak With Authority

A lot of people have tendencies to mumble occasionally, especially when in high pressure situations. I know I mumble from time to time if I’m nervous. Mumbling is a sign of either having low interest, or being afraid of someone/something.

In other words, it doesn’t convey authority! When you speak with authority, people know. They can hear the changes in your voice, your tone, your speech clarity. They then know that you aren’t there to be pushed around. You will be listened to, and your point will be heard.

How do you speak with authority? Alter your posture to stand taller and more firm. Straighten your back, and keep your head up; as easy as it is to look down, you then lose the focus of the other person. Also, don’t rush into your words; calm down if you’re panicking, and speak slower than usual. Take time to savour each word, and make use of the awareness of each word. The more you utilise these techniques, the more they’ll start to feel natural.

2. Change Your Outlook

Your outlook on life is everything that the rest of the world will see. If they see an unhappy soul, who is just as likely to bite as talk, then they won’t want to talk with that soul, for fear of being unhappy or hurt themselves. However, if you’re bright about things in life, and take everything with a smile, then you’ll encourage everyone else to feel good about themselves. And this is a rare gift indeed.

It’s a law of life that we will want to help others who help us. Nobody will want to whittle away on a tree that gives them good air. So make the decision to assume a positive attitude, especially when dealing with people. People will listen to you if you treat them well, and then no-one has to suffer.

3. Find Help

Just because you’re getting picked on, or you’re having trouble holding back against criticism, doesn’t mean that you’re alone. You aren’t. There are others in this world that are in the same situation as yourself, and some of them have learned to stand up for themselves. You can see it in the way they carry themselves, they’ve learned through experience how to handle their lives.

What’s best is that these people may be willing to help you. I watched The King’s Speech last night, where Colin Firth’s character has a severe speech impediment, and is sorely lacking in confidence. He finds a man, Geoffrey Rush’s character, who has learned how to cure speech impediments with remarkable techniques that ultimately work. I won’t spoil any more of the film, which is truly amazing, but Rush’s character isn’t a doctor, and has no academic credentials; he learned all he knew from experience treating shell-shocked soldiers. He learned the hard way.

And others are like him. Search out people who know about your situation; look on websites and message boards. Ask around on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Go to your local library. There are people willing to help.

4. Stick Up For Others

Once you’ve got comfortable with sticking up for yourself, and others have realised this, take a look around. The reality is is that there will be other people that are in the same situation as yourself, being picked on or talked down by others who don’t know any better. You know what it feels like to be the victim, and it’s not nice. So stick up for those around you who may be treated unfairly.

Now they may not appreciate you helping them out, and they may tell you so, but secretly, they’ll appreciate having their antagonist off their back. As for the person dishing out the damage, they’ll quickly back down if they’re faced with someone who is willing to stand up to them.

I don’t suggest doing this tip often; word may get out about your actions. But once in a while, if you see someone in need of help, then sticking up for them will make you feel better, and make them feel a little bit better themselves.


Thank you for reading this article, I appreciate your time. Feel free to head over to my place and I’ll make you welcome. A big thank you to Amit for being very kind in publishing this article. I owe him one 😉

Stuart Mills is the creator of Unlock The Door, a place where he wants to help you become like Neo from The Matrix. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

62 Responses

  1. Joy says:

    HI Stuart,
    I love the photo…sometimes I’ve felt like the mouse..
    I love the quote! So very true! I used to allow others to whittle..then I was left with nothing. When I learned to love myself and honor and invest my energy into *my* peace and joy, I was surrounded by peace and joy! As you say, it is a process, but what an exciting one. We choose our thoughts and behaviors and create the moment we are in..I choose to create a lifetime of enriching moments.

    • Stuart says:

      It’s a great picture isn’t it! Keep creating a lifetime of enriching moments Joy, and never let others decide what you should be doing in your days 🙂

  2. Roman Soluk says:

    I also like the photo! 🙂 And the article is great. So true words you’ve written here, Stuart! Thanks for sharing this amazing post!

  3. Amit Sodha says:

    Hey Stuart,

    Thanks for joining the family and writing such a great article. It’s weird that when people enter the world of personal development they feel the need to become submissive and acquiesce to everyone and everything when in fact, the total opposite is true. The whole point of venturing on that path is so that we allow that inner voice to become louder, we not only listen to it ourselves but we allow it to emerge to be heard…and that is what standing up for yourself is all about.

    Great read!

  4. Thanks for a great post.

    It is indeed a fine line between back down and being aggressively reactive. In fact, I think any kind of reactivity is probably going to do more harm than good.

    When we know that we can accept any possible outcome, and that none is better than any other, then – paradoxically enough – are we ready to make a free choice and act ethically.

    Well, that’s for the Buddha’s out there. For those still on their way there your practical tips are extremely helpful. And maybe one or the other Buddha could need a little help 😉


  5. Dandy says:

    Hi Stu & Amit,
    Wonderful post. I struggled for years and years with this problem. I remember a quote by Maya Angelou that has always remained with me, “You not only have the right to stand up for yourself, you have the responsibility to do so.” Thans for the great tips Stu. Perfect!

  6. Wonderful post Stuart. You really hit the nail on the head with this one. Stand up for your self is something I never used to do. I used to get bullied and beat up. But I grew out of that. The best way to be strong is to first feel weak. From there we can grow.

