How to Stop Being a Pushover and Take Back Control of Your Life

The majority of us like to be liked; after all it’s perfectly natural; it feels great to be a nice person and to do our best to help other people out where we can. However, if we let our behavior and that of others go unchecked, it can be easy to be become a ’people pleaser’ and unwittingly allow other people to walk all over us.

The good news is that to avoid becoming a pushover we can simply adjust our behavior.

The following tips will show you how:

Be Aware

The first thing we need to do is make ourselves aware of how our behavior is perceived by others.  Are we giving people the green light to treat us how they please, or have people come to expect stuff from us because we have not communicated to them that their expectations of us are unrealistic?

It may be that people think we are perfectly okay with the situation in hand; they are ignorant of our feelings and would be genuinely mortified that their behavior is upsetting us.

We teach other people how to treat us by our own actions and behaviors.

This is why it is important that we are aware of our own behavior and how this may be giving others the impression that their behavior is acceptable.

Being a pushover can actually have a damaging effect on your health, both physically and mentally.  Think about it, if everyone unloads their responsibilities on to you as they know they can get away with it, then this can be an extremely stressful and physically draining situation to be in.

Look to See Who Benefits from Your Behavior

crowd of people

Unfortunately in some cases it may be that people are intentionally treating us unfairly or pulling the wool over our eyes, so while we should not treat everyone who comes into our lives with suspicion, it is important to be aware of who or what we are dealing with.

Sometimes it is just not possible to be fully aware of a situation; full knowledge may not be disclosed to us so it can be tricky at times to know people’s motives.

The key to understanding most situations is to look at who benefits. There is a Latin maxim for this “Cui bono” or “for whose benefit is it?” which is sometimes used in the detection of crime.

If everyone benefits in equal measure in a relationship, then this is generally a good thing.

However, if another person is getting far more benefit out of a situation than the other parties involved then clearly there is an imbalance which needs to be addressed.

To be aware of a situation you really have to examine it as if you were an observer on the outside.

Sometimes asking a trusted friend for their opinion can shine new light on a situation.

Just Say No

You might want to ask yourself why you feel the need to please everyone all of the time.  It may be because you are lacking in self-confidence or perhaps you are afraid that people will not like you if you do not comply with their requests.

Although you may think it is easier said than done, stopping being a people pleaser is quite simple.

It’s just a question of knowing when to say no and setting boundaries.

Once you have taken the bull by the horns and said ’no’ for the first time, believe me it does get easier.

Saying no doesn’t mean you have to be confrontational; there are ways of being assertive without being aggressive.

If you are not comfortable with a request for whatever reason then you really have to just say no.

Remember, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.

A quick ‘no I cannot do that’ is enough.

You don’t have to apologize.

Recognize Advantage Takers and Speak up

academic students

None of us like to feel we are letting people down or are being unreasonable with others. Likewise we would also like to believe that other people have our best interests at heart, but the truth of the matter is that some people just don’t.

Learn to recognize the advantage takers in your life and either cut them out of it entirely, or if this is not possible then you absolutely must take action and stand your ground.

One way to recognize advantage takers is to take notice of your instincts.  If something bothers you about a situation, for whatever reason, then it’s better for all involved that you mention your concerns at the very start.

This can save a lot of pain later on down the line

It might be that a friend has asked a favor that you are not happy with, or you are about to enter a contract but are unhappy with some of the terms.

Whatever it is, bringing things up at a later date after you have allowed them to continue is never a good strategy and has less chance of a successful outcome, especially in written contracts which are usually binding.

If you’re instincts are screaming at you, regardless of what other people say, then take note.

It is important that when you meet new people for the first time that you set the precedent from the beginning.  There is a big difference between being easy going and being walked all over.

And knowing this difference will help you establish healthily personal and professional relationships.

You can Still Be Nice

Not taking any BS from anyone doesn’t mean that you have to walk around with a bad ass attitude, being suspicious of everyone or acting like an unhelpful control freak.

It just means that you are aware of your own self-worth and that you are not a walk over.  It doesn’t mean you have to be unapproachable.  In fact those who have confidence in themselves and their abilities and know their boundaries are usually extremely easy to get along with; the difference between them and a pushover is that they know where to draw the line.

You just need to be aware that with some people, once you give them and an inch, they will take a mile.

Sometimes we may feel that giving in is being nice, but actually allowing others walk all over us is not being nice to anyone.   Show the warrior within; you don’t have to turn into Boudica but you do need to show some resolve.

It’s time to stop avoiding confrontations just because you’re afraid of others’ reactions.

Grow a Backbone and Take Action

business people using tablet

We only really begin to grow a backbone by dealing with situations head on, and just like everything else, practice makes perfect.

The trouble is many of us understandably prefer to shy away from potential conflict.

We don’t want to mention the elephant in the room because it may not be what people want to hear, but if you let things persist, then things will only get worse.

How are people going to know their behavior is unacceptable unless you tell them?  Once you open lines of communication you may even learn something yourself.

They may be reacting to your behavior or it may be that this person has no place in your life, whatever the reason, unless you confront it and take action you won’t know.

Another good reason to take action in certain situations is to stop other people from being treated the way you have, for example if you have been bullied by a work colleague, then you really need to speak up.

Whistleblowing is not for wimps granted, but standing up for others and speaking your truth is right minded action.  The truth always outs in the end.

Take back control of what is happening in your life, trust me, you feel all the more empowered for it.

Don’t Take It Personally

Not everyone is going to like you or the things you do.  That’s a fact of life and you just have to accept it.

When you start to change your behavior from being a pushover to being an assertive confident person, then some people are going to be taken off guard.

People have come to expect a type of behavior from you, and by changing this, you are also changing how they relate to you, this may be difficult for some. But stick with it as it will be worth it.

Accept other people’s criticism, but don’t let it rule you.  There are enough troubles in life without you beating yourself up over a bit of criticism, especially if you know deep down that it’s not really justified.

I once worked for a firm who appeared to take pleasure in pulling other people’s work to pieces, I don’t quite know what the purpose of this was, but when it happened to me, I took it quite badly at the time.  I felt I had delivered a great piece of work on time; in fact I believed I had over delivered.  Instead of getting the praise I thought I deserved, or at least a thank you, I was hauled over the coals.

I later found out that there was much more going on behind the scenes than I was aware of at the time, and giving me a hard time was actually nothing to do with my work.

I was right; it had been a great piece of work.

Nonetheless the resulting knock to my ego had a big impact on my self-confidence.

This lack of self-worth soon filtered into other areas of my life; I started doing things just for other people’s validation and approval.  Needless to say, this approval seeking behavior didn’t work out too well.

I became a pushover.

So take a leaf out of my book; never lose sight of who you are and don’t let people walk all over you.

Learn from my lesson, and don’t take it personally.

About the author

Eleanor Goold

As well as being an avid reader, Eleanor is also a big time animal lover; especially of dogs. If you have a tail, four legs and you bark…. you’re in! In her spare time she enjoys swimming, and vegetable gardening… but not at the same time (it can get a bit messy).


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  • This has helped me alot as i used to only do things for other people even if i new i shouldn’t, but now i can say no. My life has become so much more relaxed and less overloaded with other peoples problems. Thank you.

  • Hi Lucy,

    I am glad you enjoyed the article. It is good to take back control of our lives and learn to say no.

    All the best,


  • Thank you.what you said made so much sense. I am just starting to understand my pushover problem and I have decided that I want it to end. I do not want to live the rest of my life being a full time server.If you have any more advice, I would love to hear it.