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How Can I Stand Up for What I Need?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

Are you the type of person who tries their best to be respectful and show compassion and concern towards others when they need it? Maybe you’re too pleasing most of the time. Or maybe you really connect with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” But how often is it that you cater to others, but they often don’t return the favor?

Learning to stand up for yourself is a skill that we learn as we’re growing up. Some people are able to learn this skill earlier and quicker than others. However, others get confused and stuck, somehow thinking that asking for what they need means they’re selfish. They might get caught up in helping others meet their needs, but then they leave their own needs to suffer. Brenner (2019) offers 5 tips for learning how to stand up for what you want. 

  1.     Take the self-worth inventory.

There are many different reasons why someone might not stand up for themself. This can be things such as their temperament, including whether they are more shy or extroverted, or even just the way that they interact with and see the world. 

A person’s upbringing can also be a big factor in terms of how a person behaves, mainly because children often model their parents’ behavior. For example, it might be difficult for someone to feel comfortable expressing their needs if they grew up in a family where they were taught to not make waves, to please, and to simply compromise just to belong.

Brenner (2019) outlines some questions to ask yourself to help you identify what issues might be influencing the way you behave in terms of asking for what you need. Do you give, give, give, and don’t get back? Again, there’s nothing wrong with giving, but how much? Do people take advantage of your good nature and generosity of spirit? Do you feel selfish, guilty, and apologetic if you don’t do what people ask you to do? Do you have trouble saying, “no”? Do you feel unappreciated and undervalued? Do you feel that you’re being “taken”, used, and manipulated? Do you end up doing what you don’t want to do just to be liked? 

  1.     Get in touch with what you need.

Before anything else, you need to make sure that you can identify what your own needs are. Sometimes people spend so much time out of touch with themselves that they truly don’t even know what they want. What are your core values and beliefs? Are you living your life on your own terms? If you have permitted people to manipulate and use you in some ways, it’s time to ask yourself why you continue to allow that and what you get out of behaving that way. The fear might be that you will lose relationships if you act in your own self-interest.

  1.     Let others know what you need.

Once you know what it is that you need, you can begin to express that to others. Be very vocal to others about what it is that is acceptable and unacceptable. People aren’t mind-readers. If you don’t let others know how you feel they might misread a situation and misunderstand what you are thinking or feeling. It’s important to set boundaries so that people can understand what the line is that they cannot cross.

  1.     Understand how you relate to others.

Who are the people you have in your life? Chances are many of the interactions you have are with people you know fairly well, which is why you are so invested in them and what they think of you. However, people-pleasing does nothing but serves others, and not yourself. Do you see patterns in the way you interact with people and how they interact with you? What are those patterns?

  1.     Practice positive strategies.

Learning to stand up for yourself can take a lot of reflection and attention at first since this might feel very foreign and odd to you. You might feel anxious, fearful, awkward, or embarrassed, however, it’s essential to expressing yourself and not backing down. Practice being assertive!

If people get angry because you assert yourself, that’s their problem, not yours. That also tells you a lot about the person. Don’t let them make you feel guilty for speaking up for yourself. 

If you are struggling to stand up for what you need, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Brenner, A. (2019, August 30). 5 Ways to Stand Up for What You Need. 

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