Turning my cheek for the sake of the show.
Now that you know, this is my life!
I won't be told what's supposed to be right!"
Bob may have opinions, but he doesn't act on them if someone disagrees. Instead, he will follow their instructions or advice. This someone might be anyone, a single person that he is dependent on, or the prevailing attitudes in society. Then Bob starts to trust and act on his own judgment and begins to go his own way. Bob earlier had no independent judgment in relation to some external factor, and this is the growth and expression of his own judgment: he's growing a spine.
This is a form of Character Development, and often a defining moment in a Rite of Passage. It's also a staple of a Coming of Age Story, where it does not necessarily mean that Bob has more resolve than earlier, but rather that he has learned to follow his own independent judgments. It might be lousy judgment, but at least he has started to develop and act on it.
It might be caused by Post-Support Regret, as Bob has only been spineless with a Toxic Friend Influence who he believed to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, only to be betrayed by his friend and shown the Awful Truth, leading to a Broken Pedestal which motivates him to finally stand up to his Big Bad Friend.
As a trope, this can take two forms:
- A plot arc for a character. This is the long and slow variety.
- A single scene, where the character unambiguously chooses their own way in a plot-relevant fashion.
This trope is frequently seen in Coming of Age Story. Some starting points for this trope is the Extreme Doormat or Shrinking Violet, but the character might just be inexperienced and unsure of themselves. After all, this is all part of growing up. Calling the Old Man Out is a specific subtrope. May coincide with Took a Level in Badass, The Dog Bites Back, Challenging the Bully or Sudden Principled Stand. Has nothing to do with the evolution of vertebrate animals.
- 7 Seeds: Natsu Iwashimizu's character development revolves around this. She started off avoiding participating in school a lot and was much too shy, slow and afraid of other people to do anything on her own, only following instructions or advice. But she has learned to do things on her own more and more, including standing up to people trying to put her down.
- AKB49 Renai Kinshi Jourei: Hiroko opposed her Fantasy-Forbidding Father for the first time in her life after he demanded her to quit her aspirations as an Idol Singer and she refused, which led to her father estranging her and her gaining even more resolve than before to pursue her dreams.
- Asteroid in Love: As a Schoolgirl Series with an emphasis on the Coming of Age Story aspect of it, this happens to some of the more introverted characters.
- Mai "Ino" Inose's admiration towards Mikage means before she was named the president, she pretty much treats Mikage as her personal Living Emotional Crutch and doesn't do much really of her own. It took her a whole episode (Episode 7) that she decides to take steps that, in her words, to make herself more like an independent school club president, first by participating in the Earth Science Olympiad.
- Ao Manaka is not a true doormat, but her fear of speaking causes her to be really reluctant to speak up for herself, regardless of what she thinks. She gets better eventually, to the point that during the Ishigaki arc, people describe her as being gutsy, despite still mostly The Quiet One.
- In the beginning she needs to be encouraged by Moe to approach Mira. In the tenth episode, it's her turn to encourage the usually energetic Mira do go to the summer camp without her. At this point, Mira noticed she becomes stronger.
- Ao initially isn't the best at standing up for herself, as she admits that she hadn't even considered telling her parents that she doesn't want to move. Later, not only does she do just that, but she even makes arrangements to travel to Ishigaki Island by herself without telling Mira or Endou.
- Black Clover:
- After being inspired by Asta, Finral Roulacase resolves to become less passive and cowardly, with him training his magic and standing his ground against his brother.
- Grey begins as a sweet, demure girl who mostly uses her magic for healing. After meeting Asta, she's inspired to become stronger. By the time of the Royal Knights Tournament, she's learned Attack spells and become much more confident and headstrong, giving orders in battle which even pleasantly surprises Asta.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: This is the conclusion of Zenitsu's character arc. He finally forces himself to grow out of his self-depreciating mental abyss, forsaking his sleep trance mode entirely, when the tragedy of his master's death strikes. He goes on to face the cause of said tragedy in the form of his former fellow disciple, Kaigaku, who now turned into a demon. Zenitsu faces Kaigaku head-on and kills him, the older disciple whom Zenitsu was previously completely submissive to out of a mix of respect and an inferiority complex. Despite their differences, however, Zenitsu still wanted to see him as a brother before everything went south.
- Fruits Basket: Main character Tohru Honda is such an All-Loving Hero that she frequently puts other people's needs before her own, and has some trouble with asserting herself. As part of her character development, she learns to stand up for what she believes in (like breaking the Zodiac curse) and that it's alright to put her needs before others once in a while.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure: Twice.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Jonathan Joestar is constantly beaten up and humiliated by Dio Brando, but he's too timid to stand up to him. Then Dio steals the Sacred First Kiss of Jonathan's Love Interest, Erina Pendleton, and attacks her for immediately washing her mouth out with muddy puddle water. For Jonathon, this is the final straw: He personally confronts Dio at the Joestar family mansion to avenge Erina's honor and beats him so brutally that Dio actually bursts into tears.
- In Diamond is Unbreakable, this is the way Koichi Hirose unlocks the next Evolution Power-Up for his Stand, Echoes. Whenever he found a reason to stop running in fear of an enemy, Echoes would evolve into a new form to match the growth of Koichi's soul.
- Monster: Kenzo Tenma decides to stop being the doormat of his fianceé and his boss after seeing the immorality of both (the fianceé is not that evil, but this still counts).
