How to stop being a pushover and start being more assertive

How to stop being a pushover and start being more assertive

Stop letting people push you around. Start sticking up for yourself and the life you want.

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by: E.B. Johnson

It?s not always easy to stand up for what we want or what we believe in. Pressure is higher than ever to be liked and accepted by the people around us, but we rarely ask ourselves at what cost. Fitting in is only as worthwhile as the support, transformation and growth it offers you. If you aren?t standing up for what you really want, you aren?t living at all. You?re spectating.

We?ve all been a pushover at some point in our lives, but when that behavior becomes a habit it becomes a problem. Allowing people to walk all over you or take advantage of your strengths and weaknesses, takes away certain opportunities and makes it impossible to create a life we?re proud of. If you?re truly looking to be happy again, it might start with learning how to be more assertive and learning how to take a stand for the things you want out of this life.

What a pushover looks like.

The pushover comes from all walks of life; they come in all sizes and shapes. Being a pushover can be a part-time fling, or a full-time affair. There are a number of reasons that we push ourselves aside and allow people to take advantage of us or walk all over our wishes. There?s no one-size-fits-all pushover definition. We?ve all been too soft at one point or another, and it?s important to overcome that and maintain safe boundaries for ourselves.

The key to overcoming pushover syndrome is becoming more efficiently assertive. Assertive can be seen as a bit of a bad word, but it?s an important skill to master in order to create internal and external spaces that allow us to thrive. Being assertive isn?t bad or selfish. It?s necessary and critical to safe-guarding our boundaries.

Assertive behavior occurs when we put our shy or easygoing tendencies to the side in order to communicate ? often bluntly ? what it is that we need or want. It isn?t being mean, or rude. It?s being clear, concise and frank. You can cultivate this type of steel backbone in your life, but it takes a bit of understanding both yourself and the people around you.

Why do we let people push us around?

Whether we?re serial offenders, or just occasional traipse-ers, there are a number of reasons we resort to pushover behavior. From codependency to self-esteem conflicts, getting to the root of our issues is what allows us to stop others from taking advantage of our compassion and personal charity.


Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship dynamic and behavior that is learned, being passed down from one generation to the next. It impacts both our emotions and behaviors, affecting our ability to have healthy or satisfying relationships with deep and lasting connections. Those suffer the curse of codependency form relationships that are one-sided, destructive and downright toxic. When they love, their partnerships are emotionally destructive and often abusive, and it seems as though they go out of their way to find spouses and lovers that are unsuitable.

Self-esteem issues

Often, we allow people to take advantage of us because we are struggling with self-esteem issues. Because of this, they rise into their adulthood carrying the burden of low self-esteem and a feeling of worthlessness that often pervades into other facets of their personalities. The more abuse they suffer over a lifetime, they more they believe they deserve to be walked over. It?s a never-ending cycle of self-defeat and hopelessness that takes time (and a lot of therapy) to overcome.

Feeling of helplessness

Feeling helpless can often cause us to engage in avoidance tactics, or become a passive spectator in our own lives ? leaving free reign for the people around us to use as a doormat and take advantage of us. When we feel helpless, we give up, and with that goes our values, morals and boundaries that keep us happy and safe. Helplessness is a pervasive feeling, and one that can undermine our overall happiness and wellbeing.

Signs you?re letting people walk over you.

There are a number of signs you?re allowing your joy to be pushed aside by the will, wishes, desires and more. Being a pushover is ultimately a distraction, and one that can take away from our life experience. Wake up, and learn how to spot the symptoms of a life lived soft on the sides.


Pushovers are timid people, who are often passive with both their speech and their reactions. Timidity trumps motivation every time, and makes it hard to move forward toward our dreams with any real sort of resolve. Happiness takes confidence, and that?s something that takes standing up for what we want and what we believe in.


Soften or change your position frequently ? despite your best misgivings? It might be a sign that you let people push you around, or step over your emotions and the things you want. This is a tactic used in order to gain approval, but it ultimately undermines the way you?re seen by those around you. A well-developed sense of firmness is key in communicating what you want and what you need. It?s not always the other person?s ball game.


Being a people-pleaser makes you a liar by default. Always going with what other people want inherently means that ? at some point ? you?re going to have to steamroll what you really believe in order to go along with what they believe. You?ll never really know yourself (and no one will ever really get to know you) if you never communicate what you really feel.


When we feel insecure, we often find ourselves over-complimenting people. This insincerity compounds over time, and can cause us to be seen differently by the people around us. Insincerity can be viewed as a manipulative tactic, and one that indicates a false since of security.


