“Boundaries are a part of self-care. They are healthy, normal, and necessary.” ~Doreen Virtue
I still have the journal entry that sparked my journey into boundary-setting. It says, in striking black pen, “I wish I could speak my truth. If I can learn to speak my truth before I die, I will die a happy woman.”
Dramatic? Maybe. But I was tired of being a pushover, a people-pleaser.
I’d written it the day after I’d been the recipient of unwanted advances at a bar. For thirty minutes, a stranger had engaged me in aggressive conversation, peppered in flirtation, and slipped his bony hand around my waist. I’d tolerated his behavior with a fake smile before escaping to the bathroom.
As often used to happen, I couldn’t speak up for myself. I’d waited in silence, hoping the man would mind-read my discomfort and give me space. The next morning, I took my pen and articulated what I saw as my Great Frontier in life: setting boundaries, communicating authentically, and heeding the needs of my inner self.
This challenge presented in all areas of my life. My tendency to people-please led to a sense of imbalance in relationships with friends, lovers, and colleagues. Sometimes, it manifested as mildly as staying too long in a conversation that bored me, or offering to help a friend when I didn’t have the time. Sometimes it was as extreme as sleeping with someone I didn’t want to sleep with because I didn’t want to “hurt his feelings.”
I was constantly betraying myself, constantly designing my life around others’ desires. The result was a life that felt mediocre, underwhelming, and not quite my own.
From an early age, women are taught to be people-pleasing, accommodating, and self-sacrificial. Over time, we can lose our connection to our authentic, empowered selves beneath the weight of our commitments, our imbalanced relationships, and our carefully constructed personas.
Everything changed when I went through a challenging breakup and awoke to the reality that I’d always been the sole person responsible for my own happiness.
I realized that this was my chance to develop a nurturing, supportive relationship with my inner self: the woman beneath the performing and the people-pleasing. For the first time, I made a commitment to become my own first priority, set firm boundaries, and communicate authentically with others. The rest is history.
If you leave conflicts wishing you’d spoken up for yourself; if you feel drained in social…