- Yukiteru of Future Diary. This backfires horribly, until he manages to earn his almost happy ending.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: This happens to protagonist Shinji Ikari, despite being often criticized for lacking a spine.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji actually tends to try and be more confident in himself and self-assured. These attempts keep backfiring and sinking him further into despair and pain. However, when at the brink of humanity's end, he decides to choose to keep living in a painful world and not doom humanity to loss of individuality and such earns a happy ending.
- In Rebuild of Evangelion, Shinji both grows a spine and becomes more badass during the battle against Zeruel. Sadly, the repercussions of Shinji actually growing a spine for once include humanity being reduced to a fraction of that it used to be.
- Seven Mortal Sins: At the start of the series, Maria couldn't do anything but cry as Lucifer forcefully dragged her around. After some time though she slowly lost her fear of the Demon Lords around her. This is demonstrated when she shames Mammon for the cold way she raises her children, and later when she actually challenges Lucifer when she is led to believe that the fallen angel was terrorizing an alternative world For the Evulz.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: This is Simon's character arc in the first half of the story. Simon is a complete wimp unless his Cool Big Bro Kamina is around, and relies on him for confidence. But after Kamina bites the dust in Episode 8 while recovering Team Gurren's new home base, Simon learns to start standing on his own, becoming rather like Kamina in the process.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: This is basically the regular Yugi's character arc, as he grows independent of having Yami Yugi as his crutch in life and starts making his own decisions.
- In the "Outer Dark" arc of The Authority, Swift, who's normally more gung-ho, decides to oppose one of Jenny Sparks' orders, as following it might lead to the unnecessary deaths of aliens that might be considered civilians. In "The Nativity", she also forces a truce between the Authority and Krigstein that gives the latter control over the Southeast Asian government that the Authority recently overthrew, in order to avoid a long, drawn-out conflict in which Krigstein's forces were more than willing to kill civilians.
- Klak from Pocket God is a Butt-Monkey who gets no respect from the tribe. However, when he starts hanging out with the more assertive Moon, he starts to stand up for himself more often.
- In Secret Six, Ragdoll mostly puts up with being treated as The Team Freak and being The Friend Nobody Likes, but threaten Black Alice and he actually stands up fully straight instead of his usual Primal Stance in order to defend her, leaving Deadshot visibly frightened.
- In Supergirl story arc Bizarrogirl, the titular Bizarro gets frightened and runs away when it's time to face the enemy eating her planet, but she becomes more courageous after talking to Supergirl.
- In one Reboot Legion Of Superheroes story, the ancient Daxamite hero Valor tells Andromeda, a formerly racist Daxamite heroine and devout Valorian, that they should just leave a villain to die. Andie, who has been deferring to him as the subject of her devotion since they met, tells him in no uncertain terms that she's learned all lives have value and if he hasn't then he's wrong. Valor, who's been trying to get out of his Unwanted False Faith since he arrived in the 30th century, is delighted.
- Advice and Trust:
- Shinji, with the help of Asuka's influence. Fully demonstrated in the fight with Bardiel, where he and Asuka convince Rei to disobey Gendo and attempt to rescue Hikari.
- Downplayed with Rei. Thanks to Shinji and Asuka's influence, she becomes more assertive as well... but she hides her newfound assertiveness from Gendo to avoid cueing him in to the fact.
- The Child of Love: After getting Asuka pregnant Shinji convinces himself that he must stop running away and face his responsibilities. In the process, he becomes more assertive and somewhat more strong-willed.
Shinji: ...but I know one thing: I care for her and for our child. Even if she denies it, this child's part of me. I can't leave those two alone. I just can't. Even if she pushes me aside, I can't leave her!!
- Subverted. Although Shinji tries to be more responsible and determined he is still a shy kid and often he is tempted to run away and hide and a member of the cast (Asuka, Misato ) has to help him or coax him into facing his fears.
- Children of an Elder God: In this story, Shinji kept being shy, quiet and non-confrontational like his canon self, but he resolved to learn to face his troubles, and he charged headlong into combat against whatever was threatening him and everyone.
- Chloe's Lament: Upon seeing just how little regard Chloé has for others, to the point that she genuinely doesn't see anything wrong with turning everyone into her Mind Controled thralls because she feels that everyone should serve her, Adrien finally stands up to his Childhood Friend and calls her out for being such an Entitled Bitch.
- A Crown of Stars: Several characters - including Asuka - remark to Shinji several times that he needs to learn to push back and stand his ground if he wants to have a relationship with Asuka. Slowly he starts to gain one through the history. After liberating Buenos Aires he is determined to try to be a hero and a good person.
- A Diplomatic Visit: As revealed when the mantle of Hatred is being transferred to Aria Blaze in chapter 11 of the sequel Diplomat at Large, she's been trying to encourage Sonata to do this for a long time so the other siren can stand up for herself.
- Doing It Right This Time:
- After returning to the past Shinji considers running and hiding for an instant before resolving he would not run away this time and he would not be scared anymore.
- After having been his dutiful servant in the original timeline Rei slapped Gendo and called him out on everything.
- Erased Potential sees Izuku becoming more confident thanks to convincing Aizawa to teach him how to become a Guile Hero despite being Quirkless. Katsuki first learns about this shift when Izuku stands up for himself against their middle school teacher's attempt to humiliate him into giving up on U.A.