True success in this life only comes when we learn how to be fulfilled from within. When we feel insecure, or as though we are lacking something we should have, it can cause us to crumble or turn to others for the fulfillment of those things. No one else can give us the inner worth we are seeking. Only we can do that ourselves.

Overdoing it

One of those who never says no? Find yourself overcommitting and overdoing it on a regular basis? That?s because you?re putting the needs of others over your own, making their lives more important than the one you are living right here and now. Over-functioning isn?t noble. It?s desperate, and it?s abusive and corrosive to who we are and what we want to do.


Failing to express your true thoughts comes from a feeling of being inadequate or needing to take a backseat. If you find yourself withholding your true thoughts, feelings and desires on a regular basis ? it might be a sign you?re allowing yourself to be pushed around by those in your personal and professional spheres.


When we base our worlds on the whims and will of those in our lives, it can create a certain air of uncertainty. This uncertainty undermines our confidence and makes us timid and passive in our own destinies. Learning how to be bold is the best way to counter this uncertainty, and that takes standing up for what?s important to you.


Feeling a need to constantly apologize is often a sign that you?re letting others take advantage of your kindness. Low self-esteem and external pressure come together to create a heady brew that can in turn cause us to internalize and take on the burdens of every single situation.

How to stop being a pushover and start sticking up for yourself.

Being assertive takes learning more about yourself and what you want. But it also means learning how to set boundaries and understand your emotions in deeper and more meaningful ways. If you want to be a pushover and start sticking up for yourself, it can be done, but it?s going to take some grit and it?s going to take some uncomfortable conversation.

1. Get real about what want to do (and what you don?t)

The first step in getting assertive takes getting real about what you want to do (and what you don?t). You have to be honest about who you are and what you want from this life, and you have to start building up the awareness you need to tap into your inner confidence. This takes spending time with yourself, and digging deep into the meat of who you are, and doing so on a regular basis.

A mindful journalling practice is a great place to start when it comes to getting in touch with our inner desires and emotions. Find a quiet space where you?ll be uninterrupted, and spend a few minutes each day asking yourself the important questions like, ?What do you want to have accomplished by the end of it all?? and ?What really matters to you?? Record your answers honestly, as they come, and don?t shy away from the truth they show you.

Only when we intimately get to know ourselves, and start recognizing the things that bring us happiness and the things that don?t, can we learn how to start forming the boundaries that will one day constitute the outer measures of our joy. Get real about what you actually want and what you don?t want in your environment. Be honest about your emotions, and be honest about the things you need in order to feel as though you are thriving.

2. Learn how to express your feelings honestly

Expressing our feelings honestly is something that doesn?t always come naturally, especially if we?ve grown up in overly critical or traumatic environments. It?s critical, however, in learning how to address conflict and learning how to stand up for the things we want. Without being in touch with how we?re feeling, it?s impossible to get in touch with our true desires.

Learning how to express your feelings honestly starts with being able to express those emotions earnestly with yourself. Use your mindful journaling practice to take a deep dive and get in touch with who you are and how you?re feeling. Take your emotional temperature, and consider the things that make you feel good and the things that make you feel bad. Once you can get to the root of your real feelings, it becomes easier to share them with others.

If there?s something that you?re struggling with, or something that you don?t agree with ? approach the other person respectfully, and ask to discuss it with them. Open up to them in a safe space (free of interruption) and share your feelings as they really are, without shying away from the nitty-gritty. While this experience can feel uncomfortable at first, over time, it becomes easier and more worthwhile. Being assertive means first spending the time you need to get in touch with your feelings, so you can share them efficiently with others.

3. Say no more often and more earnestly

If we truly want to create a life that is entirely our own, we have to get comfortable with the word ?no? and we have to start incorporating it into our day-to-day life. No isn?t a negative word. It?s a protective word, and it?s one that can make us both safe and strong in who we are and what we want from this one life we have.

Saying no to things you don?t have time for or things you don?t want to do is an issue for a lot of people. Still, it?s one of the most important life skills we can master. Turning down things you don?t feel equipped to cope with or things you just don?t have time for isn?t rude or stubborn ? it?s self-care and the sign of a strong person.

If you learn to say no, you?ll find your perceptions changing entirely and before long you?ll see ?no? as a positive, not a negative. Turning down the things that don?t suit us, or the opportunities that detract from, more than add to, our lives makes us stronger and makes our living more beautiful for the experience. A world of ?yes? equals a world of exhaustion. Say ?no? when it suits, and get the time and space you need when you need it.

4. Understand and accept differences

We?re all different, but because we spend 90% of our time inside our own heads, it can be hard to remember that. We all want different things from this life, and we all want different things for ourselves and our friends and our family. Part of learning how to stick up for what you want is to realize that it doesn?t have to be the same as what everyone else wants. You have to do what?s right for you and you alone.

