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5 Powerful Ways to Stop Being a Pushover (And Why This Matters)


Do other people take advantage of you? If so, how does this make you feel? Being a pushover can cause a downward spiral in our sense of well-being. It becomes self-perpetuating; the more we want to be accepted and liked, the more of a pushover we become. 

Pushovers are likely to suffer from stress and several mental health complaints. When we learn to advocate for ourselves, we demand respect. This respect helps us build our self-esteem and encourages us to interact assertively. Only when we climb out of the pushover barrel can we genuinely claim life as our own. 

This article will discuss what it means to be a pushover. We will also suggest 5 ways to stop being a pushover.

What makes someone a pushover?

A pushover is someone who is “easily persuaded or influenced or defeated.” 

In other words, a pushover is someone who is easily manipulated by others. And believe me, plenty of people out there will feast on the perceived weakness of a pushover.

There are many reasons we become a pushover.

Many pushovers are trying to keep the peace and avoid conflict. They may also believe others will like them more if they go along with things. But in truth, pushovers are often disrespected. 

Pushovers often suffer with:  

  • Low self-esteem. 
  • Learned helplessness. 
  • Anxiety. 
  • Depression. 
  • Toxic or abusive relationships. 

If you are unsure if you are a pushover, here is a list of some tell-tale pushover signs: 

  • You struggle to say “no.” 
  • Others ask for favors from you regularly but rarely offer to help you. 
  • You feel the need to prove yourself. 
  • You apologize regularly and unnecessarily. 
  • You avoid giving your honest opinion. 
  • You often put yourself down. 

If you identify with some of these traits, you are likely already a pushover. But fear not; we can rectify that. Keep reading for tips on how to stop being a pushover. 

The negative consequences of being a pushover

There’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on. When we are a pushover, we are more susceptible to experiencing negative mental well-being.

But as discussed above, those of us with various mental vulnerabilities are more likely to be pushovers in the first place.

Being a pushover hurts our mental health, as it can lead to:

  • Increased stress levels. 
  • Depression. 
  • Resentment
  • Losing yourself. 
  • Anxiety. 

All these ailments can affect our relationships and our ability to succeed in the workplace. 

Ironically people who are pushovers often want to please others and have an overpowering need for others to like them. Yet, the pushover often finds themselves forgotten, isolated, and lonely. 

An interesting scientific study describes how a neural network in the brain activates during disagreements with others. This activation can create a feeling of discomfort. The study, therefore, suggests that those who are pushovers have a greater sensitivity to this activation. 

Luckily neuroplasticity means the brain can change and adapt. This neuroplasticity means we can break the pushover cycle.

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5 ways to stop being a pushover  

Maybe you recognize you are already a pushover. Or perhaps you want to make sure you don’t become a pushover. If you follow these 5 tips, you will learn how to stop others from walking all over you. 

We must show ourselves respect if we expect others to do the same. After all, others observe how we treat ourselves and emulate our example. It’s time to stand up for yourself and demonstrate to others what sort of behavior you both accept and tolerate. 

1. Start saying “no”

One of the primary symptoms of being a pushover is the inability to say “no.” 

Pushovers find themselves agreeing to things they don’t want to do. They take on more work and regularly put themselves out for others. 

I was once a pushover, and I am in the process of rectifying this. My most challenging amendment is learning to say “no.”

When we say “no” to something we don’t want, it allows us to say “yes” to something we want. 

It’s time to try this out. Think of all the times you have gone along with something for fear of saying “no.” 

  • You don’t have to go to the social event. 
  • You don’t have to look after your friends’ children.
  • You don’t have to stay at work late. 
  • You don’t have to go to your parent’s for Christmas. 

It’s time to step out from the shadow of serving others. 

2. Learn to be assertive  

When we become more assertive in how we conduct ourselves and interact with others, we automatically demand more respect. 

Think of the person with a messy flatmate. A pushover may ignore the mess. The flatmate may even convince the pushover to clean it up. 

When we learn to be assertive, we can confidently look the flatmate in the eye and tell them their mess is not our problem. We can ask the messy flatmate to show us respect by keeping communal areas clean and tidy. 

A vital way to convey assertive behavior is through body language. 

  • Stand tall, chest out and shoulders back. 
  • Hold eye contact. 
  • Move with purpose. 
  • Use your hands to express yourself. 
  • Relax your facial muscles

Another essential assertion tip is the way we use our voice. This article outlines the tricks actors use with their voices when stepping into an assertive character. 

  • Higher pitched. 
  • Loud.
  • Clear. 
  • Fast. 
  • No hesitation. 
  • No monotone. 

You got this. Stand up tall, and don’t forget the importance of eye contact. Speak loudly and clearly to give assertion to your words. 

If you need more tips, here's our article on how to be more assertive.

3. Ask for what you want 

This tip is a difficult one. 

Not many of us are adept at asking for what we want. But when you ask for what you want and learn to put your needs first, you strip away the likelihood of being seen as a pushover. 

Build your self-confidence by asking for what you want. Grab hold of the steering wheel and control the direction of your journey.

Asking for what we want is a fundamental right. I would also suggest it is an essential need for our well-being. 

4. Express yourself  

Pushovers suppress their true feelings. They don’t speak up if someone wrongs them. They don’t defend themself when blamed for something. Pushovers allow others to continue hurting them when they don’t express their feelings. 

People are not telepathic. Unless we learn to express ourselves, we can’t expect them to know how we feel. 

It’s time to get comfortable with having difficult conversations. I recently expressed my hurt to a friend who only offered criticism regarding my creative work, never encouragement or positive comments. My expression of feelings led to an open and honest conversation and has brought us closer. 

5. Stop apologizing   

Pushovers apologize all the time. They apologize for other people’s behavior as well as their own. They apologize when there is no need for an apology. 

Do you apologize too much? Challenge yourself to be aware of how often you apologize in a day. Assess the circumstances in which you apologize. Does the situation merit an apology? 

Over-apologizing can even seep into our written word. 

If you are a pushover, I guarantee you have started an e-mail with “sorry to bother you….”

Here’s a tip: learn to say thank you instead of apologizing. This play with language is empowering and will also help stop you from being a pushover. 

  • “Thank you for waiting for me” instead of “sorry I’m late.”
  • “Thank you for taking the time to read this” instead of “sorry to bother you.” 
  • “Thank you for the lift” instead of “sorry for sending you out of your way.”
  • “Thank you for thinking of me, but I don’t have the capacity” instead of “sorry, I don’t have time.” 

I think you get the picture. In most situations, we apologize; we can say “thank you” instead.

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Wrapping up 

We may think we are making ourselves more likable by being a pushover. But in reality, we are permitting others to disrespect us. Stop allowing this behavior to negatively impact your happiness and start learning to not be a pushover! You hold the power to change.

Do you sometimes feel a pushover? What's the tip that inspires you most to change your behavior? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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