- Evangelion 303: Due to being older, Shinji Ikari is less wimpy in this fic that his canon counterpart, but he is still somewhat of a wuss with no motivation or drive to live on. During pillow talk, Asuka said to him that he could not keep that attitude when people like herself depended on him to live. And in fact, in the second story arc Asuka went through a downward spiral and Shinji needed growing a spine to help her and save her from herself.
- Fashion Upgrade (Miraculous Ladybug):
- Adrien quickly picks up on the fact that Lila was somehow behind Marinette being moved to Mendeleiev's class. He responds by questioning Lila's ideas more openly and defending Marinette when Lila tries to plant doubts about her. Lila even privately laments that Adrien's tactics are threatening her grip on the class and wonders why he couldn't just keep being a pushover.
- By the climax, Marinette has learned her own worth and is more confident asserting herself, as shown in her final conversations with Principal Damocles and Bustier. Damocles in particular realizes that she isn't asking for permission to use the spare fabric from the fashion show to make quilted bedrolls for the homeless, but that she's simply telling him what she and her classmates intend to do.
- In the For Better or for Worse fan comic Foob's Paradise, Deanna is constantly running herself ragged with her job, cooking, cleaning and child rearing because Michael either spends his time writing or being an Entitled Bastard, to the point where she's openly on the verge of a mental breakdown. After some advice from Mira, she starts calling out Michael for his complaining and bad attitude and buys a Crock-Pot and rice cooker and demands that Michael at least learn to cook. This and a nightmare about him dying in the fire and his family not caring get Michael to be a better husband and father.
- For His Own Sake: The entire plot begins when Keitaro finally gets sick of constantly being abused by the Hinata Girls and quits being manager of the inn, breaking up with Naru in the process. From then on, he's far more willing to stand up to the girls.
- Hail To The King: Zone Fighter helps Shinji to grow one through the history. Shinji is still quiet and calm, but he becomes more confident and assertive.
- HERZ: In this story, Shinji has become more confident and more determined to protect his family. Although he hates fighting and killing he has learnt to use weapons and practices his aim constantly to defend his wife and his daughter.
- Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail: Chloe Cerise first starts out as a shy, insecure girl, bullied by others for being into different things that aren't Pokémon. By the end of Part 1, she's more assertive and can calmly tell others to bug off about her not having a Pokémon and has the courage to say her farewells to her ignorant father and Childhood Friend Goh.
- Last Child of Krypton: Thanks to his Kryptonian powers and the inspirational speech of Jor-El (Kal-El in the rewrite), Shinji becomes braver, more determined, and a real hero.
- Leave for Mendeleiev: Transferring out of Bustier's class does wonders for Marinette's self-confidence. While she still has to contend with her long-time bully Chloé attending the same school and trying to harass her, having a teacher who actually stands up against Chloé rather than enabling her, along with making friends who stand firmly by her side and support her, enables Marinette to gradually build up her confidence and stand up for herself more and more.
- Marinette Dupain-Cheng's Spite Playlist: Remix: After Marinette transfers to another school, Adrien realizes that his efforts to handle the Lila situation nonconfrontationally hasn't handled anything at all, but simply handed the Manipulative Bitch free rein to keep hurting everyone. He resolves to start standing up to her more, but finds asserting himself to be easier said than done, leading to disaster when he bails on supporting Chloé after promising to help, giving Lila a chance to further tarnish Marinette's good name. This solidifies his position as The Atoner and helps strengthen his resolve.
- Downplayed in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide. Shinji is still pretty insecure and timid, but he makes an effort to become more assertive, since he knows he will let Asuka and his family down again unless he stops running away, mans up, and takes responsibility for his actions, and he even gradually succeeds in doing so. It is perhaps most obvious in his interactions with Asuka, especially after he gains a better understanding of her; he finds that while it just isn't in his nature to be confrontational with her (plus he knows that such an approach wouldn't be very likely to change her mind anyway), he can, often successfully, appeal to her better nature during an argument.
- Once More with Feeling: The premise of this story is Shinji returning to the past with a steel rod inserted into his back to manage to make up for his complete lack of a spine in the original series, and thus saving the world.
- The One I Love Is...: Shinji forces himself to grow a spine AND keep it intact to protect Asuka and Rei.
- The One to Make It Stay downplays this: While Marinette is no Shrinking Violet, a key part of her Character Arc is learning how to stand up for herself. Not just against obvious bullies like Chloe and Lila, but against things like her friend Alya being pushy and controlling, or Chat Noir's entitlement and refusal to take 'No' for an answer.
- The Giselle Interlude of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines features Joe, who is often picked on by the rest of his classmates, who are considered as a whole the "Golden Generation" of the Pokémon Tech trainer school, for being the least remarkable and wanting to try things out of the norm, but never actually retalliated. After Ash and Misty show up and utterly beat and humiliate the students, he chats with Ash for a bit, who advises him to follow his own path and not to take abuse from anyone. The next day, he decides to quit the school and begin his Pokémon journey on his own, even telling Giselle how he felt about the way she and the others treated him.
- RE-TAKE: Beset by bad dreams of a horrible future, Shinji forces himself to grow up and become a badass to avert it. In the process he gets hurt, despairs, loses Asuka and then he gets her back... and he finally and truly becomes a hero and selflessly saves the world.
