Not long ago, I stood by and watched as a friend was taken advantage of.
She had hired a contractor to do some work for her, but when some of the work was done, my friend wasn’t happy with it and very nicely asked the contractor to make some changes, only to be told that they don’t work “on demand,” and that this relationship would not work. The contractor then proceeded to keep the deposit after essentially firing my friend.
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I was outraged. My friend, on the other hand, was just depressed. “I guess I’ll have to hire someone else,” she said sadly, “and just start all over.”
“Wait a minute,” I balked, “aren’t you going to at least get your deposit back? They are basically stealing from you! You hired them to do a job and they didn’t do it. They are providing a service! It is not an unreasonable expectation that you will actually LIKE the work that gets done!”
But she just wanted to move on. And as much as I wanted to fight that battle for her, I couldn’t. It wasn’t mine to fight.
How to Stand Up for Yourself When It Counts
These fight or flight opportunities come up all the time in life, sometimes in big ways, but more often than not in those little moments, often when we are not even expecting them. When they do, it is important to be able to stand up for yourself and for what is right.
Sometimes that’s hard.
But, like anything else in life, the more we practice, the easier it gets. And so, If you’ve been struggling to stand up for yourself, here are a few simple ways you can start exercising a little more boldness in your life:
PRACTICE POWER POSES
Now stay with me for a minute, because I know this one sounds a little crazy, but there is some evidence that standing in what author Amy Cuddy calls a “power pose” actually changes our body chemistry, raising our testosterone and lowering our cortisol, a physiological change that will make us feel more powerful, more assertive, and more confident.
Cuddy explains the whole process in depth in her book, Presence, or you can get the Cliff Note version of the idea by watching her wildly popular TED talk on the subject HERE.
In any case, this is something that I have actively practiced during times of stress or when I am feeling nervous or insecure, and I can honestly say that it does help! I’ve even started coaching my kids to do it too. Plus, it doesn’t hurt, cost anything, or take much time—what have you really got to lose?
WRITE IT DOWN
Taking the time to write out your feelings about something that is bothering you can help in multiple ways. First, it forces you to articulate your thoughts into a coherent message, which can be helpful later if you decide to share those thoughts.
Second, it can prevent your feelings from festering inside—sometimes you just need to get it OUT, even if you aren’t ever planning on sharing those thoughts with another human being.
Third, it allows you to look at the situation more objectively and to decide whether further action is worth pursuing. It could be that once you get it out on paper, you feel better and nothing more needs to happen. On the other hand, once you’ve seen the issue in black and white, you might realize that something more must be done.
Either way, you’ll be prepared.
SPEAK UP DAILY TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF IN SMALL WAYS
Have you ever noticed how often we keep our mouths shut when other people are rude, simply because we are trying to be polite? Someone sneaks in front of us in line at the DMV, and we just let it go. The guy in the row behind us at the theater won’t stop talking, and we say nothing. We don’t want to be confrontational. We don’t want to cause a scene.
But the truth is those little confrontations with strangers are great practice for the bigger conflicts that actually matter. They are a low-risk way to start speaking up for yourself, because chances are the person we speak up to is someone we will never see again. Use those moments as a way to build your courage, and make it your policy to always speak up.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “you gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Along those same lines, Winston Churchill said, “you have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in your life.”
In other words? It is how we deal with adversity that ultimately determines our character.
My challenge for you, if you are not already, is to start looking for ways to stand up for yourself a little more. Make a conscious effort to start building up the courage and the confidence to fight back when necessary.
Start using power poses. Take the time to write down the things that are bothering you. And practice speaking up daily. Take some time to think about how you will handle the next batch of adversity that comes your way—before it actually does.
(And make no mistake–it will come, in some form or another.)
And you’ll have to make the choice, the next time you’re hit with a fight or flight moment, whether you will just fade away and run the other direction, or whether you will put up your dukes and say ‘BRING IT!’?
I hope it’s the latter.