Published on February 8, 2021

How To Stand Up For Yourself When You Need To

How To Stand Up For Yourself When You Need To

It’s a fact of life. Interacting with others is unavoidable. Even with social distancing, you’re still engaging with people in your personal and professional circles. Whether it’s in a ZOOM call or homeschooling kids or keeping your shopping cart six-feet behind the person in front of you in the grocery store checkout line, dealing with others is a must.

You do your best to be considerate and accommodating, but, sometimes, things are said and done that make you feel dismissed, devalued, and discouraged. You want to respond, but you’re not sure how to stand up for yourself.

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone. As a matter of fact, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc. published research indicating that people have a hard time even knowing how much is too little or too much when trying to stand up for themselves.[1]

Learning how to stand up for yourself – whether you tend to be a bit shy or struggle with being a people pleaser or you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum – requires three simple yet sure-fire steps: self-assessment, boundary setting, and practice, practice, practice.

1. Self-Assessment

Which end of the assertive spectrum aligns more with who you are at your core? Are you more of a cream puff? Or a tough cookie?

Think about it.

When someone jumps the line in the queue, are you more likely to stay silent or to speak up?

When your boss continuously increases your workload, and in lieu of compensation, the only thing increasing is her criticism of your performance, how do you react? Do you just work harder in fear for your job, thinking you have no other choice? Or do you impulsively respond, unleashing what may have long-term negative impact on your career?


What about when you’re at home? When your significant other never seems to have time to do the housework, commenting that he’s too busy to be bothered, and insinuating that you haven’t anything else that really matters on your to-do, are you more inclined to just “keep the peace” or do you immediately change the locks, and toss his bags out the door?

One end of the spectrum is actually no better than the other when it comes to effectively standing up for yourself.

Understanding your own natural tendencies is, however, the first step in realizing where you are now when it comes to standing up for yourself, and in what direction you may choose to grow that serves you best.

No matter which end of the assertive scale you’re at, you can change. It’s all about finding your voice and realizing that standing up for yourself isn’t “one size fits all” and doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”; rather, it’s a balance and finding the sweet spot that works best for you.

2. Choose to Set Boundaries

So how do you know what standing up for yourself looks like for you? It’s easier than you may think. It just requires a bit of research, and it’s actually a technique used in my writing therapy coaching.

Here’s what’s involved:

After you’ve taken your temperature and you’ve realized your patterns of behavior, it’s time then to CHOOSE your boundaries. What’s important to you? What things really matter and what things don’t? What warrants you pushing back and what would best be served by letting it go?

Only you have the answers. And what’s great is that there is no right or wrong . So do your homework and listen to your gut.

Is that line-jumper at the grocery store or that guy in traffic who cuts you off worthy of your time and energy? Is your desire to stand up for yourself aided by giving him or her a piece of your mind?


Maybe. Maybe not.

Sometimes, when we don’t address the real issues that have us feeling dismissed and discarded, we let everything else including the little things get under our skin.[2] If we’re really analyzing our non-negotiables and then set forth a plan to embrace those and communicate them to others, we know where we stand, and so will others. And that is when we really begin to stand up for ourselves.

So, for example, how much more important is your career when it comes to standing up for yourself? How does it make you feel to do more and more work without additional pay or even a thank you? What parts of that situation deserves consideration and recalibration?

And how about your home life? Where does that sit in terms of importance to you? What have you been allowing versus what are you no longer okay with? Yes, this does involve significant others and family, and sometimes you do give more than you take when it comes to matters of the heart. But what is too much? What needs to be addressed? If you don’t know, how do you expect anyone else to?

Taking the time to figure these out – especially your non-negotiables — gives you criteria with which to assess situations that come your way and mindfully choose appropriate responses and actions. It empowers you with choice. YOUR choice. Do you CHOOSE to allow something? Or do you CHOOSE not to? Doesn’t just saying that and knowing that – that you have the power to choose – help you to stand a bit taller and breathe more freely?

The more you choose to put setting boundaries into practice, the more you are going to be able to stand up for yourself and move forward toward what you want and who you dream of being in both your personal and professional life.[3]

An easy start to deciding what your deal breakers are is to review a bit of your history. Take stock of where you’ve been.

You – like every one of us – might find it easy to recall the times when you have felt dismissed and devalued. Those are the moments when you may have not stuck up for yourself and wish you had. Write these down. Recall these memoires, not to dwell on them, but to learn from them. And don’t stop there.

Sure, standing up for yourself has a lot to do with what you DON’T want. But it also has to do with what you DO want. So make sure you spend some time revisiting what has made you feel powerful and unstoppable. What happened to that end and why? Jot those things down.


Once you’ve made your lists, ask yourself what of these past experiences do you want more of? And – very important – what do you never again want to have happen? What will you no longer tolerate? This is how you not only learn to stick up for yourself, but how to begin to put yourself on the path toward creating and playing by your own rules.[4]

3. Shift Your Thinking Into Practicing

What you’ve allowed is now detailed by you – first with your self-assessment and second with your setting boundaries. And just to be clear…yes…YOU have allowed it.

Oprah Winfrey has said often,[5]

“We teach people how to treat us .”

So you choosing (for whatever reason) to not stick up for yourself is part of why you’re not getting the respect you want and deserve.

The good news, however, is that this, too, can be changed. Whatever came before this moment is now your past. You can’t change it. But you can use what you’ve learned now to make feeling dismissed and discarded a thing of the past.

Armed with the knowledge of you and your new non-negotiables, you can shift your thinking into practicing.

All you need is a plan — a new perspective on the new you – taking steps to practice standing up for yourself when you need to.

One sure-fire way that works to empower the people I coach includes a bit of playful acting. If standing up for yourself proves too big of a struggle, then pretend you aren’t you. It’s always easier to champion someone else, isn’t it?


So during your practice sessions, choose one of the following scenarios:

Act as if you’re advocating for the person that IS you somewhere in the not too distant future (the person who already has mastered standing up for herself) or become the voice for that little kid in you who’s still in there and who needs you to fight for them.

When you distance yourself from you and the stories you’ve been telling yourself about you, you can objectively stand up for the you that really is you and, before you know it, become the person you always were meant to be.

It’s not complicated. Use your imagination. I, myself, have an avatar I call “Powerlina” (a bold version of myself you can see here). She wears a cape and has a giant “P” on her chest. She is the hero that’s in me, and when I need to stand up for myself, I shift my thinking and practice choosing to think, speak, and act in the way “Powerlina” the super hero would do. It’s fun and effective.

Before You Take Off, Know This…

Learning to stand up for yourself is not only empowering, but it can be an exciting adventure — if you choose to approach it as such. It’s all up to you. And the best part is that you already have what you need inside you.

So tell me, what next steps will you be taking and what color is your cape?

More On Self-Assertiveness

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via


More by this author

Paolina Milana

Paolina is an award-winning author, and a communications expert with journalistic roots.

How To Spot Toxic People: 6 Traits To Watch Out For How To Stand Up For Yourself When You Need To

Trending in Communication

1 How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide) 2 The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You 3 The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life 4 14 Things That Make You Happy and Enjoy Life More 5 Focus On Yourself, Because Most Of The Time No One Really Cares

Read Next


Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.



Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.


Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.


When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.


5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via


Read Next