- In Role Playing Evangelion, Asuka's plan is built on the idea that she will be able to spit her feelings out if Shinji grows a backbone. Thus, she feels inwardly pleased when he sometimes snaps or talks back during their acting sessions.
- Scar Tissue: The events of the Angel War and Instrumentality had removed any fragment of backbone that Shinji grew during the War, and he was wimpier than ever in the post-Impact world. However, throughout the fic Shinji forces to himself to regrow a spine to confront his inner intense self-hatred and protect his surrogate family, as seen when he saved Asuka after they got shot by a sniper.
- The Second Try: After Third Impact Shinji needs to man up in order to survive, help Asuka and later raise their daughter together. And he manages it, maturing and becoming a better and stronger person who'll defend his family at all costs. Threaten Asuka or Aki at your own risk.
- Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: At the start of the story Shinji is his wimpy canon self, but after finding a suitcase full with Warhammer 40,000 figurines and books he gradually grows a gigantic spine, becoming an utterly fearless badass that earns the reverence of his people for his heroism and the love of women for his gentleness.
- In Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton Shinji tries to be braver and more confident, especially after finding out that Asuka is Supergirl.
- Thousand Shinji: A darker example. After being abandoned by his father, Shinji found a mentor who raised him and forced him to grow a spine. However his teacher was an amoral trickster, and Shinji grew into a trickster, violent, mostly uncaring asshole. He STILL fights to protect humanity and he only targets people who are worse than him or has tried to make him harm, and he still cares for other people (such as Asuka, Rei and Misato. May Heaven help you if you hurt them), but he is a Manipulative Bastard and a Jerkass.
- Twinning With a Twist: Essentially Sammy's Character Development over the course of the fic: separated from Amy and placed on a team with supportive teammates, she starts becoming more self-confident, and even stands up to Amy with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- In Wake, Shinji suddenly becomes more assertive and able to stand up for himself after Third Impact.
- With Confidence begins with Izuku being hit with a Quirk which boosts his confidence significantly, leading to him laying into his teacher, classmates, principal and some heroes. After it wears off, with some careful nudging from Inko, his confidence boost becomes permanent, and he will not tolerate shit from anyone as Hada Shiro found out the hard way.
- George McFly punches out Biff Tannen after seeing Lorraine threatened by him in Back to the Future. From this point on, he no longer allows Biff to bully him.
George: Excuse me. [shoves the creep to the floor and takes back his girl]
- Then at the dance with Lorraine, some knucklehead muscles in, leaving George unsure what to do and on the verge of walking away. Just as it looks like Marty is going to fade out of existence and is done for:
- Luke leaving Yoda's training in The Empire Strikes Back to save Han and Leia deconstructs this; while it does lead to him taking more direct action in the fight against the Empire rather than just doing what Yoda or Ben tell him, growing a spine does not result in instant emotional maturity or fighting skill, and Luke ends up physically and mentally savaged by Darth Vader during their duel and his actions almost lead to him and all his friends being captured by the Empire. It's only after he's gained wisdom and patience in between Empire and Return of the Jedi that he's able to come into his own as a Jedi and a hero of the Rebellion.
- This is a big part of Raven's character development in X-Men: First Class. The downside is she joins the wrong side in doing so, forsaking the only family she's ever known.
- Todd in Dead Poets Society goes from extremely shy and incapable of speaking up for himself to the first student to stand on his desk in support of Mr. Keating when the latter is fired.
- Black Swan: Nina, as she gets in touch with her darker side. Her snapping when her mother tries to stop her performing is the deciding moment in her twisted Coming of Age Story. From there on out, Black Swan Nina takes control and really shines.
Nina: [pushing her mother's hands off] I can't handle this? I'm the Swan Queen! You're the one who never left the corps. [slams door] I'm moving out!
- Near the end of School of Rock, Ned the perpetual pushover is getting chewed out by his girlfriend for his spinelessness. Right when she asks if he's ever going to get around to standing up for himself, he interrupts her by heading off to the concert that she didn't want him to go to. Many of the kids also grow spines in a more gradual way, by learning to defy their overly strict parents.
- At the end of The Hangover, Stu finally stands up to his domineering, abusive and philandering girlfriend Melissa, even going so far as to dump her.
- In Separate Tables, this is the conclusion of the character arc for Sybil, the Shrinking Violet dominated by her bitchy My Beloved Smother. Her hesitant romance with Major Pollock, a fellow guest at the hotel, is wrecked when her mother humiliates Pollock, exposing him as a Phony Veteran and a Covert Pervert who was caught hitting on women in darkened theaters. After Major Pollock comes down for breakfast, Sibyl's mom makes a show of leaving the hotel dining room, and demands Sibyl leave with herbut for the first time, Sibyl defies "Mummy", remaining at her seat and insisting on welcoming Major Pollock for breakfast.
- Pan in the film The Granary, after facing Fear suddenly has the strength to face the burglars who he's been afraid of.
- Elliot in Bedazzled starts out afraid to ask the girl he likes out and keeps trying to be friends with his coworkers who don't really like him. By the end, thanks to the Devil's hijinks, he grows up, asks the girl out, gets rejected, takes it in stride, and decides he doesn't really want to hang out people who don't treat him well. It's heavily implied this was the Devil's plan all along.