  7. Tammy Matthews says:

    (When you back down from opposition, you give up your self-worth and say to the other, “Your needs are greater than mine”. You let them orchestrate the discussion, and the topic of the discussion, so that their needs are met, but not yours.)

    This paragraph was powerful for me. I’ve spent my life trying to steer away from conflict, but at the same time I’m making sure other people’s needs are met and letting everyone know that their needs are greater than mine and that mine don’t matter.

    This was enlightening for me. I appreciate it. It’s time for me to stand up for what I deserve – nothing less than an amazing life! Thank You!


    • Stuart says:

      Tammy, I should also be thanking you for making me smile with that comment. I wish you the very best in your journey, and I hope that you stand up and realise that you are a human being, like everyone else, who deserves to be heard and recognised 🙂

  8. Thanks Steven (and Amit) for this post. I definitely remember being the mouse in that picture for many years. However, I’ve learned to be more like mighty mouse. There is definitely a way to stop getting walked on without starting to be the one walking on people. I think I’ve done a good job of finally putting boundaries in place and enforcing them.

    • Stuart says:

      I’ll bypass the name error 😉

      Seriously, thanks for the great comment, I’m happy that you’ve found your boundaries, and where to enforce them.

  9. r says:

    ah, im havin a little bit trouble standing up. u see, mine is more complicated ; u see, mine is a group that is not afraid of using violence, and they can argue very well. i dont want to make a scene in my class, so i let them pick on me. how do i stop without making a scene ?

    • Stuart says:

      Hi r, thanks for sharing your story.

      It sounds like you’re having problems with bullies at school? I was bullied for a period when I was school, it wasn’t pleasant. I was even afraid to go to the toilet for fear of the bullies appearing. Now, I didn’t actually do anything to combat the bullies, but I wish I did.

      I wish I had said something to someone – if not my teacher, then other teachers, or the headteacher, or other staff. Raising awareness of an issue is the first step towards solving it.

      Speak with outside groups too, those who deal with bullying. They have a lot of expertise, and can help you out.

      The key is to speak. Speaking means people can listen, and then they can help 🙂

  10. Jane says:

    “I don’t suggest doing this tip often; word may get out about your actions. ”

    Can you please clarify this a bit further? It sounds like you’re punking out on your own advice and discouraging integrity in one’s actions and beliefs, which would undermine the whole nature of your blog. Thanks.

  11. Deb says:

    This is something I must desperately learn this lesson. I am tired of feeling as if the world is using me as a door mat.

  12. red says:

    I am very good at standing my ground as a forum writer, but not in real life. I feel that people force me to back down as if to say “shut up because you have no right to defend yourself.” I had my father, my sister, and some others in my life make me feel like that. I guess I should have taken the power away from them instead of letting them control me to a point. I am ready to take a class on this in a week, but I need to talk to management about certain issues at the last meeting.

  13. Helen says:

    Wonderful article. Thankyou. 🙂

  14. Gina says:

    i have been friends with my friend Tina since we were in 5th grade, we are now 20 years old. We work together now…and i have to say she is a good friend 50% of the time, but the other 50% she doesnt think alot about the things she says or does.

    she is starting to make me really mad because she will randomly tell me i want to punch you in the face…i normally look at her and laugh but she keeps doing that and today she took her fist and pushed it against my face and say the same thing again >:( i gave her a dirty look after she did that and walked away. then she asked me if i got mad when she did that and i said no because i knew she was playing around…but deep inside it really pisses me off! i dont know why i cant tell her how i really feel. I get rides with her to and from work so i dont want her to get mad at me and not give me rides…what should i do?

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Are you going to let this continue just because you may no longer get a ride to work? My advice, talk to her. Tell her about how you feel. Although, I find it interesting that you say that you have a 50/50 relationship with my best friends, 50% of the time, I’m supported by them and 50% of the time, they challenge me.

      Part of the answer to that challenge is in how you decide to respond, if I were in your shoes, I’ll tell them straight and specify the boundaries.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Gina, Be straight up. it’s a choice plain and simple, continue to accept lifts and accept that you’re going to be pissed off. Or tell her straight, and be liberated. However, from personal experience, when you stand up for yourself, it makes people respond to you with greater respect.

  15. wjdude says:

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Whenever I stand up for myself or talk with authority I am seen as a threat and am told to leave the premises. My friends tell me that I am simply being assertive, but the majority of people cannot handle that. And they certainly don’t respect. People WANT a person, especially a man, to be submissive. Anything otherwise and they feel threatened and only make trouble for you.

    This may hold true for a woman in today’s society, but definitely not when you’re male. Believe me, I know. Nice try though. You should have targeted this to women, not men.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Sounds like you’ve had some pretty bad experiences, but I can say with absolute confidence, my experience of standing up for myself, has been the complete opposite of yours.

  16. acqua says:

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my zynga group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate
    your content. Please let me know. Thank you

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  31. April 6, 2015

    […] Here is a great article about tips for standing up for yourself. My favorite is “Speak With Authority.” It is amazing how confidence, body language, and tone of voice can change a whole conversation around. Letting the other person know that you are confident and strong will already give them a message that you are not taking their BS! […]

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