When I was a kid, there was this girl I was “friends” with who I actually didn’t like very much. She was bossy, bratty, controlling and just plain nasty. For obvious reasons, she didn’t get along with anyone in our grade. But while most of my friends had no problem snubbing this girl and calling her out on her rude comments, I never did. Despite the fact that she was almost never nice to me, I never once stood up for myself in front of her.
Why? It was because I was too scared to ever talk back to her. Yes, she was mean and she deserved to be told to back the eff off, but I was shy and quiet. The thought of confronting her or even of just saying, “Hey. Don’t speak to me that way,” terrified me more than I can explain.
This little issue stuck with me for most of my life. Although I had a lot of friends, I was a tiny, quiet and reserved girl. People who were more outgoing than me knew that they could take advantage of me because they knew I probably wasn’t going to do anything about it. Examples?
I had a few guy friends who teased me “endearingly” about something that actually really annoyed me – and instead of asking them to stop, I laughed along with them. When my best friend in middle school started dating the guy she knew I had been crushing on since kindergarten, I let it slide and even helped her spend more time with him. When I gained a frenemy who repeatedly tried breaking up my high school boyfriend and me, I couldn’t seem to get the guts to ever tell her off.
For years, I was super scared of confrontation. No matter how angry I would be on the inside, I just couldn’t muster up the courage to ever tell someone when they were being a total jerk to me. Most of the time, I would just go home and cry instead. And if the anger ever did boil up enough to come out, I would end up stuttering, blushing and mumbling my way through the awkward conversation. I constantly wished I could just stand up for myself and stop letting people take advantage of me.
In college, I got a job as a waitress at a popular restaurant, and the people I worked with were different than any of my friends from high school. My co-workers terrified me. They were loud, bossy, opinionated and they were never afraid to speak their mind. I walked through the restaurant barely speaking because I had never felt so intimidated. Although my co-workers could be obnoxious, I was still super jealous of them. They said what they felt! They didn’t let other servers or managers take advantage of them. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even speak up when someone stole my tray of Diet Cokes.
Eventually, they became my friends, and their behavior started rubbing off on me. When my manager refused to give me extra shifts even though he had promised he would, I confronted him about it. When another server took the bread I had prepared for my table, I chased him down and made him give it back to me.
Soon, this behavior started happening outside of work as well. The biggest moment for me was when I finally cut off my ex-boyfriend. After weeks of trying to win me back, he showed up to a party I was at and blatantly flirted with one of my friends. We didn’t speak for two weeks, and when he finally called me as if nothing were wrong, I said, “Please don’t ever call me again. You don’t treat me the way I deserve to be treated and I want nothing to do with you.”
Since then, I think I can say that I’ve finally learned to stand up for myself. When guys I date try to jerk me around, I have no problem approaching them to ask them what their problem is. When I catch a friend lying to me or being shady, I can confront her to tell her she’s being a really bad friend and she needs to cut it out. If a guy I’m dating ever says anything particularly rude to me, I can say, “Don’t speak to me that way ever again” in a tone that’s commanding enough to actually kind of scare him.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to not let people walk all over me. For so long, I had put aside my needs and happiness just so that I didn’t have to get in an argument with someone. I was so scared of losing friends or turning guys off. Now I know that if people are going to stop being friends with me just because I stood up for myself, they weren’t worth being friends with in the first place.
I’m not going to lie, confronting people definitely still scares me. Sometimes it takes me a few hours (or days) to psych myself up enough to say something. Once in a while, I feel more comfortable doing it over the phone, rather than in person. And every single time I start a confrontation, my hands shake, my face flushes and my stomach feels like jelly. But it doesn’t matter, because I finally feel like I have the courage to stand up for myself, whether it be to my boyfriend, my boss, my BFF or a complete stranger. I just wish I had always been able to do this. Not only would it have made life easier, it also would have made me much happier.
Do you ever have trouble standing up for yourself? Do you ever let people take advantage of you? How do you get the courage to stand up for yourself? Tell us in the comments.