It’s valuable advice to “pick your battles.” We’ve all probably been told this pearl of wisdom more than a few times. It’s often said to remind us that there are some things not worth getting into an argument over, or stressing about. That’s a fair assessment – not every battle is worth it. But there are battles that are worth fighting, because sooner or later, if you don’t learn to stand up for yourself, you become a pushover. And really, life is too damn short for some things – being a pushover is one of those things. So here are seven times you need to stand up for yourself:
1. When your parents disagree with your choices. It is probably true for most people, that your parents just want what is best for you. It is also true that parents often give great advice (and are probably right a lot of the time). Depending on your cultural and familial background, heeding your parents’ advice is not only desirable, but expected. Still, know that sometimes your parents can’t see what you can, they haven’t been through what you’re going through, and they might not grasp your choices and your reasons. And as your parents respect you not only as their child, but also as an adult in your own right, you will often find that they appreciate you having the courage to make your decisions, and be responsible for the consequences, even if they advised you differently.
2. When your romantic relationships don’t give you the love you need. One sure-fire way to never get what you want in a romantic relationship, is to never ask for it. There is no denying that romantic relationships are about compromise and meeting halfway. But when you start to feel like you’re compromising too much, and especially too many of the fundamentals, you’re allowing the desire to be in a relationship supersede the desire to be with the right person. And when that happens, you become the person who is accepting less than the love they deserve.
3. When your friends feel more like enemies. “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.” Although an entire generation will attribute this to J.K. Rowling and specifically Albus Dumbledore, the phrase has existed in some shape or form prior to Harry Potter. Under the guise of not wanting to rock the boat, it is very easy in our friendships, to let seemingly more dominant people walk all over us. But getting caught up in a friendship that hurts you more than it helps you is no way to live. Sometimes all you might need is a conversation explaining where you’re coming from. Other times, you might need the courage to say goodbye to people who treat you like crap under the guise of “friend.”
4. When you feel unfairly treated at work. Unless you are self-employed, chances are you’re going to have to walk a fine line in how you stand up for yourself here. Do it without tact, and you might find yourself unemployed. (Which by the way, is not always the worst thing in the world if you have options.) But whether it’s to co-workers or to your boss, sometimes you have to be your own advocate in getting treated fairly. This includes everything from the rapport and environment of your workplace, to the compensation and benefits you negotiate. It’s true that you won’t always get what you ask for, but it is also true that if you don’t learn how to professionally stand up for yourself, you’re always going to be undervalued. And that will affect everything from your wallet, to your state of mind.
5. When you interact with unnecessarily cruel strangers. Most people are benevolently ignorant and/or decent people: they will not go out of their way to hurt you. But every once in a while, you’ll find yourself in a situation with a vicious stranger who treats you so unkindly, it affects your sense of self. You probably don’t want to put yourself in any kind of (stranger) danger, but you have a right to express your anger and not let people walk all over you. Strangers might not owe you kindness, but they sure as hell have a moral obligation to treat you with fundamental human decency and respect.
6. When you just need some space from it all. One of the most important things you will ever learn is how to say “no.” “No” sounds easy in theory but a lot of us don’t really use it as often as we should, and at the times we should. And do you know what happens when we don’t? We get frustrated with ourselves and others, and often can’t accomplish all the things we set out to accomplish in the first place. Remember that if you are not also taking care of yourself, eventually you won’t be able to take care of anything and anyone else.
7. Whenever you know in your heart that NOT standing up for yourself, is the cowardly thing to do. It all goes back to that quote, “pick your battles.” Sometimes, the courageous thing to do is “walk away” or “let it go.” But sometimes that is nothing more than cowardice. So stop and pause every time you’re about to face one of these battles and ask, “What is the courageous thing to do here?” Choose that thing; always choose courage.