There are moments where I feel burdened when I am around people.
Despite my outgoing and gregarious nature I often wonder if I am actually an introvert as my Meyer-Briggs personality test results suggests…I am often left drained.
When I think over my interactions with others…people it seems; are my own personal flavour of kryptonite, they always seem to need something.
There they go piling on their demands; wanting this or that, upsetting me with their words, imposing their views and beliefs systems onto me and all because I am not well rehearsed in using the word ‘no’.
I am not devoid from feeling like I want to use the word ‘no’. I think it and although it is at the tip of my tongue…my voice betrays me, saying ‘yes’ when I actually mean ‘no’.
It is always the same agreeing to an event I have absolutely no interest in or listening for hours on end about how someone’s repeated irresponsibility has again landed them in hot water when I should be tending to issues of my own.
When the day I am needed approaches; I choose to lock myself away instead, hiding beneath the comfort of my covers avoiding their calls, desperately trying to ‘forget’ the date and time of the latest event things my inability to say ‘no’ has signed me up for.
Ironically when they are able to assert their boundaries and call me out on my behaviour. I become defensive, coming up with every excuse I can think of…everything except admit the truth.
‘I do not want to come’
‘I have changed my mind’
It hadn’t even occurred to me that I was lying.
‘Lying’ a strong word yes but ultimately what we are doing when we are not speaking up and owning our true feelings.
Maybe I am an introvert or even indeed an empath but the obvious solution in protecting my time and energy would be to assert personal boundaries.
The problem: I had never been taught personal boundaries or more accurately taught how to assert my personal boundaries.
In the past, when attempting to assert boundaries, I had either reached boiling point where rather than being assertive I would lean on the side of aggression which left me feeling guilty and then ‘giving’ in anyways
they were so weak and feeble they were never taken seriously and busted.
People came in, held me hostage and took what they wanted.
I felt so angry.
Angry that I wasn’t spending my time or energy doing the things I wanted.
Instead I was throwing myself under a bus in the pursuit of their dreams and happiness.
I felt so powerless and annoyed at myself, blaming people seemed pointless. It wasn’t their fault I had agreed to help them, or attend a party or what other action I had promised.
I want my power back.
Can you see yourself in any of the above? Perhaps you too have difficulty in asserting personal boundaries.
What are personal boundaries?
Boundaries are your own personal laws which determine how you expect to lead your life and includes how you expect to be treated, are spoken to, how you are touched etc.
Your personal laws protects you and ensure you lead your life intrinsic to your beliefs and values and keep everything which is not serving you…OUT!
Having clear definable boundaries is great, but not so much if you’re not asserting them, this is what can lead to feeling burnt out and resentment.
Do you have people-pleasing tendencies? If so, the idea of saying no or saying and doing nothing will make you feel extremely uncomfortable at first but that’s where growth happens.
The first few times you ‘protect’ yourself through asserting your boundaries will feel extremely empowering.
So how do we begin asserting personal boundaries?
Get clear on your boundaries
Here is where you draw on your personal experiences make note of all the things which have made you uncomfortable, angry or sad and write down:
- The treatment you are happy with
- The treatment you received which you were not happy with
We may have this information readily available in our heads from the times we have replayed the scenes over and over…wishing we had asserted our true feelings.
With that said, now isn’t the time to beat ourselves up nor feel sorry for ourselves.
The purpose of this exercise is to educate ourselves on our personal boundaries in order to prevent us saying yes, rather than no in the future.
It is much more powerful to list your personal boundaries down, that way you can see them and they’re clear to you. Writing them down also has the added benefit of them remaining at the forefront of our minds ready for when we need to assert them.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time
In my previous relationship, each time my ex-partner and I went out for a social occasion he would drink too much alcohol, become drunk, start an argument with me and leave me behind to find my own way home, irrespective of the time or where we were.
Of course I expressed how upsetting this was for me yet the continuation of the behaviour clearly demonstrated a lack of respect for my boundaries. The fact this managed to occur numerous times… highlights my poor boundaries.
I learnt from that experience (amongst many things) if you assert a boundary and it isn’t respected, the person doesn’t respect you. No extra tears, new explanations or numerous colourful PowerPoint presentations will change, if a person is hellbent on disrespecting you.
To prevent the behaviour continuing, the onus is on us to take action, that is where our power lies….another lesson I learnt here “what we allow, will continue”
What are the consequences of a person crossing your boundaries?
2. Stand tall in the wake of anger from the beast!
If like myself you often feel anger or resentment as a result of being used or manipulated by others, treated in a less than acceptable manner or spoken to disrespectfully
Ask yourself why you keep on letting them?
I ask this because we cannot control others, but we can control ourselves.
They’re able to continue because we have not implemented a boundary.
What are you afraid will happen if you say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want to?’
If you’re afraid of them being angry, that’s they’re prerogative, their emotion and ultimately…their choice. Let them be angry.
Perhaps anger triggers you and takes you to a time and place where you felt guilt and shame, possibly as a child with strict disciplinarian parents, parents who angrily expressed displeasure at your shortcomings.
If you’re anything like me, anger in others can trigger me into feeling responsible for their feelings and wanting me to ‘fix’ the situation or rescue the person and ‘make’ them happy again by ‘giving in’
However “We teach people how to treat us” it’s a lack of boundaries which invite toxic people into our lives do not let your fear of their anger lead you to run and abandon your boundaries.
People who truly love and respect you, will respect your boundaries.
I understand that trying to undo years of programming is difficult and you may require support such as from friends or a counsellor to help you remain firm.
My go to support is improvisation, it is useful undertaking role-play and I find it provides a deeper insight emotionally into each character.
- a boundary-less person
- a person with strong personal boundaries
- a person who becomes angered when you assert your boundaries.
- Pay attention to how you feel
3. You can still forgive people but not want ’em back!!
Forgiving people doesn’t automatically give them the right to continue being part of our lives.
I struggled with the concept of ‘forgiveness’ for many years, believing it meant if a person said ‘sorry’ I had to keep them around.
Round and round on the merry-go-round we would go. I’d be disrespected, they would say ‘sorry’ with nothing changing.
A true apology is changed behaviour – an acknowledgement of your personal boundaries.
Forgiveness is an extremely empowering and self-loving action… it’s about taking control and ownership of a situation and choosing to move forward.
There is no need to re-explain why someone’s actions are disrespectful to you. Most adults know basic levels of respect and if we continually need to educate or train people how to treat us – then they’re definitely NOT for us!
When our personal boundaries have been crossed and our trust irrevocably broken, we must take back our power, by communicating through action that our boundaries are non-negotiable and assert them by removing people who are no longer serving us from our lives.
Isn’t it empowering to know we don’t have to perform a big song and dance for our voices to be heard?
It’s through our choices and follow up behaviour which determine how we are treated.
It is us, not others who gets to decide who enters and remains within our lives.
Writing the above line has suddenly reminded me of my mother’s (annoying) saying in my early adult life ‘If you cannot abide by my rules then you need to leave my house’
I didn’t like it much but it was her asserting her boundaries and I understand that now.
When deciding on whether or not your boundaries have been crossed…. pay attention to how you are feeling. If you are doing something out of fear (rejection, approval, obligation) you’re more than likely feel exhaustion, anger or resentment as you sell yourself down the river.
If you are feeling slightly uncomfortable about what you are doing then… well done!
It’s likely you are walking in your truth and behaving in accordance to your beliefs and values, keep at it with more practice you’ll start to feel less uncomfortable as you grow into this way of behaving.
Love and light,