Setting and enforcing boundaries is necessary if you want to maintain healthy relationships. Many of us, however, were trained to do exactly the opposite. Our parents, teachers and mentors convinced us that it was selfish to take care of our needs before the needs of others. They also taught us to adhere to rules of our family adults and those of people in authority.
The unintended consequences of such teachings were that they caused us to seek the approval of others to establish our worth. Doing so made us acquiescent to the desire of others. This is certainly what happened to me.
After decades of people pleasing, I found myself unhappy and unfulfilled. Not only was I living a life I didn’t desire, I had no sense for what I wanted. The road to wholeness began when I decided that the aforementioned teachings my parents and mentors had taught me were misguided.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is good to be kind and loving towards others. But it is a bad idea to continually set aside your needs to fulfill the desires of others. The only person you need to please is you.
Firmness vs Anger
Proclaiming who you are involves identifying and setting boundaries. But doing this is not enough, you need to enforce them when someone tries to violate them. This is easier said than done, especially when you are trying to be firm about your boundaries for the first time.
Communicating your boundaries to others is being honest and responsible to yourself and others. Enforcing them when someone is violating them is being firm. Others may think you are being an asshole, but that is their problem, for that reaction is a reflection of their selfishness.
Last but not least, letting go of the people who don’t honor your boundaries is showing backbone; a necessary trait to better take care of yourself.
Enforcing your boundaries is not a sign of anger unless you take action to hurt the violators.
Others may not like you for enforcing your boundaries.
Being firm with those who have never seen you be that way before will not feel good to them. Those used to your acquiescence will show displeasure when they see you taking care of yourself. From their point of view, they don’t like the person you have become. To them, you changed the conditions of the relationship unilaterally by enforcing your boundaries. They will get angry and accuse you of rude, unjust or unsuitable behavior. Understand they are trying to get you to return to your old self.
When I started enforcing my boundaries, these initial reactions from those accustomed to my acquiescence were confusing. I was uncomfortable knowing I was making someone angry. I felt ashamed for offending them and the guilt caused me to second guess myself. Sometimes I went back to my old people pleasing habits. But that didn’t last long, for I knew I was done letting others walk all over me.
There is an old saying that is applicable here;
“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
It is understandable people get confused when you change your behavior, but the people who love you will not be angry. They may ask questions about your changes, but once you explain you are setting boundaries, they will see your modifications as part of your personal growth.
Those who have taken advantage of your acquiescence don’t have your best interest in mind. Don’t let them fool you into believing you are doing something wrong. To have boundaries is appropriate behavior. Learn from your mistakes and refuse to let them fool you into acquiescing. If you allow others to talk you out of what is in your best interest, then that is on you.
Not letting others take advantage of you takes courage, but it is the highest form of self-love and self-respect. It says you will not enable the inappropriate behavior of others. Most importantly, it says you matter and are worthy of love and respect. That is the most important message you can send the Universe.