Do you roll over, or do you plant your feet and stand up for yourself?
This is one of those questions that's prickly like a bouquet of thistle and hedgehog, and is the stuff of many a book and movie.
But what does it actually mean?
Does it mean taking a stand and screw the next guy? Do you stand up for yourself at any cost? Or does standing up for yourself mean you're right and everyone else is wrong?
You can see how easy it is to get this confused with stubbornness, ideology and hubris, so to cut through any confusion, here are 5 specific situations when you need to stand up for yourself.
1. When someone’s putting you down
Banter’s one thing, but when someone routinely belittles you or puts you down, it’s NEVER OKAY.
Check out the comment thread here to see how people are suffering with this, and then tell me that the best way to deal with this kind of behaviour is to roll over and take it.
If you don’t stand up for yourself when the cost of doing otherwise is to have pieces of yourself chipped away until you’re a shell, then when are you going to?
But here’s a little twist.
Standing up for yourself doesn’t always mean you need to confront the person putting you down and tell them “No more”. It might need you to stand up and get out of the stories you tell yourself about needing to keep them happy, not wanting to upset them or even believing that you’re not good enough.
Standing up for yourself when you’re being put down is often more about changing your own thoughts, and reclaiming your power and right to be whole and enough, rather than changing someone else’s behaviour.
2. When you can lead
Find yourself whining and whinging because people in charge don’t have a clue?
At work, in government, in your community and even at home, it’s the simplest thing in the world to look at the shots called by others and tear it all apart.
More difficult, is getting off your arse and leading.
LEADING IS REALLY JUST ABOUT BELIEVING IN SOMETHING ENOUGH TO ALIGN YOUR BEHAVIOUR BEHIND IT
It’s believing enough in something that you stand up and put your money where your mouth is.
That’s all it is.
It takes real, honest guts, because there’s no way of knowing what’s going to happen. All you have to go on is the fact that it matters to you.
And of course, taking the lead in your own life is how cool shit happens.
3. When you’ll regret it if you don’t
Regrets? Sure, I have a few.
Like my wild overspending in my 20’s and 30’s. Like not realising I was bi earlier. Like not starting up a business sooner.
Regrets are things you look back on with the gift of hindsight, and think "If only I'd...", and that old saying "It's better to regret the things you've done than the things you haven't", is largely true.
But there are some decisions you make that you need to live with. Some decisions need you to make a choice between stepping up or standing down.
And if you suspect that doing nothing or standing down will be a decision you might regret, or if you detect the faint whiff of wanting to play it safe because shit’s getting real, then now might be a great time for a different kind of decision.
SOMETIMES, LIFE COALESCES INTO A MOMENT THAT INVITES YOU TO STEP UP
Standing up for yourself is often about making the kind of decision that you always hoped you'd make. The kind of decision you that might scare you, but that you can get behind because it damn well matters.
4. When there’s something real at stake
Dustin Hoffman looking for that damn monkey in Outbreak. Ron and Hermione standing next to Harry Potter when the shit hit the magical fan. Sam L Jackson dealing with those motherflippin’ snakes on the motherflippin' plane.
When things are on the line, some people stand up, and some don't.
This isn’t just about wild fiction or action movie tropes, it’s about real people getting involved because they give a shit.
An injustice in your community that fires you up. A change at work that threatens everyone’s great work. A crisis that threatens to engulf a relationship you care deeply about. A twist you couldn’t predict that’s just screwed up your new passion project. A curveball that knocks your health for six.
I could go on, but life is always ready to test you. To see how you react to new challenges. To see what your mettle’s really made of.
The choice to stand up for yourself is a simple one — either do or you don’t
And while what’s on the other side of that choice is rarely simple or easy, I think it’s the only real option you have, otherwise you’re just letting life flatten you like a muffin under an elephant. Who has a grand piano balanced on his head. With another elephant laying on top of the piano in a slinky red dress.
So, yeah. Pretty flat.
If you don’t stand up for yourself when there’s something real at stake, just when are you going to?
5. When your values could get crushed
Values. They’re the things that live ten thousand feet down inside you that tell you what’s most important in yourself, others or out there in the world.
They’re your bedrock. Your foundation. Your compass. Your guide. Your intuition.
They tell you which way to go, and they tell you what you can't compromise on, and sometimes life will present you with a situation where your values might be crushed like a late-harvest Gewürztraminer.
When the company you work for has a discriminatory hiring policy or immoral sales tactics. When a friend asks you to take sides unfairly or to help them in a project that takes advantage of others. When you’re faced with a choice to tear something down rather than build it up, or a choice to keep yourself safe rather than try an exciting new creative outlet.
These values-based choices are everywhere, and standing up for yourself is really just knowing that you have the right and the ability to honour, express and demonstrate what matters most to you.
Standing up for yourself...
A life where you stand up for yourself is a confident life. It means your voice counts. It means what matters to you, matters. And it means that you always get to choose.
Leaning into that stuff is what confidence is all about.