5 Ways to Practice Standing up for Yourself
Welcome to the life of an overly considerate millennial. I feel like a representative of a small but significant group of millennials who are way too worried about inconveniencing other people. I am so worried to make other people feel bad or annoyed that I constantly think about how loud my footsteps might be to my downstairs neighbors, or whether I might be standing in the way of someone in the supermarket, or if a friend will be disappointed if I cancel our plans.
And to be honest, I think everyone should be this considerate because we would live in a much nicer world. But everyone is not. In fact, most people are not.
Don't get me wrong - there is use in being considerate, but taking it too far will keep you from enjoying your life and asking for your needs to be met. If you don't communicate your needs and don't ask for what you want because it feels uncomfortable, this will lead to disppointment, resentfulness and bitterness in the long run. I think most people would be better off with a little more thoughtfulness and consideration, but some of us need to learn to stand up for ourselves more so that we're not being neglected or disrespected.
If you're part of the latter group and feel like you should be more assertive, here are 5 things you can do to practice standing up for yourself more:
Pay more attention to how you feel after an interaction instead of during. I realized that while I might feel good during an interaction (because I am being nice to the other person), I then feel horrible afterwards because I walked over my own needs (for instance saying yes to a favor, but feeling overwhelmed afterwards because my schedule is already overly full). What I did in that situation is signal to myself that other people's needs are more important than my own. The after-feeling lasts longer and is more important because it is a reflection of you respecting yourself and your own needs. You might feel resentful or disappointed, and those feelings will linger. To build self confidence you need to trust yourself, and you only learn that by repeatedly showing yourself that you CAN trust yourself. So instead of being nice in the moment and resenting yourself afterwards, try communicating your needs and feel proud of yourself for it afterwards.
Realize that the reaction is usually not as bad as you expect. You are scared of saying what you feel because you're scared of how the other person might react, maybe because you grew up in a household where this kind of behavior was modelled: one person made the others feel responsible for their feelings, so they lashed out whenever the others did not behave according to their expectations. This can leave marks on you, and requires conscious effort to change. But once you start communicating your needs honestly, most people will respect that and react in an understanding way - you'll be surprised! When you realize that no one will be mad at you or hold grudges, you can give yourself permission to communicate your needs.
Look for a role model. Think of someone who is already exhibiting the behavior you would like to emulate. This could be a colleague, a friend or a family member which regularly communicates their needs and speaks up when treated unfairly. When you find yourself in a situation that doesn't feel good, think "how would they react in this situation?"
Try it out. Then practice, practice, practice. For me personally, my uber-considerateness comes from feeling like an inconvenience when I was younger, and I understand that unlearning years of that conditioning might take a long time. It's a constant and deliberate overriding of old behaviors. Therefore, I proactively push myself to ask for what I need, even if it feels uncomfortable. In the long run, I will get more comfortable with it because I understand that speaking up in the moment will make me feel better afterwards. I realize that I'm scared of confrontation, but the more I practice it, the easier it will get.
Write down your small successes every week and remind yourself of them. Every single time you stand up for yourself and communicate your needs, write it down. This could be speaking up to the cashier in the supermarket because they accidentally charged you too much, asking for a better table at a restaurant, or asking for a window to be closed when you feel cold. You are worth it to have your needs considered, and if noone else does it, you should at least do it yourself. Writing down each small success will remind you of how far you've come and make it easier to speak up next time.
As much as we'd love it, there is no magic trick that will make you more confident - you just have to prove to yourself through one small step at a time that you can speak up and won't hurt anyone by voicing your needs. Because your needs are just as important as everyone else's.
Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to speak up more? Let us know in the comments!