- At the end of Kenny, as he is about to drive away in his septic tank truck after a long and exhausting day, Kenny's way is blocked by a luxury car whose driver insensitively brushes off his requests to move. Kenny breaks his longstandng habit of amiability to fill the man's car with human waste, a suggestion that perhaps Kenny has decided to stick up for himself a little bit more.
- Steam: Both Elizabeth and Laurie's character arcs involve gaining confidence to stand up against people in their lives.
- Elizabeth, given the influence of her rebellious girlfriend Niala, defies her controlling parents and comes out to her mom.
- Laurie tells her ex-husband Tom off and cites all the stuff that would come out in court if he tried to get full custody of their son, shooting down his attempt to intimidate her into doing this voluntarily.
- A Good Woman Is Hard To Find: Sarah learns to stand up for herself over the course of the film, as she's forced to just as a matter of survival.
- The Dark (2018): Alex changes from a frightened boy who still obeys the rules of his abuser even when he isn't around to taking some initiative for himself.
- In the Vorkosigan Saga:
- In Shards of Honor, this is combined with Sudden Principled Stand when Sergeant Bothari refuses to rape Cordelia as per Admiral Vorrutyer's orders.
Bothari: She's Commodore Vorkosigan's prisoner. Sir.
- Ekaterin in Komarr and A Civil Campaign, though it is probably better to say that she found and nurtured the spine, rather than grew it.
- In Shards of Honor, this is combined with Sudden Principled Stand when Sergeant Bothari refuses to rape Cordelia as per Admiral Vorrutyer's orders.
- William de Worde Grew a Spine relative his father in The Truth. An example of the Coming of Age Story variant.
- In Chronicles of the Kencyrath:
- Donkerri ordering the Caineron troops to their posts in the end-battle in Dark of the Moon, countermanding his grandfather's orders.
- A plot arc for Torisen in his relation to Adric Lord Ardeth in the same book.
- Peter Pays Tribute has the main character, Matt, and his counter-part Peter, both learn how to stand up to their father-figure.
- Ella Enchanted is a concrete-metaphor version of this, where the protagonist has been magically compelled to be a pushover.
- In On Basilisk Station, the first Honor Harrington novel, Alistair McKeon has a strange variety. He proposes a moral course which is promptly discarded as wrong, but the very act of making an independent proposal against The Captain and arguing for it was a key in developing the dynamic between the characters.
- This is the main character development arc for the protagonist of Doc Sidhe.
- A minor plot point (and one of many) in The Wheel of Time. Nynaeve is infuriated that the Kin are helplessly deferential to the Aes Sedai despite being technically independent and in many ways more learned. She endeavours considerably to get them to collectively "grow some backbone" and stand up for themselves, and they gradually do... to her, which is not remotely what she intended.
- Journey to Chaos: The premise of the first book, A Mage's Power, is Tasio trying to invoke this on Eric, the Extreme Doormat. Being a Trickster God, he does this by promising Eric help, then dropping Eric in mercenary company and (seemingly) abandoning him. The unsaid message is "grow a spine or lose your head." The definitive moment of growth is when he refuses to be bribed by an orc attempting to rape a friend of his, and instead, kills said orc. Tasio arranged for this scene.
- In Don't Call Me Ishmael!, this is a big part of Ishmael's Character Development. It takes a long time for him to become more self-confident and stand up for himself. At the beginning of the first book he lets bullies walk all over him, but this slowly changes when he joins the debate team.
- In The Belgariad, moments that demonstrate this make up half of Belgarion's Coming of Age Story. Most frequently in the form of rebellion against his aunt Polgara, until he gains enough maturity and perspective to realize that she really is acting in his best interest.
- Household Gods: As a result of her experience in the past as Umma, Nicole stands up for herself more, pushing to get the job she deserves and her ex-husband's delinquent child support.
- Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating: Part of Hani's arc is learning to believe in and stand up for herself, especially toward her so-called friends.
- Of Fire and Stars: Dennaleia starts out as a very demure, obedient Proper Lady. Falling in love with tomboy Mare, along with embracing her illicit magic, inspires Dennaleia to stand up and defy those opposing both these things.
- In the climax of the Big Time Rush episode "Big Time Cameo", Coco.0 heroine Dara learns to stand up to her abusive Evil Stepmother and the boys manage to convince her to let her kiss Carlos in the show.
- Dates: Demure, shy Erica's character arc is her coming out as a lesbian rather than continue pretending she's straight for her family to pursue things with her Love Interest Kate after Callum encourages her.
- Game of Thrones: It's been steadily happening to Sansa since Ned's execution, but come Season 6, she's boldly declaring war on the Boltons and insisting on the need to retake Winterfell.
- In one episode of Head of the Class Jawarhalal (an Indian student) is suddenly well known for agreeing with everyone about everything. Then the class goes to see Mr. Moore's off-off-off-Broadway post-post-Modern production of Hamlet. Everybody hates it except Jawarhalal, who defends it to everyone. They're so caught up in trying to prove him wrong that until the end of the episode they never ask him why he likes it and don't notice that he's disagreeing with them, counter to his personality.
- A major part of Fabian's development in House of Anubis season 2. Just calling out Joy for her Jerkass traits took a lot of backbone he didn't have before, considering how earlier he was mainly working to just not upset her or Nina.
- Throughout Joe Schmo 2, Eleanor is a weeper who breaks down crying due to the smallest slights from Austin, usually because of him favoring the ditz Cammy over her. Just before she quits, however, she finds it in herself to refuse Austin's offer of a pearl necklace to remain on the show, telling him...
