I don't subscribe to the belief that to be nice, I must compromise my values and boundaries. Diminishing the most important parts of yourself to fit in can only work for so long. Eventually who you are will show up. Like a pressure cooker, the tension inside you will build and burst out to unmask your true identity. I choose to show up as my authentic self from the outset.
You Teach People How to Treat You
When we compromise our values and boundaries to appease others we teach them that we will waiver in our decisions. They learn that with a little effort or protest we will give into their demands. It reinforces their behavior and creates a bigger issue for us in the future. Even giving in one time is detrimental to your relationship. You will begin to harbor resentments toward that person and it will fracture your relationship.
On the off chance that we decide to stick to our guns, our relationships suffer because we have shaken the dynamic. A professor once said, “If you are going to be a terrible person, be a terrible person. If you aspire to be a great person, be a great person. Just be consistent because then people know how to deal with you.”
Consistency is key.
People will either learn to deal with the you that sticks to your guns. Or they will learn to deal with the you that is a pushover. However, people are more likely to be riled up by the you that is inconsistent because they will never know what to expect from you. If you are Biblical you may believe that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. If you are agnostic or atheist you may believe that a person is as good as his word. Either way, common ground can be found in wanting a person to be of their word.
A Person of Their Word
To be a person of your word, you need to know your boundaries. The 6 types of boundaries are physical, emotional, intellectual, material, sexual, and time.
Physical boundaries: Physical touch and personal space
Emotional Boundaries: Your feelings
Intellectual Boundaries: Your thoughts and ideas.
Material Boundaries: Your money and possessions
Sexual Boundaries: Sexual acts and sex topics
Time Boundaries: How you use your time
Porous, Rigid, and Healthy Boundaries
A person can have a mix of porous, rigid, or healthy boundaries. A person with porous boundaries does not enforce their boundaries. They put the needs of others ahead of their own. Someone with rigid boundaries is inflexible. There is no compromising with them. Their needs will always be placed ahead of others. A person with healthy boundaries considers the needs of others while not neglecting their own needs. They are open to compromising when boundaries collide but they uphold the integrity of their value system.
Influences on Boundaries
Family of origin, love language, religious beliefs, culture, political beliefs etc. impact how we develop and enforce our boundaries. Your boundaries may further be expressed differently depending on the setting and relationship. For instance, the boundaries you have with a spouse are different from those you have with a coworker. The boundaries you have in your home are different from those you have at the gym.
As such, your boundaries may collide with others. Assertively communicating your needs as they relate to the relationship will make things clear. For instance, in a work setting you opt for a handshake over a hug when greeting coworkers. When at the grocery store, you create a comfortable amount of physical space between you and others in line.
If They Like It, I Love It
"If they like it, then I love it" is an adage that helps us practice self talk to remember-yes you guessed it-boundaries. First it means, stay in your lane. If a person sees no issue with their behavior, the likelihood of you creating this awareness is low. Remember Stages of Change. A person has to come to believe there is a problem to want to address it (Pre Contemplation). When the awareness develops they can bring the problem to you. Communication tip: Ask if they are venting or wanting help with a solution. If they don't need help, you say to yourself "If They Like It, Then I Love It." Second, we do not need to fix people. A problematic behavior for one person can be socially acceptable to another. Understand that the beliefs that we hold dear are not the end all be all. Third, taking this approach relieves us from emotional responsibility and decreases potential for burnout. We recognize that it is not our job to take on the weight of the world. Once we learn that we do not need to jump in and fix people we are freed from that job.
Building the Muscle
Your brain is a muscle and also requires exercise. Initially, the exercise of identifying your boundaries and then enforcing them is difficult. You will struggle with finding your words, shifts in your relationships, and ending unhelpful behaviors like fixing. However, with consistent repetition it becomes easier. The recovery time from engaging in boundary enforcement lessens. With your brain no longer struggling to engage in this exercise, it frees you up to work on other areas.
Sorry, Not Sorry
My office is a safe place for you to practice communicating your boundaries. Therefore, sorry is banned. There is no need to apologize for perceived slights. I will let you know if I feel offended. I live for celebrating with clients that are freed from placating others. They begin to choose themselves, again and again. Not in a self absorbed way. More like a freeing, I deserve to be just as happy as you-way. Their overall mental health improves, anxiety decreases, and confidence in decision making is strengthened.
Eventually, clients get to the place where they are showing up as their whole self in various settings. We talk about the impact to relationships and self esteem. We talk about the old hobbies they have been able to resume once the pressure inside them subsides. It is a joy to celebrate with them about the new art they created or the date night they planned.
It is a joy to celebrate with a client becoming-unmasked.
Isla Turner, MS, PLPC