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Since I was a child, I was always taught to be a good girl. While I always prided myself on being “nice” or “the peacemaker” who was easy to get along with, there were times I felt that my kindness was mistaken for weakness. Most people don’t want to be seen as a jerk or a bad person, so saying “no” could be perceived as being mean. But if you’re not careful, others could walk all over you, and you could start to feel resentful if you feel you’re being taken advantage of. So are you simply a sweetheart, or are you passive? If you feel that being a nice girl is coming at the expense of your self-confidence, your health, or your personal relationships, here are some tips to adjust your behavior so that others will no longer view you as a pushover.

1. Speak Up

If you feel you’ve been wronged, or that someone is taking advantage of you, speak up! Some of us don’t like confrontation, which is completely understandable. But don’t be afraid to tell someone how you feel or how they hurt you because you’re afraid they’ll be angry or won’t like you anymore. If the relationship is a cherished one, the other person will listen and validate your feelings.

So tell your girlfriend how you feel when she spreads your business. Tell your man that you feel taken for granted when he cancels plans with you at the last-minute to go hang with his boys. People treat you how you allow them to treat you, so by not speaking up, you’re part of the problem and you have no one to blame but yourself. By expressing your feelings calmly, but assertively, you’ll gradually train those around you to treat you with respect.

2. Say No Sometimes

Saying “no” to our family and friends may seem selfish to a person who considers herself to be kind or helpful. But if you find that always saying “yes” comes at a personal expense to the extent that you feel drained or resentful, then it’s time to start putting yourself first. You can’t please everyone ALL of the time, and saying “no” every once in a while doesn’t mean that you’re being rude, disagreeable or that you’re an evil witch.

A lot of times, the conflict that we’re anticipating when we say “no” is all in our heads. It’s more about how you say “no” that affects how people will react, not that you turned them down. You can be nice and reject someone at the same time. Simply say that while you’d love to help, you have prior commitments, or that you simply can’t do it at this time. You have needs just like everyone else, and saying no isn’t about rejecting someone else’s needs, but respecting your own.


3. Stand Your Ground

People are not going to be used to this newfound personality of yours, so be sure to stand firm when you say no, or when you tell someone how you feel. They’ll try to manipulate you, and may pick at you to see if you’ll fold. After all, they know you as “the pushover,” and feel that they can get their way if they keep pushing you or use emotional blackmail to break you down. I’m not saying go off on anyone the minute they try to test you, but be steady in your assertiveness and do not waver – even when you feel the “nice girl” wanting to give in. This is a new pattern of behavior, so this will catch people off-guard – but the only way they’ll change their behavior and respect you is if you change yours…and remain consistent and strong.

4. Set Limits

There is nothing wrong with helping folks, but this should be done within reason. Do people usually ask you to do the unacceptable, unthinkable or the impossible? Do you make excuses for people or normalize their abnormal requests or demands in order to feel justified when giving in? People will usually push you to see how much they can get from you when they sense there are no limits to what you’ll do for them. Examine your boundaries and what you’ve allowed people to get away with in the past, and then set NEW boundaries. Once you’ve done that, let others know that you won’t tolerate it when they test or violate those boundaries. It’s the only way to be treated with dignity and respect.

5. Take a Hard Look At Yourself

People who are considered pushovers or people-pleasers tend to base their self-worth on how much other people like them or how much they do for others. It may be that you feel validated by living up to someone else’s expectations, or that you can only be liked if you slide your own feelings to the side in order to always consider others. Being a pushover could be a learned behavior from childhood where we’re taught that positive responses only come when you please other people, not when you please yourself. This leaves you vulnerable to manipulation in all sorts of situations – whether it’s in a personal relationship or in the workplace. It’s honorable to want to go the extra mile to help someone or be the easygoing (girl)friend, but it’s something you should do because you want to, not because you want others to like you. If your self-esteem is based on allowing people to walk all over you, you may want to seek help so that you can gain the strength you need to stand up for yourself and make yourself a priority.

6. Strike a Balance

Once you’ve built up some confidence and are determined to not be a weakling, you have to be careful that you don’t become one of those selfish bullies who were pushing you around. Asserting yourself can feel powerful, but it can also bring about reckless behavior if you don’t balance it with compromise. Not being a pushover means developing good self-care skills, not being selfish. It means you take other’s needs into consideration, but make the decision that works best for all involved. You may find that others genuinely need your help or that their needs come first, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if there is a conflict, find a reasonable compromise where all parties are comfortable and satisfied with the outcome and all needs are met – a win-win!

7. Let Some Folks Go

This may seem a bit extreme, but if you find that your “friends” are not taking a liking to the new you, then it make be time to find a new circle of friends. If you feel you’re not getting the respect you deserve at work because you’re no longer doing someone else’s work or allowing them to take credit for it, consider finding a new job. Knowing your worth and demanding respect is a trait people should admire, not admonish. If your boyfriend, your sister-friend, your family or your boss can’t respect the new you, then it’s an unhealthy relationship that needs to end. There is nothing wrong with being nice…within reason. You can be a thoughtful friend, devoted wife, caring sister, lovable daughter or reliable employee without being a doormat. It may take time and practice, but eventually you’ll grow into a confident, all around great woman, that others will view with admiration once you stop being a pushover and start loving yourself.

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