How many times have we wondered why people seem so eager to walk all over us? To seemingly ignore our own wants and needs in favour of our own when all we do is accommodate them.
Standing up for ourselves is something that can seem entirely foreign. If it doesn't come naturally to us to express our opinions then it can feel like going along with what others want is the easiest course of action - until we realise that this leaves us full of anger and resentment that everyone else's needs are being fulfilled and it seems that no one remembers ours.
Often we can feel afraid to stand up for ourselves, especially if past experiences have taught us that this can only be done in a confrontational manner that causes more conflict. However, in a healthy relationship dynamic, expressing your feelings and opinions is just one way of showing our partner that we care about them and what makes them happy - in fact, if you are always the one to give in then you may well be depriving your partner of the opportunity to make you happy. Guilt and fear should certainly never come into it when talking to your partner about your needs.
Learning to stand up for yourself
If it doesn't come naturally, then speaking up and voicing your desires can be an alien experience. But why do we struggle to stand up for ourselves? After all, it seems logical that speaking up for the things you want could only be a good thing. While very few people actively enjoy confrontation, making a habit of total avoidance can chip away at your self respect, and reduce your belief in your ability to hold your own when it comes to unavoidable confrontations. This then circles round to you reinforcing that by continuing to avoid confrontation and so on.
It may well be that at some point in your past, you have developed a belief that your needs and wants come second to everyone around you - it might even be that you don't believe you should have any needs and wants at all. Often this can be as a result of having parents who over relied on you, making you feel bad for expressing your true feelings. For example if you had to take on a caring role for a parent or family member, you may well have become used to suppressing your own desires in order to cater to their needs. Alternatively you may have grown up in a strict household where voicing your opinions and desires was met with being ignored or punished - if you learn that standing up for yourself only results in punishment then naturally you will stop doing so.
A counsellor can help you work through why you struggle to voice your feelings, and identify what the root cause might be. Then, together you can learn to move towards a place where you feel more comfortable about fighting your own corner.
Being able to express your feelings is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Knowing that you can tell your partner what you want and how you are feeling in any situation is vital in feeling secure. If you don't have this, then it can lead to feelings of resentment or further reduce your self esteem. Feeling like you have to bend the truth or even lie to your partner is a sign that something is seriously wrong in your relationship. It might feel like giving in to your partner is the easiest option, or something you do because you love them and want to make them happy - but it is important to realise that both partners' needs matter and by constantly allowing your partner to dominate you slowly chip away at the belief that your own needs are as important.
Being equal partners in a relationship is important, and this can't happen when one person is suppressing their own needs for the sake of the other persons. It may well be that your needs or wants are conflicting, but in a healthy relationship this can be worked on and figured out without resorting to guilting the other party into giving in, or aggressive behaviour or language.
Working on your self esteem can be immensely valuable - it allows you to understand that you need not feel guilty or selfish for having your own needs, wants and desires. Then you can take this forward into your relationship, and give your partner the joy of fulfilling your needs as well.
If you need help with learning to stand up for yourself, counselling can be a valuable tool. Together we can determine your boundaries, and help you work on how to voice your feelings in a way that feels authentic to you. For more information, get in touch with me on 07305 920 437.