Setting and enforcing boundaries is a necessary skill one must learn if you want to maintain healthy relationships. Many of us, however, were trained to do exactly the opposite. Our parents, teachers and mentors told us that it was selfish to take care of our needs before the needs of others. They also insisted that we needed to adhere to rules of our family adults and those of the people in authority.
The unintended consequences of such teachings were that they caused many of us to seek the approval of others by which to measure our goodness. In so doing, we became acquiescent to the desire of others.
After decades of people pleasing, I found myself unhappy and unfulfilled. Not only was I living a life I didn’t desire, I was also confused about what I wanted. The road to wholeness began when I decided that what my parents and mentors had taught me was misguided.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is good to be kind and loving towards others, but I discovered that it is damaging to set aside your needs to fulfill the desire of others. The only person you need to please is you.
Firmness vs Anger
Proclaiming who you were meant to be involves identifying and setting boundaries. But doing this alone is not enough, you need to enforce them when they are being violated. 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. Enforcing them when someone is violating them is being firm. Letting go of the people who don’t honor your boundaries is showing backbone; a necessary trait to better take care of yourself.
Being firm about 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 whom you have never been firm 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. You changed the conditions of the relationship for the worst by enforcing your boundaries. They will get angry and accuse you of rude, unjust or unsuitable behavior. They are doing so to get you to return to your old self.
These initial reactions from those whom expected my acquiescence were confusing. I was very uncomfortable knowing I was making someone angry at me. I felt ashamed for having offended them and the guilt caused me to second guess myself. Sometimes I went back to my old habits, but that didn’t last long for I knew I had had enough of 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 makes sense for people to get confused when you change your behavior, but the people who love you will not be angry with you. They may ask questions about your changed behavior, but once you explain your boundaries, they will see your modifications as personal growth.
Those who have taken advantage of your acquiescence don’t have your best in mind, so don’t let them fool you into believing you are doing something wrong. Firmness is not anger. Learn from your mistakes and refuse to let them trick you into being fooled again. If you allow others to talk you out of what is in your best interest, then that is on you.
Enforcing your boundaries and 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 bad 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 to the Universe.
As always, wishing you a life filled with joy, love and serenity.