An upset woman surrounded by people who are asking her favors.

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Do you want people to stop walking over you? Do you know how to not be a pushover?

When someone is a pushover, it means they’re easy to influence or take advantage of. These kinds of people have a hard time standing up for themselves and usually want to please everyone at their own expense.

Check out the problem with being a people pleaser and how to not be a pushover.

The Problem With Being Too Nice

Many pushovers have a problem with being too nice because they’re worried about offending people or losing friends. If niceness is wrapped up in the need to be liked, amplified guilt, and a fear of conflict, then, Aziz Gazipura argues, we should all aspire to be less nice. While being nice may help you avoid discomfort in the moment, it has a long-term cost. In Not Nice, Gazipura outlines the mental, emotional, and physical consequences of being nice.

According to Gazipura, prioritizing others’ needs over your own can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, anger, and resentment. Uncomfortable emotions may manifest as physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension, disrupted sleep, or other stress-related issues.

Moreover, Gazipura argues that being overly nice, while intended to foster connection, prevents the development of genuine, mutually satisfying relationships. By constantly seeking to please everyone and avoid disagreements, you engage in inauthentic behavior that disconnects you from your core values and beliefs, and results in only superficial connections.

Finally, Gazipura says that choosing to be overly nice often means avoiding challenges, conversations, and situations that might push you out of your comfort zone. This avoidance can hinder your growth, which requires embracing discomfort, taking risks, and asserting yourself. Staying within the bounds of niceness therefore keeps you stagnant and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

What Happens When You Stop Being a Pushover?

When you learn how to not be a pushover, your life transforms. You gain the freedom to be your true self without shame, guilt, or fear. You become the authority of your own life instead of relying on others to dictate what’s right for you, and you begin to trust your intuition, understanding that you know the best path forward. When you stop being nice, you’re no longer motivated by the need to be liked; you allow yourself to be known by sharing your experiences transparently and vulnerably. This shift empowers you to navigate life authentically and make choices that align with your genuine self, ultimately leading to a happier and more fulfilling life.

How to Stop Being a Pushover

If you’re a person who’s easily swayed, or suspect people are taking advantage of your kindness, you need to put your foot down. Pushovers will only fall if they don’t stand up for themselves. Learn how to not be a pushover with the below strategies.

1. Stop Worrying About What Others Think of You

People often live in fear of what others think instead of celebrating who they are. This fear stops them from getting out of their comfort zone and reaching their full potential. This is partly a survival instinct, says Jen Sincero in You Are a Badass—humans have always needed the cooperation and support of those around them to survive.

But refusing to be a pushover means getting out of your comfort zone and risking failure, as well as subjecting yourself to the ridicule and opinions of others.

Other People’s Opinions Are Not Your Problem

When making a decision, rather than worry about the opinions of others, simply ask yourself, Do I want to do this/get this/be this? Is this taking me in the right direction? Am I going to “screw anyone over” if I do this?

You are responsible for what you do, but not for other people’s reactions to it. This is a perception issue: What other people think about you doesn’t have anything to do with you.

  • Think of a movie. One person could leave the theater in stunned tears, transformed, and moved beyond words. Another person could demand her money back because she thought the movie was a load of garbage. It’s not about the movie; it’s about the moviegoer.

How do you move to a place where you’re unaffected by the opinions of others? The key is not just denying the criticism any power over you, but also not getting caught up in praise. 

Praise feels great, but when we base our self-worth on what others think of us, we hand over all our power. You have to understand what’s true for you, outside of anyone else’s opinion, good or bad, and hold onto that. Everything else is just someone else’s perception of reality—none of your business.

How to Stop Caring What Other People Think

When you truly stop caring what other people think, you become your most powerful self. Not caring what others think is a muscle and it will take some time to build it up. Here’s how:

Ask yourself, “Why?” When you’re about to say or do something, ask yourself why. Is it to be liked? Is it to put someone down due to your own insecurity? Is it out of revenge? Or is what I want to do or say coming from a place of truth and strength? Pay attention to your motivations and be honest. Always come from a place of integrity. 

Do your best. The fastest way to fall prey to others’ criticism is when you feel insecure, and you feel insecure when you’ve half-assed something. When you do your best you come from a place of integrity; you can be proud of yourself and not worry about what others think.

Trust your intuition: You have an incredible inner guidance system—your gut. You have the answers, not your friend who tries to get you into trouble every chance they get.

2. Detect Fakers

According to Give and Take by Adam Grant, givers tend to see the best in everyone and operate assuming everyone is trustworthy. Thus givers tend to be twice as susceptible to cons and identity theft, thus becoming pushovers who are easy to fool.

The key for givers is to distinguish between real givers and fake takers. Fake takers are people who try to appear to be givers but really behave as takers.

