Do You Have a Self Defense Mindset? Here’s How to Develop It

Having a self-defense mindset can help you survive or prevent being targeted for attack

Having a self-defense mindset can help you survive or prevent being targeted for attack

A self defense mindset starts with realizing and accepting the fact that you could experience a violent encounter. This can happen regardless of how many courses you’ve taken, how many precautions you’ve worked into your everyday life or the fact that you live in a nice neighborhood.

Developing a Self Defense Mindset

Mentally preparing yourself for the possibility of an attack is similar to preparing yourself for other security, safety, and preparedness situations.  The first psychological preparation step in self-defense is to acknowledge that you may have a violent encounter.  While we all hope that we won’t experience a violent confrontation, it is a possibility.  Therefore, anything other than acknowledging that possibility is living in denial.

When it comes to self defense, denial of the possibility puts you on the path towards tragedy.  So, accept that you could find yourself in a violent confrontation, and you’ll be ahead of the game if it happens. Acceptance of the possibility doesn’t mean it will happen, so don’t become paranoid and fearful of everything.

Preparing for other events such as disasters, etc., improves your self defense mindset.  After all, a primary response to any developing situation or crisis is relatively similar.  When you’ve accepted and pre-planned for the possibilities, you can react much more decisively when something occurs.

Overcome the Fear

Once you have mentally prepared for a violent situation, you should overcome the fear of it happening.  Being fearful of violent situations is normal.  However, do not let fear control you.  If you do, you reduce your chance of responding to a problem favorably.  Conquering your anxiety can be done through the mental preparedness mentioned previously and pre-planning for a possible encounter.

Not all fear is bad. Sometimes it’s your early warning system that something isn’t right. An excellent book for tapping into your instincts and using fear to your advantage is The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker.

The other part of the equation is overcoming the concern of being rude or overreacting. Women in our society have long been programmed to be polite, and sometimes that does not work to your advantage. If your instincts are telling you that something is wrong, don’t worry about “overreacting.” Take action, be assertive, and try to de-escalate the situation while getting yourself to a safer position.

Plan for It

Now that you’ve accepted that you may be attacked and are dealing with your fear, you need to plan.  Planning doesn’t mean coming up with a super detailed plan for everything.  It means to think of various situations and considering your initial response.  It’s thinking through the “what if” moments.

What if a bad guy runs up from behind?  How will I handle the situation if “X” happens?

Planning means getting yourself prepared to survive the initial encounter.  Then, over time, add in follow-on steps as you role-play the situation in your mind.  Adding in follow-on steps slowly builds up well-thought-out responses that allow you to have the faster OODA Loop and come out on the winning side of a less than desirable encounter.

Maintain Situational Awareness

The next step to self-defense is by maintaining active situational awarenessSituational awareness includes lifting your head out of your smartphone and paying attention.  It means observing your surroundings.  When you watch your surroundings, you should look for things that do not seem normal or are out of place.

When you notice something, listen to your gut and take action.  The best action is avoidance, which happens when you increase the time and distance between you and the problem.   Unfortunately, not all of us have developed excellent situational awareness skills.  If this is you, don’t worry, I wrote this post to help you improve your situational awareness.  Improving your situational awareness will allow you to react and spring into your OODA Loop faster than your opponent, which is always a good thing.

Train, Train, Train

Finally, now that you are ready to notice a developing problem due to your situational awareness, you’re willing to deal with it.  As mentioned earlier, the best action is often avoidance.  If avoidance isn’t possible, then you need to address the problem.

Dealing with it may include a physical confrontation. Because of this, it’s vital to ensure you are in as good of shape physically as possible. If you’re not in good condition, see your doctor. Once your doctor gives you the thumbs up, start training. Remember, training doesn’t mean you need to go to the gym.  What it means is to pick up the pace.  Start going for walks.  Find out self-improvement methods on the internet. Whatever it is, take proactive steps to improve yourself.

Another proactive step is self-defense training.  Many towns, martial arts studios, etc., offer self-defense workshops, especially for women.  Take advantage of these and work on improving yourself.  Don’t be intimidated because you’re new to it or don’t know anyone there.  Use the feeling of uncertainty as the first step in building the self-confidence to overcome a violent encounter, should it happen.

The Bottom Line on Developing a Self Defense Mindset

It’s important to know that every step you take towards improving your security, safety, and preparedness is one step closer to a successful outcome. Developing a self defense mindset gives you an advantage that many don’t have, and it can also take your opponent by surprise.


Stay safe, secure, and prepared,


Brian Duff

Brian Duff

Brian began his preparedness life after experiencing his first major earthquake at three. Since then, Brian's quest to develop his Mind4Survival has taken him around the world, where he spent decades working as a lifeguard, firefighter, paramedic, U.S. Army Ranger, high-threat diplomatic protective-security specialist, training director, international security director, and security and preparedness consultant. Brian holds a bachelor's degree in security management, a master's degree in business administration, and numerous safety, security, and preparedness certifications.


  1. Native on July 27, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Brian, Thanks for this article. Ever watch true crime TV shows? I do. They have had at least 3 shows on women who learned self-defense.

    One was a judo champion. Her husband attacked her while she was carrying groceries and stabbed her to death because he didn’t want to lose their home in their divorce.

    The second was an elderly woman who was attacked in her own home. She had studied self-defense for many years; it was useless in fending off her home’s invader.

    However, it did give her the presence of mind to search for a way out. When she fled the home, the invader shot her. Fortunately, he just grazed her scalp and she lay still to feign death. She survived only because her attacker ran off.

    The third was a military married couple. The wife was an arms instructor and of course, well-trained in self-defense. That didn’t help when her husband strangled her to death over financial problems.

    Moral of the story: guns are the great equalizer. Yes, situational awareness is very important. But men are faster, bigger, and stronger than women are. No amount of training can change that.

    • Brian Duff on July 27, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      That’s one perspective, and you make some valid points.

      So, am I to understand that, in your view, training is worthless if the person you’re having a problem with is faster, bigger, and stronger? Hmm, is the point of training only to face slower, smaller, and weaker opponents?

      In my opinion, believing in absolutes such as a man will always outmatch women is akin to saying all people are equally capable of handling a firearm, making a firearm the great equalizer.

      There are many different levels of mindset and ability when it comes to firearms. And, because there are many levels from zero confidence and capability to a seasoned Delta-Force Operator, the gun, therefore, by definition, is not the great equalizer.

      Instead, a firearm is a tool, and in the hands of someone trained with it, it can be an effective force multiplier. What’s also an effective force multiplier is a woman who is trained in and understands self-defense.

      In my opinion, any sound and well-executed training can be beneficial and can be effective in helping a person overcome faster, bigger, and stronger.

      Thanks for your comment! Great discussion.

      Stay safe,

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