Eleanor: You can take your pearl necklace and your half-hearted locket and shove it up your ass.
- Ward Meachum in Iron Fist (2017). At the start of season 1, he's a weak minion of his undead father but gets Character Development and starts to assert himself. He finally has enough and stabs Harold, killing him, at least until Harold revives himself just days later. He has a HeelFace Turn when he finally has the courage to do the right thing and stick with it.
- Million Yen Women: Midori starts out getting regularly shaken for money by her former foster brother, but gets more able to confront him thanks to Minami's influence.
- Sesame Street: In the climax of the Episode 4512 street scene, Big Bird, who has been shunned by the narcissistic Minnie Mynah who stole possession of his nest according to the rules in Bird Court, finally learns to stick up for himself with Chris' help and calls out Minnie and the Court for taking things that don't belong to them, which in turn leads to Minnie realizing the error of her ways and returns the nest to Big Bird's ownership.
- Nate from Ted Lasso starts out as a lowly kit manager who's bullied by the players and barely noticed by the management, but Ted notices his skills at strategy and encourages him to come out of his shell, eventually promoting him to junior coach. However, unlike most examples, this goes in a more negative direction; throughout Season 2, Nate gradually becomes meaner and more self-centered as he gains more confidence.
- The Wilds:
- While not completely passive, Rafael's inability to see Seth beyond a friend who made mistakes clouds his judgment for much of the season. That is until the final episode when Seth suggests leaving Kirin to drown, causing Raf to beat Seth into unconsciousness when he realizes the person Seth actually is.
- Josh becomes more confident during his time on the island.
- The last verse of The Puppini Sisters' "Jilted" is about learning from the experience of being, yes, jilted, and gaining a spine as a consequence.
I jumped through hoops to keep that man
But now he's gone I'm finally free
To try new ambitions
And learn new friends' names
And wash my hair through all those football games...
- Noel Vermillion's character arc in BlazBlue. In the early games, she spends a lot of time doubting her own opinions and neglecting to speak up for herself, even when she has an official mandate to do so, leading to her being pressed down a lot by her Bad Boss Jin. In the later half of the series she steadily develops more confidence, becoming a lot more self-accepting and secure, and fights for herself so much that in Central Fiction she tells Susano'o, a Physical God not to underestimate her.
- In Ensemble Stars!, this is Makoto's main Character Development arc - he starts off as a very shy guy lacking in self-esteem, but over time grows much more confident in himself. This is especially obvious when it comes to Izumi, who reacted very badly when Makoto quit modelling and became a scarily obsessive Yandere towards him. At first Makoto simply tries to run away from him, but as the year goes on he becomes assertive enough to tell Izumi exactly how he feels and force him to change his behaviour. And just to really hammer in the point, 'Makoto' in Japanese means 'courage'.
- Final Fantasy:
- Yuna from Final Fantasy X. Although it does take a healthy amount of spine to become a summoner in the first place, learning how to have desires for herself rather than the greater good of Spira is a big part of her Character Development.
- Hope and Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII:
- Hope follows Lightning on her revenge quest against the Sanctum with the intention of toughening up and though Lightning is initially reluctant and sees Hope as The Load, she takes him under her wing. Hope evolves from a complaining victim of circumstance focused on avenging his mother's death to a young man willing to risk life and limb to save an entire world.
- After being too scared to play her part in the ancient war against Cocoon, Vanille's fear and guilt continue to plague her centuries later in the present day. Despite her good intentions in trying to keep history from repeating itself as she tells one lie after another, Vanille's secrets soon catch up to her and she is forced to face them after they result in countless innocent lives being destroyed. Vanille eventually resolves to fight to save Cocoon instead of running away even though it may be a losing battle.
- Naminé in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, who at first is submissive to her abusive guardians and only defies one when another gives her the go-ahead to, but after being forgiven by Sora for what she was made to do to him, Naminé refuses to obey her captors any longer and boldly declares that she would rather die.
- In Love & Pies, Sebastian tries making Amelia more assertive as part of his "lessons" for her on how to run her café:
Sebastian: You say 'um' too much. You need to be more assertive!
Amelia: I am assertive — I'm just shy.
Sebastian: Shyness is weakness!
Amelia: I'm not weak.
Sebastian: Of course not. Now — onto lesson two.
- The Mother series:
- Lloyd in EarthBound Beginnings was bullied constantly and would hide in a trash can on the school roof. This changed when Ninten meets him and the two form a friendship. From then on, Lloyd grew braver despite lacking in physical strength, to the point where he saves Ninten and Ana from a giant robot with a tank.
- Lucas in Mother 3 started out as a timid contrast to his energetic twin brother Claus. Adding to his troubles is his mother Hinawa's death, but he starts to show signs of bravery by commanding a family of Dragos to scare off the Pigmasks, and grows stronger once he learns PK Love.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Vivian starts the game as a Shrinking Violet who lets herself get bullied and pushed around by her older sister Beldam. However, after joining Mario and having actual support, Vivian slowly becomes way more assertive, to the point where, if you have her out during the fight with the Shadow Sirens at the end of the game, she will actually tell Beldam off.
Vivian: I'm with Mario all the way! Today, Sis, I am going to punish YOU, do you hear me?
- In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, the otherwise usually cowardly Galactic Rangers appear during the second phase of the fight against Dr. Nefarious to help Ratchet destroy his minions.
