How to Stand Up for Yourself
By Doreen Virtue
The following is an excerpt from Doreen’s new book, Assertiveness for Earth Angels.
When someone says or does something that stirs a reaction in you, it’s very important to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings to yourself. Perhaps you notice that your stomach muscles tighten; you perspire; or you become flush with anger, rage, or even embarrassment at the situation.
If at all possible, walk away from the situation, even if you have to excuse yourself to go to the restroom. This moment away helps calm down your physiological reactions. Otherwise, you may act impulsively and say things that you later regret.
While you’re alone, have an honest conversation with yourself. Begin by noticing how you feel physically. Is your heart racing, is your breathing shallow, or are your thoughts explosive? Any of these reactions can show that the other person has triggered anxiety within you.
This anxiety response is also called fight or flight. It’s an instinctual response to danger. When there’s danger, your instincts spur you into either fighting or running away (that is, flight).
While you’re by yourself and meditating, it’s a good idea to pray for guidance, support, and peace. You want to be honest with yourself and with others, but you don’t want to blow situations out of proportion. Nor do you want to engender hard feelings.
Whenever we avoid conflict by keeping our feelings to ourselves, we do ourselves and others a disservice. This is a form of dishonesty and manipulation. We’re trying to control the other person’s reactions by controlling what we tell them.
So when someone asks you if you’re upset and you say that you aren’t when you really are, you’re being controlling. You’re trying to keep them from being angry with you or from starting an argument with you. Or, you’re holding your feelings inside to prevent the other person from seeing that you are hurt.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to go to the other extreme and bulldoze the other person with the blunt truth.
There’s an in-between way to handle conflict that’s just right and very healthy and honest. After you’ve collected your thoughts and feelings, go to the person and say this magical phrase: “I’d like to clear some things with you.”
This nonthreatening phrase keeps communication open because the other person doesn’t feel accused. Start by taking a deep breath and silently praying for strength and a clear mind. Even though your heart may be racing and you might even be perspiring, know that anytime you do something for the first time, you’ll feel intimidated or afraid. Each time you practice a new behavior, it becomes more natural and easier.
Look the other person in the eye and say to him or her from your heart and without apology: “I really care about our relationship, so I need to share my feelings in order for us to clear them.”
Now, the other person may feel threatened by this and might immediately become defensive or even argumentative. Don’t let this throw you, unless the other person becomes verbally or physically abusive. (Don’t try to negotiate with an abusive person, especially if he or she is intoxicated. If abuse occurs, leave immediately and seek appropriate support or protection.)
In most situations, others will be open to hearing you. During your discussion, it’s vital that you own your feelings. This means: don’t use blaming or shaming words. Even if you do blame them, saying that you do will shut down all further communication.
Use phrases such as I feel, I felt, and to me. This way, you’re not poking and prodding at the other person and inadvertently provoking their defensiveness.
Do your best to keep your cool while talking about and owning your feelings. If you start to cry, let yourself be real. The same with anger: allow yourself to be authentic, but don’t act on this emotion, such as by yelling or calling names. Also, please don’t put yourself down in any way.
Don’t diminish, disparage, or apologize for your feelings…ever! Remember: You have a right to your feelings, even if other people don’t understand or agree with them! Your feelings are your signals of deep truths inside of you. They’re the language of your soul, and they need you to listen to them.
After you’ve talked about your feelings, allow the other person to explain his or her own. There are always two sides to every story. However, notice your gut feelings while you’re listening. If you get an uneasy feeling that the other person is covering his or her tracks or being dishonest with you, then note that—because he or she probably is.
As your assertiveness level grows stronger, you’ll have the courage to say to a person who’s lying to you, “I don’t believe what you’re saying,” or something equivalent. But for now, just notice that you get the feeling that he or she is being dishonest, manipulative, or defensive.
This isn’t the kind of person you want to spend much time with. Those are toxic behavior patterns that permeate all of that individual’s relationships.
If the other person starts blaming you or is defensive, the conversation will go in an unhealthful direction. Blaming is a key symptom of the ego’s fears about being exposed. As long as one or both of you are involved in blaming, nothing will get resolved.
Toxic relationships will pull you down every time. You don’t need to have a toxic relationship when there are so many nontoxic potential friends and partners available. Never believe you have to settle for an unhealthy relationship. You don’t.
From Reid Tracy of Hay House:
It took Doreen 10 years to write this book because it was so close to her heart. She calls it a step-by-step manual for highly sensitive people to help them deal with the harsh relationships they encounter. One thing I have noticed about our Hay House authors is that they teach what they most need to learn themselves.
Earth Angels are people like you and me who feel we are called to fulfill a purpose in this life, but sometimes we get shot down by other people. We believe in everything being fair, but sometimes we get scared to stand up for ourselves. We want everyone to be happy, but sometimes we get taken advantage of for being too nice.
3 great tips from Earth Angel:
- If you see a red flag, don’t ignore it.
- If you feel uncomfortable about something, trust your emotions.
- If you feel strongly about something, stand your ground.