Everyone needs to learn to respect themselves and stop letting others take advantage of us. Just the other day I noticed that I was about to let someone take advantage of me. It may not have been on purpose, but the gal at the checkout overcharged me for an item. I felt this strong sense of “unfairness” and asked her nicely to change the price. She apologized and fixed the mistake. This may sound like a simple example, but the truth is, each time you stand up for what’s fair, you respect yourself. When you stop allowing others to take advantage of you and respect yourself, your self-esteem improves.
When others take advantage of you, it can do one of three things: one, tick you off, leading to aggressive outbursts or internal anger at yourself (and them); two, feelings of hopeless and reinforcing the false belief that you don’t deserve respect; or three, guide you to act assertively and stand up for yourself. Clearly, the third will help you develop strong self-esteem and more self-respect, but it can feel uncomfortable at first.
Stop Letting Others Take Advantage of You in 4 Steps
It’s likely that you are a helpful person by nature, and sometimes you allow people to take advantage of you, because you’re nice and you want to please others. Stop this pattern; it’s killing your self-respect. You can be kind and nice and have boundaries. Learn to value your own schedule and plans as much as you value others.
Respect yourself step 1: Think of a time that you were treated unfairly. What did that feel like? Perhaps it was your colleague dumping a project on you at the last minute, the waiter bringing you the wrong food, or your mother calling and keeping you on the phone for an hour. Think about how this situation made you feel physically and emotionally. Did you want to fix it but just didn’t know what to say or were you afraid to say something in order to get what you deserved? Think about the feelings and thoughts that come up when you recognize someone is taking advantage of your time or kindness. This feeling is important, it will push you to use the following skills.
Respect yourself step 2: Figure out what you value. Is it your free time, workouts, Netflix binges on the weekend? As a therapist, I have people emailing me at all hours of the day and calls that “need to be answered” at all hours of the night but I can’t be available 24/7. That’s not fair to me and it isn’t fair to my clients. If I’m annoyed, angry, or frustrated, how am I going to be serving them? Instead, I decided to set hours, and let my clients know these were. This helped me spend my time with family and friends
Respect yourself step 3: Start small. Pay attention to the details. Did your cab driver keep the meter running or your friend keep you waiting for an hour? Notice the small things that take advantage of your time, kindness, or your lack of attention. If I wouldn’t have been paying attention, the checkout girl would have unknowingly taken advantage of me, and I would have been upset with myself and her if I noticed it later on. Be aware of your interactions and if people begin to make you feel like you are being taken advantage of, then you can act.
Respect yourself step 4: Act. Say something, speak up for yourself. It may just be a question to confirm that your needs are being met, but their answer will also keep you feeling confident and in control. Be nice and polite when you are asking for what you want to be fixed or inquiring about it. Here are some examples:
- Hi there, sorry to bother you but I thought the price was lower; could you double check for me?
- I have other plans that I can’t change. You’ll have to find someone else.
- Can you help me? I just noticed I was overcharged for _____.
- I only have 10 minutes to talk; how’s it going?
Look, at the end of the day, it is you who may be taken advantage of, so you have to step up, be brave, and respect yourself otherwise it will keep happening. The more you practice saying “no” or standing up for what’s right for you, the higher your self-esteem will become.
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.