- In the Saints Row: The Third DLC "Gangstas in Space", The Boss's co-star in the titular film is a girl named Jenny who starts off as an Ascended Fangirl feeling powerless in the face of the Jerkass Prima Donna Director repeatedly lambasting her for breaking character and not following his directions to a T, while ignoring The Boss doing the same. She gets more resentful as the storyline progresses, notably killing two of the five girls hired to replace her before straight-up murdering the director using the modified VTOL that you pilot in the third mission.
- Sophie Grundler from The Sandman (2014). She's been a Stepford Smiler for years, trying to put on a brave face and seem okay because she didn't want to cause any trouble to her father, who's busy working and trying to raise her after his wife's death. Her tendency to bottle everything up, as well as pretending to not stand up to her once-friend-turned-bully Regan, caused her insomnia and led to the game's events. In the good ending Don't Stay Up Late At Night, Sophie grows herself a spine and chooses to openly talk about her feelings now, as well as when things bother her; this includes giving a good round of The Reason You Suck Speeches.
- Warcraft III has a villain-to-villain example: "Ah, my wayward pet, Garithos. I see you've grown a spine since we last met." Technically the mind control spell the dreadlords put on Garithos was broken but evidently, he lacked the Heroic Willpower to defend himself against it in the first place.
- In Katawa Shoujo, this happens to Hisao in Shizune and Lilly's routes. In Shizune's route, while attempting to stand up to Shizune's father in an argument over the Student Council, he reflects on how much he has changed, wondering why he was so resistant to joining the Student Council at first despite his general apathy about life. In Lilly's route, he realizes in the Good Ending that he has relied on her for everything, and so decides to confront her one last time before her departure for Scotland in order to apologize for not being there when she needed him.
- Also happens for Hanako in her route: slowly through awkward relationship-building in the Good path, and abruptly in the Bad one. In the latter, Hisao gets excessively pushy, so she furiously tells him how much she hates it when people treat her like she's helpless...and how much she hates Hisao and Lilly for failing to understand that. Some people think her "Neutral" ending is the worst one because it's the only version where she doesn't grow a spine.
- Little Busters! is largely the story of how Riki — a rather nervous, passive, and feminine boy totally content to live in the shadow of his friends — manages to, over the routes, grow into a more independent and strong person. In fact, it's the very basis of the story—Kyousuke created this world specifically so he and Rin could become strong enough to live on without him after he and the others died in a bus crash.
- In Fate/hollow ataraxia, Sakura is shown to have gone through this after the events of Fate/stay night, becoming much more confident in herself, as well as much more intimidating. Shirou even states she has become much more like her sister, Rin.
- In Drowtales, Syphile manages this through a "The Reason You Suck" Speech while held at swordpoint by her adopted mother Quain'tana once her attempted assassination of Quain fails miserably, and Quain calls this trope by name before killing Syphile in one blow.
- Tavros Nitram finally stands up to Vriska and actually goes to fight her when he learns she created Bec Noir. Too bad it gets him killed.
- Later, Tavros finds himself still berated by Vriska in the afterlife for a long while until he finally tells her off and flies away.
- At the start of volume 10 of Ménage à 3, Extreme Doormat Gary finally stands up for himself when pulled into the middle of Tracy's and James' relationship mess. In a nice ironic twist, Gary has a momentary flashback to some good advice about showing courage which Tracy herself gave him just a few days earlier and politely thanks her for that advice.
- Defied at the end of The Order of the Stick prequel volume "Start of Darkness". The Dragon Redcloak tries to stand up to Big Bad Xykon when Xykon orders him to reanimate his dead brother as a zombie. Xykon responds by not only revealing that he knew about the attempts Redcloak had just made to deceive him but also lays down an absolutely brutal combination Eviler than Thou/Breaking Speech. The book ends with Redcloak following Xykon's orders and following after Xykon, apparently a broken shell of a goblin.
Xykon: Huh. First you kill your baby brother, then you lie to me about it, now this? Did they have a sale down at the testicle store or something?
- MegaTokyo: After Piro spends most of the comic just going with the flow and muttering about how much his life sucks, he helps Kimiko with a really bad situation she got herself into, and she snaps at him for it, even accusing him of just doing it to get laid. He quietly says he didn't deserve that, and leaves without another word. Both the fandom and the characters were impressed.
Erika: At least Piro was there for you... Looks like your boy might have a bit of spine after all.
Erika: You didn't rip his little spine out and stuff it down a garbage disposal, did you?
- Princess Princess: Sadie, due to her kind, shy nature, is cowed easily by her older sister at first. By the end she's learned to stand up against her (with Amira at her side).
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir has a complicated relationship with this trope, resulting in it being zig-zagged:
- He decides to go on a trip without his parent's permission after finding out they have been lying to him about the extent to which the law allows him to travel (they claimed it was less than it actually is). Unfortunately, he ends up in a Death World surrounded by a handful of people who know how to survive it better than he does, resulting in an obedient attitude being a matter of survival and limiting the extent to which he's The Load.
- There is occasionally a danger that only Reynir can see coming and/or do something about, and he gets better at being assertive in those situations as the story progresses, but he returns to being submissive once those dangers have passed.
