Drawing a line in the sand
When I was a young woman I wasn't clear with my boundaries because I was shy, and I wanted people to like me. I did things so people would like me instead of liking myself and building from there. Becoming a mother changed all that for me because I think one of things that comes most naturally is having clear boundaries on what is ok, and not ok for our children. We very quickly become tiger mamas if anyone says or does anything that we feel will damage our children in any way mentally or physically. Essentially we are defining their boundaries to keep them safe and healthy. Yet many mothers I know have a difficult time setting boundaries IN THEIR OWN LIVES. Establishing what is ok for their own health and well being and standing up for it.
This can show up in the form of :
Having friends or relatives who take advantage of your kindness and generosity by ( asking you to babysit all the time, borrowing money, living at your house, expecting you to drive them places all the time) without offering to reciprocate
Being harassed or bullied for food or exercise choices by those closest to you, people at work or your friends who just don't get it
When a stranger walks up to you as a pregnant woman and touches you without asking
People who push unsolicited advice on you about parenting issues, ideas and how you're doing it
People who belittle your goals, dreams or ambitions separate from motherhood ( yes it's ok to want something other than being a mother.)
Establishing boundaries is a tricky thing because if we are unsure how to do it and haven't done it before, we often become scared of how the people in our lives will react to us deciding to do it. We go through our list of what if's? What if they get mad at us? What if they don't wan't to talk to us anymore? What if they leave? What if they hate us, betray us or hurt us?
The bottom line is when you don't set boundaries you betray yourself and your true feelings. You cease to be on your own side. You have the right to say what is ok for you and not ok. You have the right to feel safe, happy, healthy and in charge of your life and how you want to live it. You don't need permission from anyone to decide what's ok for YOU. Establishing boundaries creates healthy relationships and reveals the people who are truly a part of your Dream Team. The people who clearly want to be a part of your life, support you and your decisions and are willing to respect you when you verbalize how you want to be treated and why.
The added benefit of setting boundaries for yourself is that you will be much more capable of teaching your children how to set boundaries with the more challenging things that may arise as they grow older ( drinking, bullying, sex, peer pressure from friends)
So HOW do you have a conversation about boundaries with someone you feel is crossing one?
1. First be clear on the behavior you believe to be unacceptable.
Say to them " When you _______________( fill in the action that is making you angry, uncomfortable or upset)
2. Tell them how their actions make you feel
It makes me feel ___________________ ( communicate how you feel when they do the action above)
3. Communicate the action you would like to see instead
Instead I would like you to _________________( tell them what action you would like to see instead, or how you would like them to act differently)
4. Be assertive about what will happen if they continue their behavior and actions
If you can't respect me and my choices, I will _________________ ( communicate your consequence if they choose to continue the action)
What you can expect from those you do attempt to set boundaries with can be anger, discomfort, shock, and with a select few receptiveness and understanding. No matter what their response, the very act of voicing this will give you confidence that you were true to yourself and took action on that. Which is something I believe WE ALL want our children to be able to do. It's one step in becoming more of who we want to teach our children to be. No matter what, believe your voice matters, and trust yourself.