There is a difference between being aggressive and being assertive. It’s all about balance according to the article “How to Stand up for Yourself” on WikiHow. One quick test, which is helpful to uncover a lack of balance, and to know oneself better, is to use self-reflection. This is the first step of how to stand up for yourself. If, after going through an especially uncomfortable experience with another person, the mind races with thoughts of “If I had only said this …” or “If I had only done that …” , chances are high, balance is completely off. Building self-esteem and confidence, assertiveness training and self-defense training, plus the buddy system helps to achieve this balance.
Build Self-Esteem and Confidence
To love yourself forgive all your own faults, even those horrible faults of which you know every intimate detail. People with good mental health often obsess over weakness they perceive they have. Mental health problems go beyond the scope of this article, so we are talking about regular ordinary people which includes everyone who is not mentally ill. Just about everyone thinks something is wrong with themselves. They are too fat, too thin, too small, too tall, too big, too little etc. If they have curly hair, they want straight hair. If they have straight hair, they want to get a perm to make it curly.
Change Negative to Positive Self-Reflection
Self-reflection is our minds talking to ourselves. It is ongoing and mostly negative. And to the surprise of others, even the most popular, most handsome or beautiful, most strong or most successful, ALL feel this negative self-reflection at some time about themselves. Both boys and girls do this. Teenagers especially do this of both genders, and both men and women do this. If you are doing this, STOP. You are stuck in judgment. You have put yourself on trial where you are the judge, jury, and executioner. You are killing the most vibrant part of you by constantly having a conversation in your mind about how unworthy you are. Even if you think it is true. It is not. This is how you stop. It is a trick of the mind, which is corrected with practice. The practice is the intentional reversal of negative thoughts. For example, if you are short, compliment yourself on how well you fit comfortably in tight spaces like cars, airplane seats, or places with low ceilings. Tall people do extremely poorly in those environments. Take a negative, turn it into a positive. It is possible to do this with anything. See the benefits of being who you are.
Engage Family and Friends
A fantastic game is “I Love You Because.” Play this game with your family members and friends. It is about courage. The rules are simple. Each person takes a turn. When it is a person’s turn they say the most negative thing they think about themselves. It is how they truly feel about themselves. Don’t be afraid, just blurt it out by saying “I am ___!” The more awful it is, the harder it makes the game to win by the other players. Each other player gets one point by explaining how they love you because you are what you just said about yourself.
Player’s Turn :“I am fat!”
Opponent’s Response: “I love you because being fat means you will never die of starvation!”
It is a great game and really good at connecting people and sharing inner feelings which are very healing.
Assertiveness training is very helpful to find the balance we seek. Assertion is not aggression. Assertion considers the feelings of others, where aggression pays no attention to the feelings of others. According to “Speak and Stand Up for Yourself” published by the Psychology Foundations of Canada, there are many kinds of assertion, which are:
1) Basic – Stating needs clearly, calmly, in a manner which aligns with your feelings, beliefs, and opinions.
“I’ll give you my answer tomorrow.”
“I’d like some time to think about this.”
“I want arrive at the event on time.”
2) Empathic – Stating needs clearly, calmly, in a manner which includes how they affect others.
“You probably did not notice you stepped on my new shoes. Please help me protect them.”
“I am happy to wait if they are busy. What is the best way for me to enjoy waiting?”
3) Escalating – Stating your needs clearly, calmly, then repeating them as necessary with more emphasis in a manner which insures they are heard.
Regarding the same unwanted aggressive behavior: a)“I am not interested.” b)“Leave me alone.” c) “If you continue to bother me, I will call the police.” Be prepared to make good on your ultimatum by, for example, actually dialing emergency services in front of them.
4) Confrontational – This is useful, when someone does something different than what they said they would do. To be effective, express the communication clearly and calmly but with conviction.
I find it offensive when others borrow my things, but do not return them. Before borrowing anything else, I expect everyone to return what they already have which is mine.
5) “I” versus “You” Language – Avoid the use of the word “you” when making assertive statements, because it is correctly perceived as a direct attack on the other person. Instead use the term “I” when stating your needs clearly and calmly. Thomas Gordon, a famous psychologist developed a four-step procedure for using “I” language.
example: When a person interrupts someone who is speaking …
Step 2 – Describe the effect on others
example continued: … it breaks their train of thought …
Step 3 – Describe how it feels
example continued: … which feels rude and offensive.
Step 4 – Describe what you want instead
I prefer to finish a thought, when others let me speak without interruption.
The complete statement for this example is:
When a person interrupts someone who is speaking, it breaks their train of thought, which feels rude and offensive. I prefer to finish a thought, when others have patience to let me speak without interruption.
Assertiveness training is essentially practicing new ways of communication. Therapists qualified in assertiveness training use role-model play and guided self-evaluation to make improvements in this area.
