Stop Being A Pushover And Learn To Stand Up For Yourself

Why do you let people push you around? You’ve asked yourself this, but the story behind your “must please everyone” behavior is not something you like to think about. 

You ask yourself, “How can I be nice without being a pushover?”

But every time you’re faced with an opportunity to stand up for yourself, you give in to your need to make someone else happy. And they keep letting you. 

It’s time to learn how to stop being a pushover.

But first you need to understand what that is and how you got here in the first place.  

What Makes a Person a Pushover? 

You can probably think of someone in your life who strikes you as a pushover.

Maybe another word comes to mind: doormat, pansy, stooge — none of them complimentary. 

women arguing how not to be a pushover

Besides, you have plans and aspirations of your own. But that doesn’t stop some of the people in your life from showing up and expecting you to drop everything and do something for them. 

If you’re wondering, “How do I know if I’m being a pushover?” look for the following signs: 

  • Timidity or the fear of displeasing someone (even if you’re displeased with them)
  • Excessive apologizing for any displeasure you’ve caused or anticipate causing
  • A constant need to please because your sense of value and belonging depends on it
  • Lying or insincerity to maintain the illusion you’re fine with being a doormat
  • Neediness or clinginess because your identity depends on another’s approval
  • Inability to say no and to set reasonable boundaries for yourself
  • Withholding or keeping your true needs, thoughts, and desires to yourself
  • Uncertainty and insecurity because you’ve gotten used to changing your own plans

If you’re a pushover in your personal relationships, you’re likely to be a pushover in your work life, too — and vice-versa.

The good news? Once you identify the signs of being a pushover in a relationship, you can do something about it. 

How to Not Be a Pushover: 9 Essential Steps 

The following nine steps can help you stand up for yourself and live on your own terms. Because you have a right to do that — same as anyone else.  Other people’s “urgent” doesn’t have to be your “important.” 

Take one of these steps and make it your focus for the day. 

1. Get clear on what you want (and what you don’t).

Ask yourself what you really want out of life, and be honest about it. Write it down in clear language or say it out loud. Then think about what you need to do to bring those things into your life. What do you need to do more of? Or what do you need to stop doing? 

The more clarity you have about what you want, the easier it is to stand up for your right to go after it. 

2. Learn how to say ‘no’ firmly and more often. 

The ability and willingness to say “no” is essential to standing up for yourself. If you’re in the habit of putting your goals aside to serve someone else’s, they’ll keep asking you to do that. 

stop being a pushover chart

The only way to stop a narcissist from using you is to get comfortable with the word “no.”

Practice choosing yourself and not allowing others to take advantage of you. Saying “no” is difficult the first few times, if you’re not used to it. But it gets easier with practice. 

3. Learn how to express your feelings with honesty — and without apologizing. 

You have a right to want things for yourself. You have feelings of your own and have a right to express them with honesty and without feeling the need to apologize. 

Even if your feelings are inconvenient to someone else, you don’t owe them an apology for that. And they don’t have a right to expect one of you. 

Practice expressing your emotions in clear, unapologetic language. 

4. Understand and accept the differences between your wants and someone else’s.

There will be plenty of times when your wants or your goals will conflict with someone else’s, and it’s important to understand and accept those differences. 

You’re a different person, and you have just as much right to want things as anyone else. 

Granted, some goals are more important than others, but other people’s wants and goals aren’t automatically more important than your own. Look at the long-term benefits of both to help you decide which ones to prioritize. 

5. Set clear boundaries.

Unless you set clear boundaries, you won’t know when to give a firm “no” to someone’s request. Because you won’t immediately recognize what their request will cost you. 

When you respect your own legitimate needs and wants, you’re more aware of how someone else’s request can make it harder for you to honor those. You’re more aware of what’s at stake if someone threatens to cross a boundary you’ve set. 

Your “yes” and “no” now have a clearer context. You’re aware of the costs and better able to see when saying “no” will serve your best interests. 


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6. Be direct about those boundaries, and stand firm. 

Unless you can be open and direct about the boundary line, having one is meaningless. You need to be able to articulate it for others.

When someone asks you to give up the only time you have left to yourself to make their life easier, you need to respect your own boundaries enough to say “no” without apologizing. Practice being direct, calm, and unwavering in your response. 

Someone who’s used to getting their own way may keep pushing for it. Keep your “no” direct, unemotional, and uncompromising. 

7. Accept the challenges that go with keeping those boundaries in place. 

If you have a reputation for being a pushover, changing that reputation will be a challenge. Embrace it with as much energy as you embrace your personal goals and the life you want for yourself. Changing people’s minds about you is never easy. 

But if you care enough about your well-being and the life you want, it’s worth sweating through the challenges involved in setting boundaries and keeping them in place. 

Tell yourself every morning: “Whatever challenges I face today, I have everything I need to meet them head-on. No one but me gets to decide how I use my energy today.” 

8. Set your own goals — based on what you want. 

You need more than personal boundaries to help you say “no” to other people’s urgent requests. You need a reason for those boundaries — something to work for and look forward to. 

woman arms crossed sitting away from people how not to be a pushover

You need goals of your own, or you’ll forever be serving those of other people.

This goes back to the first step: get clear on what you want. But it goes beyond that. Here, you’ll be identifying specific goals and defending your right to work toward their accomplishment. 

9. Take daily action to accomplish those goals. 

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to take action toward them. And by that, I mean doing something every day to get closer to them. Each daily action doesn’t have to be a huge step, but it will take time. 

And that means, you’ll have to defend your right to use that time for your own purposes. 

Saying “no” is easier when you already have an idea of how you want to spend your time and energy. And if you’re excited about the goal you’re working toward, you’re not likely to let someone else steer you in another direction. 

Keys to Not Being a Pushover

Are you ready to stop being a pushover?

Now that you know the steps to take to stop being a pushover, some will probably sound familiar — especially if you’ve already been looking for ways to stop people from taking advantage of you. 

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? You want to help people. But your goals matter, too. And no one has a right to guilt you into sacrificing yourself for their convenience. 

Make time for going through the steps, and keep track of what you’re thinking and feeling as you work on them. Be honest and be patient with yourself. 

You’re well worth the effort. 

It’s time to learn how to stop being a pushover. But first you need to understand what being a pushover is and how you got here in the first place.

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