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Self Esteem 101: How To Stand Up For Yourself

“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.

Most of us were raised to try and get along with other people; to avoid unnecessary conflict and treat others with respect, and sometimes we encounter jerks, right? Or maybe they’re not a jerk, per se, maybe they have inadvertently insulted you in some way and are oblivious to the fact that there is steam coming out of your ears, or that you are on the verge of tears because of their insensitive remark. Ok – so maybe they are an oblivious, insensitive jerk.


Self Esteem Poll

So anyway, someone has (regardless of intent) insulted you in some way.

Do you:

A. Let it go and fester about it for the next several years.
B. Blow your top, scream, holler and make it obvious that you’re unhappy with them, or
C. Proactively stand up for yourself in a calm, cool and confident manner

People who chose A appropriately chose that letter because they are “avoidant.” Avoidance of conflict is a natural tendency to many, but it is brutal on ones self esteem and teaches people that they can treat you badly without consequence.

People who chose B are prone to “blow outs”. It feels good to go off on someone who has been rude or insensitive, but your reputation as a hot head likely proceeds you and people may seem to give you greater leeway, but it isn’t out of respect as much as fear, and they certainly don’t take you seriously.

Those who chose C, well why are you reading this article anyway? You probably have better things to do, you already know this stuff.

Actually, my guess is that most of us already do know how to stand up for ourselves, it’s the ‘doing it’ part that is difficult. For a quick refresher, let’s go over the basic tenets of standing up for yourself when someone has treated you in a way you dislike:

  1. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to think about what was said or done.
  2. Check in with yourself about your feelings. Are you angry, embarrassed, sad? A combination of feelings?
  3. Use an “I statement” to express how you feel. I statements are awkward when you first start using them, but they work well because they are indisputable; no one can argue about how you feel. (An ‘I statement’ is something like, “I feel angry about what you said.”)
  4. Follow up with an affirmative statement about yourself and your worth (i.e., “I am an intelligent, strong person.”)

The response of the offending party can vary. You may get an apology if the person either regrets their remark or genuinely didn’t realize they had offended you. On the other hand, you could also get more rudeness or the offending party may laugh at you, in which case you can firmly deduct that this person is indeed a jerk of the highest order. King of Jerks, even. Sir Jerkingham of Jerkville. And, you can’t reason with that. You can’t “mature” your way out of it by expressing yourself and having a decent conversation that may result in some sort of mutual respect and understanding. You do have choices here, though.

You can:

A. Return the insult and with even more nastiness. And flip them off for good measure.
B. Give them an atomic wedgie. Or a swirly if you’re really mad.
C. Walk away, knowing that you said what you needed to say. You’re not responsible for their reaction and don’t have to play along.

(This is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure article, isn’t it? I wonder how it’ll end?)

Knowing how to stand up for yourself and how to handle any potential reactions is useful, but only if you actually put those steps into action. Convincing yourself that it is important to follow through with standing up for yourself (the ‘doing it’ part) is crucial. There are lots of good reasons to stand up for yourself; you’ll feel better about yourself, you will be teaching people how to treat you, you’ll feel more confident. All that good stuff. But, most importantly, you are teaching YOURSELF that you are of value and that you have standards for the way you allow others to treat you. That requires self love that is hard-earned and comes with a lot of other good things, like enjoying your own company and seeing the positive aspects of yourself, regardless of the opinions of others.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” -Brene Brown

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If you are in crisis, call 988 to talk with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text HOME to 741741 to connect to a free crisis counselor, or go to your nearest emergency room.