“You teach people how to treat you”- Oprah Winfrey
Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)
I read the text over and over again. My friend had sent me a message, about me, to me instead of her other friend. The message was, of course, not the most favorable. If I had the read the text message a few years ago I have a pretty good idea of how I would have responded. Apologies would have been abounding from texts to phone calls.
I sat and thought about it for a bit. I knew her complaint about me was not true and based off her own bias…this was not the first time I felt this type of animosity from my friend, and I was not the only recipient of it as well. I took a deep breath, and knew I was not going to apologize. This issue would remain with her, where it belonged.
Boundaries are a personal matter, and a right. It is not something we need to explain, excuse, or apologize for yet because we do it for us, we do not do it to be manipulative. What results is respect, for ourselves and from others. Read through the following tips to help begin to realize where someone else ends and where your true authentic self begins.
Commit to knowing yourself, inside and out
The first step to personal boundaries is to know who you really are. With respect to change and dynamism in life, there are certain qualities that we all have in our core. Those qualities all range from our values, beliefs, goals, our strengths and perceived weaknesses, characteristics, insecurities, and much more.
Dedicate a lifetime to finding your authentic self and it will in turn begin to build ways of responding to situations, conflict management, and let’s not forget experiencing and feeling the joy and beauty in life.
Define your own words, thoughts, intentions, and actions
A method which has greatly helped with setting boundaries is to define my own self in various situations. I spend time knowing getting in touch with my core to show compassion towards myself. As we know we cannot change anyone else, but only ourselves so it helps to build strength around who you are to not fall prey to accusation, questioning, or judgment.
No is a powerful word
Go ahead, say it. Now, say it again. And now say it without guilt. In many times and situations, saying no, can be more helpful than always saying yes. Saying no to someone or something can mean saying yes to your time, your self-respect, or inner peace.
Everyone is different
This simple phrase is one that we all might have learned in kindergarten, yet as adults it has evolved to so much more. Everyone, including ourselves, has needs and opinions. A sign of strength is to learn, I disagree with you- but I still love and respect you and hope the same for me. In the words of Temple Grandin “Not less, but different”.
So, what about the critics? It is helpful to realize that criticism stems from our own pain and comforting to know that you know better than to internalize something that is not said with compassion.
Be careful what you own, and how you own it
Ever heard of the term “choose your battles wisely”? Ever find yourself struggling or fighting with someone or something that you know is not you or has nothing to do with you? This mantra is one that I constantly come back to. In a society where blame, projection, and accusation are common, many use those tools in order to discard thoughts or feelings which they do not want. It is not for us to own and besides it is wiser to not get in the way of what others need to also go through.
Give and take skillfully
I used to confuse being empathetic, helping, listening, and being supportive with trying to fix everyone’s problems and insecurities. I exhausted valuable resources from this and felt more drained and frustrated than useful. At worst, I felt used. Instead of giving up or giving in who I am to try to meet expectations of what people want or take unneeded advice, I focus on what I have to give, how to give it, and what someone might need. Because, what someone wants from you or to give to you, is not necessarily what they need or what you need.
Call on your courage
We are all trying our best, and we all have parts in which we struggle with. Courage is defined as being from the heart, the strength to believe and be who we really are. It is imperative to remember that everyone has a right to their boundaries. It takes a lot of courage to be oneself, and to stand up for oneself- especially if it is something that we are not used to doing.
It is okay to disagree
We would live in a pretty bland world if there were not different opinions and perspectives around us. Our beliefs and values are what makes us. It is important to cultivate a sense of goodness for who we are so that we can turn that around to others in the form of respect when sharing ideas. Be aware of feeling guilty or ashamed constantly for speaking up for what you think. We are not the holders of truth, just opinions, and everyone’s (as long as they are not hurting someone else) should be respected.
How anyone feels or what anyone does is not your responsibility
Anytime an individual tries to make someone feel ashamed for what they have said it is a red flag. Everyone says things that someone might not like once in a while but it is a problem when that is more frequent than not. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and when you know what you said was not your intention when you said but someone repeatedly tries to get you to take the blame that is an issue.
There is a difference between advice/support and control
In this case it is wise to know yourself and figure out if what someone else is saying is true and where it is coming from. As mentioned before I do not like to take anything in that is not said with compassion. Watch for bullying techniques, accusations and understand that those behaviors say more about the person than you. If you are in a situation if you are not sure what someone said is valid you can add space to those comments without taking it in and giving yourself time to think about it by saying “That’s interesting” or “Maybe that is something to ponder, or maybe not. Thanks for the suggestion”.
You can speak for yourself
One of my pet peeves is when an individual asks me a question and someone else jumps in to answer that question. It makes the situation more awkward since usually the person speaking for me is also usually wrong. I usually like to correct it, or say “That is what I was going to say but…” or “I can answer that better. So…”
No one has to tell you what to do
As an adult you, and everyone else, is entitled to our own sets of opinions and needs. I know I am going back into bad patterns when I feel like I am constantly walking on eggshells and instead of doing things for my own reasons instead I am thinking about what others will think of what I do.
You don’t have to solve everyone’s problems
I used to think of myself as a mini-therapist to people. I also used to think that anyone could do or say anything and it would not hurt me. Well, it did. And being everyone’s shoulder to cry did not allow me to work on myself. I ended up being very scarred and without resources to heal myself. There is a big difference in supporting and being there for others and the need to solve their problems. Don’t get in the way of what people need to go through. It is always more powerful when people figure things out themselves.
What I give and how I give it is good enough
I believe that without good boundaries we cannot have real and honest connections, better those around us, and most importantly be our true and authentic selves. The commitment and practice is worth it, this is our life and it is the only one we have. And know, you are not alone; I hope that we can reach out to one another along the way.