- Once reunited with his parents, he makes up for having worried them by sticking to an obedient son attitude, to the point that he doesn't correct his mother when she assumes that he's friends with the two travel companions who are around his age but don't particularly like him. However, when one of them decides that Reynir's bed looks much more comfortable than the guest mattresses on the floor, Reynir has no qualms about tilting his mattress to get him off it.
- Taylor in Worm becomes a lot more able to assert herself after she begins kicking large amounts of ass in her supervillain identity, Skitter.
- Kitten of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device starts off as a Sycophantic Servant and a Yes-Man to the Emperor, but after long exposure to his lord's snarkery and an in-depth crash course on reality of the universe, he morphs into Servile Snarker and outright defies the Emperor once.
- Pictured above, in the climax of the Amphibia Season 1 finale, Anne learns to stand up to her longtime friend Sasha and calls her out for her overly controlling behavior. This scenario gets repeated in the series finale between Andrias and the Core, complete with the same lines Sasha and Anne used.
- Stacy from Daria began to become more confident during the show's final season, and in the series finale, she finally stood up to Sandi for all the abuse she put her through and inadvertently caused the Fashion Club to crumble.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy:
- Edd had a few moments of this, notably in "The Day The Ed Stood Still" when he scolds Edzilla (who is Ed in a monster costume) for kidnapping the kids and sticking them onto his wall.
- Ed lashes out at Sarah in "Little Ed Blue" when she starts one of her typical (violent) tantrums. She cowers in terror before him.
- In "A Fistful of Ed", Eddy does what he couldn't do in "A Twist of Ed": stand up to the Kanker Sisters. And it works.
- Happens to Pacifica Northwest in the climax of the Gravity Falls episode "Northwest Mansion Mystery", where she learns to resist the urge of her Abusive Parents and fix their family name her own way.
- Grojband: Mina, Trina's best friend takes a lot of abuse for her, including changing her name so that they match. But in the Grand Finale, when Trina abandons both her and the heroes to die so that she can be with her unrequited crush, Mina loses it and gives Trina a long overdue demand for her to give her best friend some proper respect.
"TRINA RIFFIN!!! I am your BFF! I have been zapped, soaked, swamped, gooped, and probably broke like a hundred laws FOR YOU!!! You left me behind to get smooshed so you could save a boy WHO'S NOT! THAT! INTO YOU!!!"
- Played for laughs in an episode of The Looney Tunes Show, where Porky Pig kept falling for upsells despite Bugs' encouragement. Eventually, he does gain the ability to say no... to car insurance after buying a new car.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Putting Your Hoof Down", Fluttershy does this after assertive training under the minotaur Iron Will. She takes it a little too far for a while, though. Most episodes after keep her assertiveness higher, though it depends on the writer.
- In the climax of "Crusaders of the Lost Mark", Diamond Tiara learns to stand up to her overly abusive mother Spoiled Rich, to the point of calling her out of raising her to be the Alpha Bitch she is today, and to truly express her natural-born leadership.
- The Owl House: In "Escaping Expulsion", Amity learns to resist the abusive demands of her mother Odalia and finally call her out for it. Initiated by breaking the necklace they used to telepathically communicate, as a symbol she's no longer under her control.
- In the climax of the Season 3 finale of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Adora stands up to her childhood friend Catra, and calls her out for her toxic, hurtful, and selfish behavior after the latter attempts to destroy all of reality.
Adora: You made your choice NOW LIVE WITH IT!!
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series: Peter Parker would often politely put up with Anna Watson's condescending dislike for him. But when Mary Jane got kidnapped and she accusses him for being the cause of her niece's disappearance, Peter rightfully got angry with her. Later on, when Mary Jane returned safe and sound, Aunt Anna hugged Peter, showing that she may even start to respect him after all these years.
- South Park:
- Throughout Season 21, Heidi Turner had to deal with being mentally abused by her boyfriend Eric Cartman. By "Splatty Tomato" Heidi no longer wants to be his victim and finds the courage to break up with him for good, even leaving while he threatens to kill himself.
- Likewise, Butters himself was usually submissive towards Cartman and did what Cartman wanted out of fear of him. However it would be revealed in a revised timeline, that Butters had cut ties with Cartman in his adulthood and has told his friend not to waste time feeling bad for Cartman being a Crazy Homeless Person, while cussing back at him when Cartman tries flipping him off.
- Liane Cartman finally stands up to her son Eric in "The Streaming Wars." After he royally screws them over by making her quit her job, they end up living in a old hot dog stand. Liane finally snaps, and makes a promise to herself to never give in to Cartmans demands ever again. She displays this through the whole special, by refusing to give in to Cartmans latest ridiculous scheme, getting her a boob job to seduce a rich guys to taking them in. When Cartman continues to try and manipulate her into doing it, Liane refuses to listen to his insane demands, and when he decides to get the implants himself, Liane calls his bluff. But when he actually goes through with it, she is just disappointed at the stupidity Eric displays and just walks away to buy groceries, leaving him with his giant fake knockers, while he begins to rant that shell have to give in at some point.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Treats!" SpongeBob becomes an Extreme Doormat to Gary and cannot bring himself to say no to his addiction toward Snail Bites; it is through Patrick's advice that he finally learns to firmly say "no", which in turn makes Gary finally stop.
- Total Drama: In the first season episode "Paintball Deer Hunter", Beth finally decides she's had enough of Heather bossing her around, defiantly answering with a "No." to Heather's latest request before declaring she has quit their alliance and paintballing her.