How to stand up for yourself

Have you ever felt like people disrespect you because you’re introverted? They assume that because you are quiet you don’t know how to stand up for yourself. They think you’ll just sit there and take their unfair behaviour, as if it were sweet medicine … and maybe you do.

I don’t blame you.

I completely get why you would choose submissive niceness or avoidance over standing up for yourself. We introverts are naturally conflict-averse. We are the anti-drama queens and kings, who will do anything to maintain peaceful waters. But there’s a problem with this approach.

Not knowing how to stand up for yourself is like taking slow-acting poison. Tolerating people who disrespect you corrodes your sense of self-esteem. Not only that …

It also plants a little black seed of resentment. Each time a person puts you down or pushes you around, that seed sprouts thorny vines of anger. If you’re an introvert, these prickly resentments often stay quiet and hidden away, where the only person they can hurt is you. Or so you think …

The truth is that when you don’t know how to stand up for yourself as an introvert, your anger might come out in passive aggressive ways. Author Martha Beck explains:

The problem is that trying to change unfair behavior with submissive niceness is like trying to smother a fire with gunpowder. It isn’t the high road; it’s the grim, well-trod path that leads from aggressive to passive, through long, horrible stretches of passive-aggressive.

The solution?

Learn how to stand up for yourself

Well, of course the answer is to stand up for yourself before the black seeds of resentment have the chance to sprout. But here’s the thing.

When you’re quiet, introverted, and conflict-averse, this whole assertiveness thing does not come naturally. It goes against our peaceful nature — or so we think.

In reality, knowing how to stand up for yourself actually prevents conflict in the long run, especially when you know the steps to do so without being aggressive or passive-aggressive.

You’re in luck because today I’m sharing the steps to stand up for yourself, even if you’re introverted and hate conflict. These are the very same steps I used a few weeks ago to quickly and painlessly stand up for myself during a family get together.

You see, I was spending time with family members that I hadn’t seen in a while and a couple of them saw our reunion as an opportunity to scrutinize and criticize my vegan diet and my “skinny” body. My reaction surprised even me because a couple of years ago I probably would have responded totally differently.

I would have silently taken the criticism, even though I knew it was unfair and made me feel uncomfortable. Or I would have skulked away in shame, thinking that I was at fault somehow.

Both reactions would have only fed the vicious cycle of unfair behaviour and silent resentment. Instead, I did something that ended the criticism in an instant, without creating conflict.

Here’s how I did it, and how you can stand up for yourself, too:

1. Be clear on who you are and what’s important to you.

The reason why you don’t know how to stand up for yourself could be that you struggle with self-doubt. When you’re unclear on your values, it’s hard to defend them. It takes a lot of self-reflection to discover what is truly in important to you.

Your next task is to continually revisit and reaffirm these beliefs and values so you know how to protect them when they are under attack. When I first decided to follow my current diet, for example, I was not as confident in my new lifestyle as I am now. But after several months of research and practice, I have no doubt that this way of eating is right for ME, regardless of what others think.

The same goes for my introversion. At first, I thought that there was something wrong with me because I was quiet, and liked to be alone. When others told me that my behaviour was weird, I believed them. Now that I know my introversion is nothing to be ashamed of, I would never tolerate anyone ridiculing my quiet nature.

2. Develop authentic confidence.

It takes courage to stand up for yourself, especially when you are bullied by louder, and more aggressive personalities. When you are truly confident in who you are — meaning that you have a strong sense of self-love and self-respect — you will have the courage to hold your ground against those who try to disrespect you.

Confidence is like kryptonite to bullies. They will always choose easy, passive prey over someone who stands up for themselves from the get-go.

I have to be honest, developing authentic confidence takes time, especially if you’ve spent most of your life feeling different. I can help you get started with my free introvert confidence lessons, which you get when you subscribe to my mailing list.

3. Do activities that make you feel empowered.

Knowing how to hold your ground is a practice that begins in both mind and body. That’s why many physical activities can make you feel surprisingly empowered. Everything from yoga, to kick-boxing, to dancing, to painting murals, can teach your body to choose strength over passivity.

If you’re not the athletic type, you could start with a few simple power poses, which have been scientifically proven to boost confidence.

4. Express yourself without being aggressive or avoidant.

As you probably already know, there is a fine line between respectfully standing up for yourself versus lashing out at the other person. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to decipher where that line is.

On the other hand, since introverts hate conflict, you might be more avoidant than aggressive. This won’t get you very far either. Here’s how to stand for yourself without being too aggressive or avoidant:

Focus on expressing how the other person’s behaviour makes YOU feel. Instead of saying “you’re being a jerk,” say something like, “I feel put on the spot, I don’t like feeling this way.”

This is exactly what I did when family members were criticizing my diet and body. I said “this is making me feel uncomfortable, and I don’t like it.”

For some bullies, this is enough. If they persist, you might have to get more firm and direct by explicitly telling them what you don’t like about how they are treating you, and what you would like instead: “I do not like being insulted, even if it’s a joke. Please be more considerate of my feelings.”

As scary as it may sound to utter the above phrases, it is surprisingly natural when you truly love and respect yourself. The best part is that you don’t need to be long-winded. This is a relief for introverts who tend to be word economists.

Less is more when it comes to assertive communication. After all, no one likes to be lectured for hours on end. When you are direct and honest, your message is heard loud and clear from the first sentence.

5. Release and move on.

Now that you know how to stand up for yourself, it’s important to remember the final step. Instead of staying stuck in a state of defensiveness, let go of your anger, and move on. This might mean allowing the conversation to drift back to more casual topics, or taking a walk to clear your head.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to move on once you’ve expressed your feelings in a healthy way. You’ll also be shocked at how swiftly the other person’s behaviour towards you changes. This is especially true if you stand up for yourself sooner rather than later.

It’s like that old saying goes, you teach people how to treat you — so it’s best to start the training as soon as possible!

 The aftermath

After I stood up for myself at the family get-together, the conversation quickly moved on to other topics. There was no yelling, or tears, or silent treatment. Within minutes, it was as if there had never been an issue. And here’s the best part.

No one from my family has criticized any aspect of my diet or lifestyle since, even though we’ve shared meals together. Had I not known how to stand up for myself, I could have faced years of inconsiderate comments about my lifestyle choices.

Your turn

I assure you that the above steps for how to stand up for yourself work like magic, especially if you’re an introvert like me. But I hope that you won’t just take my word for it.

Please do try these steps out for yourself. Don’t wait until an uncomfortable situation arises to begin. Start to develop confidence and communication skills today, so that you naturally know how to stand up for yourself in the face of bullies and critical loved ones.

I’d love to hear your experience with this

Before you go, please do share your thoughts and experiences related to standing up for yourself as an introvert. I’d love to hear your insights in the comments. 🙂




Michaela Chung