Training in Self-Defense
Sometimes being able to stand up for oneself includes the ability to physically defend oneself. The best kind of self-defense training is any method which teaches strong self-reliance and the ability to defend oneself which is NOT called upon except in extreme emergency situations. The confidence in knowing one can defend oneself against any type of attack is enough. There is no need to start any attack on others. This means highly effective self-defense includes the ability to use self-restraint.
Here is a real life example. A man named “Robin” was as a child constantly teased about his name. He decided to learn martial arts techniques for self-defense. As he progressed from youth to manhood he became an expert. Becoming talented at martial arts practices, he had a nice career teaching police the techniques. One day he was walking with his mother. A street gang confronted them, with the intent to rob them. Robin calmly stated, “It would not be a good idea to attempt this, as I trained in martial arts.” The gang laughed at him because it was six against one. They did not believe him. Robin stayed calm and tried his best, to first talk them out of the attack. Unfortunately for the gang, they did not heed his warning. When one of the gang members physically grabbed Robin’s mother, it was all over in seconds. Robin did not kill anyone, but all six attackers were almost instantly on the ground unconscious. Robin’s success in this situation came from many years of martial arts practice. His restraint in not attacking first was admirable, and his restraint in not using lethal blows on his opponents was also admirable. He was calm, centered, and balanced throughout the ordeal. This is the mind-set which is the goal of proper self-defense. Learn how to do it, use it sparingly, and refrain from mortal harm.
Beginning students, learning how to stand up for themselves, need to learn how to control their thoughts and the reactive mind. Yoga is one tool useful for this.
- Reducing stress
- Improving posture
- Improving concentration
- Increasing flexibility
- Opening spiritual awareness
- Increasing creativity
- Connecting with all
Before embarking on training in self-defense or simultaneously with the training, yoga is helpful. Because standing up for yourself starts by first being in balance. Yoga is clearly about learning balance in physical terms but also in emotional terms and spiritual terms.
Knowing what is possible in a threatening situation, having options, feeling confident to handle any threat goes a long way to form the basic foundation of being able to stand up for yourself. Don’t be put off by size or age. There are self-defense techniques for anyone of tiny physical stature, which even up the odds when being attacked by larger persons. In fact, being bigger may actually be a disadvantage when one knows how to apply the proper self-defense techniques. One thing which is absolutely certain, according to an article in the Seattle Times, is self-defense training improves confidence.
The choices in martial arts training are wonderful. Each person seeks training they prefer and a martial arts style which feels comfortable. It does not matter which style a beginner chooses, because this is exploration of alternatives. The mere act of taking the first class in any martial arts training is a clear demonstration of the intent of standing up for oneself. Take sample classes to find a teacher and a style for the best match. Here are some brief explanations of some of the alternatives.
- Karate – According to Wado Ki Kai Karate school, karate is a Japanese teaching method with roots in Zen. Its emphasis is on strength rather than size. The movements and practice develop physical stamina with the purpose to live a moral, respectable life with pride and honor.
- Judo – According to Japan.org judo is “the way of softness.” But there is nothing soft about it. The “softness” refers to the lack of using any other things except the body, such as knives, swords, or guns. Judo movements are loose and natural. Practice consists of throwing, wrestling, and attacking vital organs with sharp blows.
- Kung Fu – According to About.com kung fu is about a person’s accomplishment learning a refined skill which takes time to master. There is a physical component which requires much practice and a spiritual component as well. It comes from China.
- Taekwando – According to Martial Arts Resource, taekwondo originated in Korea. One of its special techniques is to use the weight of a larger opponent as a tool against them (e.g. stepping out of the way, and throwing them to the ground).
- Jujitsu – There are both Japanese and Brazilian forms (sometimes called Jui Jitsu). According to the Budokwai this technique specializes in ground-fighting, grappling and throwing.
These are only a few systems which are popular. There are many others. All of them accept beginners. All respect each other. It is highly recommended for anyone of any age to explore a martial arts practice to gain self-confidence.
The Buddy System
Rule number one is you do not have to go at this alone. If you are shy, find someone who is more shy than you and say hello. They will be so relieved when someone speaks to them and your self-confidence will improve. When confronted with serious issues such as bullying, speak up and speak out. Ask others to help you, so you do not feel alone.
Standing up for yourself is a personal right. By learning techniques taught in assertiveness training, it is possible to stand up for yourself in ways which are appropriate and not aggressive. There is no point in learning how to stand up to a bully by becoming a bully yourself.
One of the quotes we like is: “Start no fights, but be confident you are able to protect yourself.”
When standing up to bullies, this is all it usually takes. Bullies ONLY pick on ones perceived as weaker than themselves. Bullies are actually cowards and very conflicted. When we begin to see the truth behind the false bravado of bullies, we regularly see a very frightened person, often who suffers severe abuse at home. They only way they gain any power at all is to attack weaker ones at school. Standing up for yourself does not mean defeating any others. In fact, standing up for yourself is the same as standing up for others because you set an appropriate example of how to conduct yourself in a civilized manner in front of everyone. The key is to remain calm and express yourself clearly.