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Why Standing Up for Yourself Takes Practice

On my list of first-world problems, someone hitting the back of my seat on an airplane is in the top 10.

I was recently on a flight and felt a couple of shoves by the person sitting behind me. I brushed off the first couple of shoves as her getting settled into her seat. But 30 minutes into the flight, two more pushes hit the back of me on this smooth, turbulence-free flight. The person sitting next to me even noticed. It was time to do something.

Speaking and standing up for yourself seems like a no-brainer. It’s logical that if someone does something that feels unjust to you, you have a right to speak up. Yet, this doesn’t come naturally to all of us.

If you have experienced a toxic friendship, an unhealthy romantic relationship or boundary-less relationships with loved ones, you may exist on a spectrum of standing up for yourself.

On one end of the spectrum, you may have received messages that you were not allowed, not supported or even retaliated against when speaking up for yourself. Or, you may be on the other side of the spectrum where you are exhausted from always speaking up for yourself and having to constantly restate your boundaries.

Standing up for yourself takes courage and energy and there’s a big difference between reacting and responding. This means standing up for yourself also means regulating your emotions and practicing self-control.

Sometimes it helps to remember why we do in fact stand up for ourselves.

Experiencing conflict, having a disagreement, having a boundary crossed or feeling disrespected rightfully engages us emotionally. Either our invisible luggage is activated or we feel something strongly when we are in a position to stand up for ourselves. It’s important to recognize that feeling.

Think about the last time you were in a position to stand up for yourself. What feelings came up for you? Where did they come from?

For me, I felt disrespected from being bumped several times. Not to mention, it was painful! My physical boundaries were already being challenged on the plane with having limited personal space. It did not help that my boundaries were now being literally pushed.

man person people train

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There was no perfect opportunity to address this, but the second I was bumped again, I turned around to catch the attention of the bumper before I could second guess myself and make another excuse for why my seat was being bumped. When I made eye contact with her, she leaned in and I said quietly, “Could you not push the chair?”

“Say that again?” she replied. I realized my voice was pretty quiet under the rumble of the plane.

“Could you not push the chair?” I repeated a little louder.

“Oh.” She nodded and replied, “Of course.”

She leaned back and I turned around and smiled. That wasn’t so bad. And I was rewarded by this person respecting my request enough to not bump my chair again. Mission accomplished.

man and woman doing high five

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It’s small moments like these that we need to practice to be able to build our capacity to stand up for ourselves. I realized that making excuses for her behavior was not making my plane ride any more comfortable.

I needed to remember my self-worth and challenge the fears I had from past relationships and friendships when I attempted to protect myself.

What message am I telling myself if I do not stand up for myself? That I’m “strong” and can endure pain? That I shouldn’t make a fuss, it’s not a big deal? The answer is absolutely not. Those are excuses.

  • I am worth having a comfortable, pain-free plane ride.
  • I deserve to let others know when my boundaries have been crossed.
  • I am in love with myself and will protect myself from even the smallest of injustices.

Practicing standing up for yourself can look differently for everyone. Letting someone know that they are bumping your seat may not be your moment. But it’s fair to say that there will be a time when you will need to use your voice to protect yourself.

Continue to recognize what behaviors and actions show up in your invisible luggage or cause you to feel strong feelings. Reflect on how you would like to handle those moments when it feels safe for you to do so. Cause it sure feels good to be your own advocate.

How do you practice standing up for yourself?

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