The Most Effective Phrases To Use When Standing Up For Yourself

The Most Effective Phrases To Use When Standing Up For Yourself

You would think bullying, targeting, and social manipulation would’ve been laid to rest on the playground.

You would hope humanity would discover that we need each other to get through this crazy life. But, sadly, that’s not the case. Often, the dark spots in our upbringings make us wary, critical, defensive, pushy, and all sorts of things that step on other people. As such, we adults still need effective ways to stand up for ourselves.

Being petty and childish, resorting to name-calling, won’t get it done. There are more mature ways we should set boundaries for ourselves. Here are a few.

1. “My family is my priority.”

It’s easy for people to email you with work-related material late in the evening and expect an immediate response. I recently had to explain to someone that my family is my priority, so after work hours, I won’t be responding to emails. When you share your priorities, you’re firmly and respectfully saying what you will and won’t tolerate, Time Magazine notes.

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2. “My mental health means more.”


Sometimes, your brain simply can’t handle one more thing, whether it’s as simple as one more trip to the grocery store or another four-hour phone call from a friend who won’t leave her awful boyfriend. Our minds weren’t meant to carry everyone’s load all the time. It’s important to recognize this and let others know when you don’t have the headspace to pile more on your plate.

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3. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

I’m a freelance writer for lots of digital magazines, newspapers, etc. And many of these platforms allow me to express my personal beliefs. One day, I received an Instagram message from a woman who had found one of my articles and didn’t agree with my content. She proceeded to call me some very explicit words. My response was simple: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Though she had infuriated me with her brass, immature speech, I wasn’t going to stoop to her level. My self-worth means more than a petty fight with a stranger.

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4. “I’ve worked too hard to be treated this way.”

My heart was pounding, my body jittery, but I had just gone toe-to-toe with the CEO of a company I once worked for. I had laid out his abusive, manipulative, and sketchy financial moves in a letter that would be reviewed by the board—a.k.a., his boss. He was furious, but had no rebuttal. Regardless of someone’s rank, status, or clout, if you’re being mistreated for giving it your all in the workplace, you have every right to say, “I’ve worked too hard to be treated this way.”

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5. “That goes against my personal beliefs.”

man arms crossed in office

I’m a religious gal, so I often hold to personal beliefs that are counter-culture. This means I must often stick up for myself by simply (and respectfully) saying, “That goes against my personal beliefs.” These words shouldn’t be laced with pride, malice, or judgment. However, if someone is coercing you into something that goes against your deep moral or religious beliefs, you should say something.

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6. “I won’t tolerate that again.”

People make mistakes, including big ones. But this doesn’t mean we should be someone’s doormat, allowing them to abuse our forbearance. When someone crosses a big, big line, it’s more than okay to let them know that you won’t tolerate their behavior again. (I sometimes wonder how much heartache that would’ve saved me as a young girl on the dating scene. I put up with cheating, manipulation, and verbal abuse for far too long when I had every right to lay down the law of what I would and wouldn’t put up with.)

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7. “I can’t trust you anymore.”

This one stings, doesn’t it? But when someone continues to intentionally push boundaries that you have clearly and respectfully laid out, it’s only natural to put up walls to protect yourself. You shouldn’t tolerate constant lies from a significant other. You shouldn’t keep a “friend” who abuses the secrets you share. You shouldn’t stay connected with a cousin who only comes around because they always need your money (they never pay back). When people use you, you get to tell them that you no longer trust them. In a perfect world, trust should be a right. But in the hands of abusers, trust is a privilege that can be taken once it’s abused.

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8. “That won’t fly in my house.”

Unfortunately, people often feel they have the right to treat your house as theirs by walking all over your household rules. They stockpile your fridge with alcohol when you don’t drink, or they throw around inappropriate language in the presence of your kiddos. But friend, you get to stick up for your household. You pay the rent/mortgage, so you get to lay the ground rules.

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9. “You’re not invited.”

I have a set of grandparents who have abused my parents’ grace and compassion for decades. As such, I don’t find it necessary or appropriate to involve them in my child’s life. This means they aren’t invited to family dinners, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. If adults can’t behave, they can’t come, Parents points out.

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10. “That doesn’t matter to me.”


Is your mother-in-law pushy about how clean the kids’ rooms are?  Is your friend suggesting you shouldn’t be such a homebody? If you know what is and isn’t important in your life, you get to share that with people who are pushing those boundaries.

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11. “That’s not in my budget.”

Is your friend always suggesting that you should “live a little” more, splurging when it’s not in your budget? Is your coworker asking you to go out to lunch every single workday? What about the people in your life who only want you around if you can carpool them to the mall or nail salon? Stand firm on your personal budget and know who’s abusing your finances. When it’s too much, respond with, “Sorry, but that’s not in my budget.”

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12. “But you said _________.”

If people are undermining a previous conversation, you should remind them of what was actually said. This forces them to revisit the truth and fess up to their true motivations and intentions. (If this someone is a coworker or “friend” who often white-lies their way out of previous conversations, it’s best to save text messages and emails. This isn’t being “extra” or “petty.” You’re simply safeguarding yourself from compulsive liars.)

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13. “I need a break.”

If there’s one thing today’s culture doesn’t understand, let alone respect, it’s the need for rest. We run ourselves ragged to meet deadlines, stay trending, and feel productive. But there are times when our calendars need a big pause. Take note of how your mind, heart, and soul are doing. If you don’t feel up to attending a certain event or committing to another project, just tell people that you need a break. They don’t have to like your response to respect its content.

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14. “It hurts when you say that.”

Sometimes, people don’t know that they are offending you, especially if sarcasm is their love language. Besides, people aren’t mind-readers, so you can’t expect them to always know what does or doesn’t hurt your feelings. However, if something they say, or the tone they use, truly torpedoes your self-esteem or self-worth, say something.

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15. “Cussers don’t get kisses.”

Just hear me out on this one. My family comes from southern U.S. states known for “yes, ma’am,” “no, ma’am,” and “bless your heart.” My husband’s family is from New York City, where the language is coarse and crude. I came up with the saying, “Cussers don’t get kisses” as a lighthearted way to gently remind my hubby of my boundaries regarding language. Not everyone is out to hurt you, so for the good folks in your life, find compassionate, even funny, ways to remind others of what’s important to you.

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Peyton Garland is a boy mama and Tennessee farmer who loves sharing her heart on OCD, postpartum life, and hope in the messy places.