Understand and accept that everything is different for each and every one of us. Accept that no experience ? even a shared one ? is seen the same way through the eyes of two people, and accept that it?s possible for two people (even two people who love one another very, very much) to want different things out of themselves and the people around them.

When we learn how to accept differences, we make it easier to accept ourselves and we make it easier to accept others. We also allow ourselves to feel more comfortable with our own desires, especially when they differ from what is perceived to be the ?norm? or the path of least resistance. Acceptance is a key and assertiveness is the doorway by which we reach our highest powers, but it?s a path that takes time and understanding to master.

5. Be direct

If your roommate makes a mess and leaves it behind, what?s the best way to address it? Should you tell your roommate how you feel or just stay quiet and simmer? Leaving things could avoid conflict, but it could also cause a breakdown in the relationship as well. What?s the best choice? It?s not an easy one.

Odds are, you know the right thing to do. You should speak to your roommate and address the situation before it spins out of control and causes more frustrations. Don?t be demanding, but speak deliberately and with intention. Let those around you know what you need and don?t be afraid to voice that in the appropriate time and space.

Direct communication goes hand-in-hand with assertiveness, and it?s the only way to efficiently resolve conflict. Through direct communication, we can get to the root of how we?re feeling, while getting to the root of how the other party is feeling as well. When we?re direct, we allow ourselves to connect on real and meaningful levels and therefore better open up and share what it is we want and why.

6. Set boundaries (and stick to them)

Toxic people are all around us, just waiting to take advantage, so it?s imperative that you learn how to manage these relationships in a way that protects our hearts and our emotions. This starts by setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries even when things get hard or uncomfortable.

Let those around you know what behaviors you will and will not tolerate moving forward. Have an honest and open conversation and be frank about what you need and how your parent?s actions make you feel. Setting boundaries is important in any relationship, but they?re especially important when we?re stuck in a one-sided relationship with caregivers we can?t escape.

Set boundaries in the moment and make it clear that you?ll no longer tolerate any behavior that is not in line with who you are and what you need. You can say things like ?I appreciate you inviting me to Christmas, but I need you to send me these invitations sooner. Sorry. I?ve made other plans.? Stand firm in what you need and stand firm in the knowledge that you have a right to need what you need, and want what you want. We all have different journeys in this life, but we all have our limits too.

7. Accept the journey

The final piece of the assertiveness puzzle is learning how to accept our experiences (and ourselves) ? radically and unabashedly. Once we?ve learned how to see our emotions for what they are, we can start to drop the judgements and reservations and with it our need to run away from the way we feel. Part of being able to stand up for who and what we want is accepting them for exactly what they are and who they?ve shaped us to be.

When faced with an uncomfortable emotion, jump back and give it the space you need to name it. Sit for a while with the feeling, and pay attention to the physical and mental sensations it gives you. Now, close your eyes and imagine literally picking that feeling up and placing it 5 feet away from you. Give it a form. What does it look like? Is it as scary as you thought it was, or is it sometthing else? Is it bigger or smaller than what you expected? You might be surprised.

After you?ve had some time to observe the strange emotional creature from a distant place, open up your arms to it and let it return back to its home. Its a part of you afterall, no matter how strange an uncomfortable it might be. Once your feeling is back where it belongs, take some time to reflect on what you?re feeling now. Is is easier to see that emotion as a tangible thing and take a stand for it? Chances are, it will be. Repeat this exercise for 30 days, and record how your feelings change over time.

Putting it all together?

Learning how to be more assertive is a challenge, but it?s critical unless we want to remain pushovers for our entire lives. Pushovers allow people to take advantage of them, and do so by failing to set boundaries thanks to helplessness, trauma or low self-esteem. When we don?t respect ourselves, we don?t expect others to respect us either and it can lead to a trap of negative self-delusion and even loss of self-knowledge. We have to learn how to be assertive and stand up for the things we want in this life if we truly want to be happy and fulfilled.

Get real about who you are and what you want from this life. Spend a little time with yourself each day taking an emotional inventory and checking into how you?re feeling. Once you?ve gotten comfortable with your feelings, start expressing them openly with those you trust ? especially when it counts. Understand and accept that different people want different things sometimes, be direct when standing up for yourself or what you believe in. Life is all about creating the things we want to have in this world. Set the boundaries you need to thrive and stick to them. After all, you?re the only one on this beautiful journey, so accept the ride and stand tall and strong for the things you want from it. There?s only one person in control of your future and it?s you. Take advantage of your own destiny before someone else does it for you.

Need saving? Save yourself.

When life is spinning out of control, the only person who can save you is you.


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