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Stop Taking SH*T and Stand Up for Yourself

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The wisdom that comes with age is second to none. And this is what Rearview Mirror Reflections Podcast is about—a conversation between two Kenyan women sharing their perspectives on life and what they are learning along the way. The conversations are a reminder that life and our perspectives keep evolving. This article is inspired by their first podcast episode, Social Life.

Yes, I said it! We are not taking crap from anyone from now on. It’s that time of the year that we are tightening all the loose ends. We are cutting off that which doesn’t add value to our lives. We are mustering the courage to stand up for ourselves even if we’ll only manage a whimper. We could wail, but like me, many of you have grown up as people pleasers. You will wash someone’s feet and lay down for them to walk all over you lest they get dirty and frown at your lack of support.

But that is changing. We are learning to communicate our discontentment respectfully. We are finding our voice. And here is how you too can get started.

Evaluate your personal needs and boundaries

Usually, the struggle to stand up for oneself is rooted in our childhood. If you were brought up in an environment where your parents’ or guardians’ words were the final say, there are high chances that you grew up feeling your needs are not as important as those of others. If not corrected, this thought system follows you into adulthood, where you continually sacrifice your own needs, in an effort to please others.

To break free from this mindset, you must stop downplaying your feelings, wants, and desires. Instead of worrying about hurting other people, think about the harm you are doing to yourself by allowing them to walk over you. Don’t make yourself small to give others room.

Evaluate your needs. This means being brutally honest with yourself. Write down your personal needs. What does your heart desire? Be genuine. Be raw.

Practice being transparent and authentic

When you’ve been shut down, dismissed, ignored, abandoned or even punished for expressing your thoughts and feelings, you learn to bottle them up. Keeping silent even when you are suffocating within becomes second nature to you.

To fight this detrimental habit, try this: The next time you are tempted to respond with a nod or a half-hearted smile when you are not in agreement, stay quiet for a second, then open your mouth and speak up. You don’t have to be condescending. Openly express your thoughts and feelings.

This is going to be extremely difficult, especially if you are dealing with someone who is dismissive. However, you have to start somewhere. And that somewhere is in your next conversation. Even if they dismiss your thoughts, stand your ground. Consistently letting them know what you feel will make them more open to hearing you.

Say “no” when necessary

Part of standing up for yourself is saying “no” to things you don’t have time for or things you don’t want to be part of. This does not make you rude or stubborn. It means you have the courage to stick up for yourself.

In the beginning, saying “no” is difficult. You’ll rehearse it over and over again but still end up with excuses (we’ll get to this shortly) every time you are supposed to say “no”. Let not obligations dictate who you spend time with or what you do. Learn to say “no” to anything that doesn’t resonate with you. More importantly, you must have the courage to remain firm in your decision. And lastly, don’t feel compelled to explain your stance. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Saying “no” is the most important self-care routine you can ever learn. With time, those around you will understand your boundaries. You’ll also learn to view “no” in a more positive light.

Say goodbye to excuses

Have you ever been in a situation where you expressed your feelings openly and genuinely, and then everyone seems taken aback by your thoughts, and so to save face, you come up with a slew of excuses? That really undermines your confidence. It literally washes away everything you just said.

Don’t undermine your assertiveness with excuses. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Please avoid justifying things to make people feel good about themselves or make yourself less authentic because you feel vulnerable. You don’t owe anyone anything.

Don’t leave it unsaid

In many situations, we want to express our hurt, anger, disappointment, or, on the flip side, love, affection, and appreciation, but we end up not saying it for reasons well known to us. Can we all commit today to speak our truth every day for the rest of the year?

If someone hurts you, tell them. If they disrespect you, address it. Commit to yourself that you’ll never leave anything that should be addressed unaddressed. It’s your responsibility to speak up for yourself.

Every time you are tempted to steer away from what you want to say, remember these words from Damaris Agweyu who says in the rearview mirror relections podcast, “you have to stand up for yourself because people come and go. You are the only person who is going to be with you for the rest of your life.”

Find your voice

It’s impossible to stand for yourself when you can’t verbalize your needs. You have to stand up and speak up when it matters the most. You have to teach your friends, family and colleagues how to treat you. Lead by example. Resolve to have difficult conversations even if it’s uncomfortable. Please note, this does not translate to being rude. It’s being confident that your feelings matter and being able to express them is powerful. It validates your worth.

Also read: Avoiding Confrontation: Does It Serve or Harm You?


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