Act Tough at School

School can be a difficult place to be. Learning how to act tougher in school can help you navigate through friends, bullies, and teachers. Acting tough doesn’t mean acting like a jerk, however. Toughness is more about self-confidence and standing up for what you believe in. Learning to act tough is all about adjusting your attitude, changing up your appearance, and rethinking how you interact with others.


Changing Your Attitude

  1. Practice positive self-talk. Your internal monologue informs how you think about yourself. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re weak, you’ll feel badly about yourself. If you learn to tell yourself that you’re a tough and worthwhile person, pretty soon you’ll start to feel that way.[1]
    • Notice your internal monologue. If you start feeling sad or weak, listen to the thoughts going through your head.
    • If the thoughts are negative, for example, “I’m such a loser,” interrupt those thoughts and substitute positive self-talk. For example, replace “I’m such a loser” with “I’ve dealt with hard things before and I know I can deal with this, because I’m tough.”
  2. Learn to say no. Tough people don’t need others to tell them what to do. Learning to say no—whether it’s to bullies or to activities that you don’t want to engage in—will let others know that you’re tough and self-assured.[2]
    • Start by saying no when people hassle you. If someone bullies you, don’t laugh it off and pretend you don’t care. Instead, make it clear that you don’t like being bullied and you won’t tolerate it. If someone pushes you, say, “Did I say you could touch me?”
    • Don’t give into peer pressure. If you want to look tough, you need to stand up for yourself when you don’t agree with your friends. If your friends are going to a party but you don’t feel up to it, say, “I hope you guys have fun but I’m going to stay in tonight. I’ll come next time.”
  3. Conceal but don’t ignore your feelings. Part of acting tough is not letting others know that they’re getting to you. If you present a tough exterior people even when you’re afraid, people will come to respect you.
    • Presenting a tough exterior doesn’t mean you should ignore your feelings. It’s important to have a friend, family member, of counselor with whom you can express yourself freely.
  4. Stand up for others. If people see you standing up for others, they’ll know you’re not afraid to stand your ground. Standing up for others shows that you have a strong sense of right and wrong and won’t take abuse.[3]
    • If you see someone getting bullied or teased, step in and tell the bullies to stop. If the bullies says it’s none of your business, say, “I’m making it my business.”

Developing a New Appearance

  1. Get a new wardrobe. The clothes you wear can influence how people think of you. Poorly-fitting clothes often project a lack of self-confidence. Well-fitting clothes, on the other hand, project self-assurance and toughness.[4]
    • Make sure your clothes fit. No matter what your body type, well-fitting clothes will make you look better. If you can’t find clothes that fit will, or you don’t have enough money to buy a new wardrobe, take your clothes to a tailor. For just $5 or $10 a tailor can make the shoulders of your shirts fit your frame and the width of your pants follow the lines of your body.
    • Try wearing simpler clothes. A plain white t-shirt with a straight black hoodie will often look tougher on a guy than a colorful shirt with patterns. For girls, blue jeans and a well-fitting leather jacket project toughness.
  2. Develop muscle. You don’t need to be hugely muscular to project toughness. But you should do some amount of weight-lifting that will show off the toned muscles on your body.[5]
    • Lift weights three times a week. If your school has a gym, go there for one hour on three days of the week. Focus on working out your shoulders, biceps, chest, back, and legs.
    • If you don’t have access to a gym, there are other ways to develop muscle. Chopping and stacking firewood is a good way to develop upper-body muscles. Pushing sleds on a football field is a good way to build your leg muscles.
  3. Practice good hygiene. A clean, put-together appearance demonstrates that you value your appearance and won’t let others mess it up without a fight.[6]
    • Shower regularly. Try to shower every morning and anytime you work out.
    • Brush your teeth. You should do this at least twice a day.
    • Comb your hair. Combed, styled hair is classic sign of toughness.
    • Wear deodorant. If you’re a guy, choose a masculine scent like pine needles. If you’re a girl, choose a neutral scent that doesn’t smell too flowery.
  4. Stand up straight. Posture is one of the first things people notice about you, and good posture indicates toughness and self-confidence.[7]
    • When you’re standing up, keep your head straight in line with your back. Don’t let your chin droop down. Keep your shoulders back and your chest extended forward. Let your arms hang naturally at your sides.
    • When you’re sitting, don’t slouch. You can lean back if you want to, but try to keep your shoulders back at all times.

Interacting with Others

  1. Choose your friends wisely. If your current group of friends puts you down or makes fun of you on a regular basis, it’s time to find new friends. Choose friends who treat you with respect and don’t make you the butt of jokes.[8]
    • Seek out friends that you share things in common with. Part of being tough is knowing what you want. So, don’t join a group just because they “look cool.” Instead, choose your friends based on shared interests.
    • If you have trouble making new friends, join a club or sports team.
    • Don’t be afraid to approach new people. If you hear a group talking about something that interests you, such as football, join the conversation and offer your own input. For example, you might say, “Did you guys catch the game last night? That pass in the third quarter was insane.”
    • If new people reject you, don’t pout. Realize that they’re not the kind of people you need in your life anyway. Move on to a new group.
  2. Be a leader. Take the initiative in your group of friends. Tough people are leaders because they’re not afraid to voice their opinions and make suggestions to others.[9]
    • If you know of an activity your friends might enjoy, bring it up to the group. Try to be specific. For example, if there’s a concert coming up, say, “Hey guys, let’s get tickets for the concert this weekend. They go on sale this afternoon so I’ll come by and pick you up so we can be first in line.”
    • Include everyone in your friend group. A good leader never leaves someone out. If you include everyone whenever you talk or make plans, everyone in your group will start to look up to you as tough and reliable.
  3. Learn to defend yourself. Standing up for others and not taking abuse from others means that you might find yourself in a fight, even if you’re not looking for one. It’s important to learn how to defend yourself if someone attacks you.
    • Attend self-defense or martial arts classes. If your school doesn’t provide classes, try your local YMCA or other gym.
    • Remember that fighting should only be a last resort. A truly tough person is able to ward off fights and deflect tension before it escalates.
  4. Don’t be a bully. Being tough does not mean being a bully. Sometimes bullies put on tough attitudes, but this is just a façade. A truly tough person doesn’t need to belittle others to feel good about themselves.[10]
    • If you find yourself being a bully, or realize you’ve been a bully in the past, apologize. A willingness to take responsibility for your behavior is a hallmark of toughness. It shows that you’re not afraid of being wrong or deciding to do the right thing instead of going along with the crowd.

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Sources and Citations

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