But it’s not hard to detect fake takers. Many people confuse agreeableness and giving. Agreeable people come across as warm and cooperative, and we tend to interpret agreeable behavior as a signal of giving tendencies. In contrast, we perceive disagreeable people as tougher, colder, and more skeptical—naturally, these people don’t seem to have your best interests in mind.

In reality, giving behavior is based on internal values that can accurately be inferred only from behavior and reputation

  • Takers can be agreeable—they’re slick talkers and pound you on your back, when really they intend to manipulate and exploit unwitting people.
  • Givers can be disagreeable—they can be unpleasant in demeanor, but ultimately care deeply about people.

Figuring out another person’s true behavior is critical to avoid becoming a pushover. It prevents givers from being exploited by takers.

3. Say No

One of the most crucial skills for not being a pushover is saying no. If you can’t say no to the nonessential, you won’t have the time and energy to pursue the truly important things. 

Saying no makes us uncomfortable because it’s socially awkward. There seem to be only two options: say no and endure the immediate awkwardness, or say yes and regret it much longer. However, you can learn to say no gracefully and even get people to respect you for it in the process.

Greg McKeown lists some key principles of saying no in his book Essentialism

  • It’s the decision, not the person. Rejecting someone’s request isn’t the same as rejecting them. Separate the two in your mind. Then communicate your decision clearly but also kindly. You may want to reject the request without using the word no. For instance, you might say, “I would love to do it, but I’m overcommitted right now.”
  • Remember the trade-off. Remembering what you’d give up to say yes makes it easier to say no. 
  • Accept that you might be temporarily unpopular. When you say no, the other person may be disappointed or angry. However, the anger is usually short-term. In the long term, the other person may respect you more for demonstrating that your time is valuable, which is more important than popularity.
  • Don’t leave them hanging. Most people would rather have a definitive no than a noncommittal response, such as, “I’ll try to be there,” when you know you won’t. Being frank is more respectful. Besides, delaying a no makes it more difficult for both of you.

Since essentialists say no a lot, it helps to have a repertoire of ways to do it. Here are a few to start with:

1) Employ the pregnant pause: When someone makes a request, pause and wait for them to fill the silence, or just wait a few beats before saying no.

2) Make the rejection gentle: Say “No, but…” For instance, “I’d love to but I have other plans; let’s try it next month.”

3) Buy some time: Saying something like, “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you,” gives you time to think and ultimately reply that you’re unavailable. Just remember not to use this as a noncommittal response—use it only if you genuinely have to think about it.

4) Use email auto-responses: Many people are accustomed to receiving email auto-responses when others are on vacation or holidays. You can use them more broadly. Indicate that you’re tied up with a project and temporarily unavailable.

5) Suggest someone else: If you know of someone else who might want to help, convey your regrets while suggesting another name.

At the end of life, many people express the wish that they’d have the courage to live on their own terms rather than trying so hard to meet the expectations of others. However, you can be true to yourself, focusing on what’s important to you, by saying no to nonessentials, not randomly, but intentionally as part of an overall strategy. It takes determination and practice, but you can resist business and social pressures to be all things to all people by learning to focus on what’s essential by eliminating everything else.

4. Speak Your Mind

Once you know what you want and understand that you’re more than just a pushover it’s time to become a more authentic version of yourself, one who speaks their mind. According to Not Nice, people avoid speaking their minds for several reasons: They fear hurting someone’s feelings, causing offense, or inciting anger; they aim to avoid being perceived as rude, mean, or aggressive; or they hesitate to show emotions, appear needy, or make public mistakes.

While these fears are powerful deterrents, Gazipura argues they’re based on false beliefs about relationships. In the world of nice, if you disagree with someone or express strong volition, that person will like you less. In reality, honesty strengthens relationships. When you say what you think, you treat the other person as a capable and resilient adult, allowing both of you to be your authentic selves, regardless of whether you agree.

According to Gazipura, to speak up effectively so you know how to not be a pushover, you must communicate assertively—express yourself clearly while also considering others’ feelings. This helps everyone talk openly, respect each other, and set clear boundaries for healthy interactions. In contrast, passive communication involves holding back your thoughts and needs, often leading to frustration and misunderstandings, and aggressive communication is forceful and disrespectful, causing conflicts and damaging relationships. Being assertive strikes a balance, fostering effective and respectful conversations.

Wrapping Up

It’s okay to want to help people every once in a while. It means you’re a charitable person who’s empathetic towards others’ needs. But when pleasing others means neglecting your own needs, then there’s a problem. You need to learn how to not be a pushover so you can stand your ground and say no every once in a while, without worrying about hurting people’s feelings.

Do you have any advice on how to not be a pushover? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Not Be a Pushover: 4 Strategies to Stand Your Ground

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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