Back to Boundaries

Back to Boundaries
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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries and Kim’s post yesterday brought those thoughts even more to the forefront of my mind. A lot of tests to my boundaries have been taking place lately and ohmyfreakin’goodness do I have trouble with it.

I am a reform(ing)ed people-pleaser. 

I like making other people happy at the expense of my own happiness. I like saying what other people want to hear. It’s hard for me to say no and it’s hard for me to argue. (I’m getting better, I swear!)

One of the worst instances of this happened about seven years ago. I filed a sexual harassment complaint against someone I worked with. I was twenty at the time and he was probably in his fifties. He never really talked to anyone and he always gave me a creepy vibe. He was constantly invading my space. Getting way too close to me, and when he brushed pass me several times with his groin brushing my butt it became something that was completely unacceptable.

I went to management about it and then had to meet with a female manager that I didn’t know. I told her about the situation and then she asked me some questions like:
“Well you’re a very friendly person maybe he was just trying to be your friend.”
To which I replied with an “No.”
“So you don’t think he’s just shy and trying to find a way to talk to you?”
To which I replied with an uncertain, “Well I don’t think so…”
The questions kept coming and making me feel like I was wrong and that I wasn’t saying the “right” thing so eventually I relented and agreed that maybe he was just trying to be my friend.

Trying to be my friend by inappropriately touching me. Yeah. That made sense.

That moment still haunts me because I gave up my power to someone else and I still haven’t forgiven myself for it. It still makes me furious that I did that. It makes me sad that I didn’t have enough faith and confidence to say that it was wrong and stick to that. A few days later I talked to someone else about it, stood my ground, and the guy was fired, but I was still stuck on the fact that if my friends and family hadn’t pushed me to do that, I would’ve let him get away with it.

Right now I am finding my boundaries challenged in less traumatic ways. Whenever I come across resistance with my boundaries I think of how I felt after that day and I realize that the cost of sticking up for my boundaries is way less than the cost to cave in.

If I would have stuck up for myself it would have made me feel uncomfortable in the moment, it would have made me feel anxious to disagree with someone that intimidated me, but I guarantee you I wouldn’t still be torn up about it seven years later.

Sticking up for your boundaries probably isn’t going to be fun in the moment, it may even make you feel terrible and like a horrible person, but when you embrace your power to say no, to say this is how I deserve to be treated, to say that what someone is doing to you is not okay, you create a better future for yourself.

Embrace your power to control how the story ends. [[Click to tweet!]]

It’s hard, it sucks, especially when you feel like you’re the only person fighting for you. It gets easier. The more you stick up for yourself the easier it is to realize that you’re worth it. That you matter and so do you boundaries. Don’t let people make you uncomfortable. Don’t relinquish your power because you are too scared to use it. Know that you are worth the time, the effort, and the energy of standing up for yourself.

Don’t let others take advantage of your love, your body, your time, or your energy. You don’t have to put up with it. Even if you’ve let people push past your boundaries before that doesn’t mean you have to keep letting it happen. At any time you have permission to stop it. Let today be the day that you enforce your boundaries. Let today be the day you choose you.

How do you deal with people encroaching on your boundaries? How do you feel after sticking up for yourself? What happens when you allow someone to invade your boundaries?

15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    dgoddessdawson
    August 17, 2012 / 4:05 pm

    I am sorry that happened to you! Feel better about this though… at least you had the courage to file the complaint even if you didn't follow through. Just last year I had a senior member of management where I work (and I work in retail like you) randomly try to grab me and kiss me… not once, or twice, but three times! It is very well known that I'm married with three children and I am in no way a flirt. In the end I didn't even report it to anyone simply because I felt like "If he's working here at Company X (which does not pay anyone, even management, well) then he must really need his job and I don't want to cost someone their job." I did firmly tell him something to the variation of "Not a chance in hell," and he backed off. He was eventually transferred to another store for… guess why… unprofessional contact with a different employee. Oddly, when he first put the moves on me I actually justified it with "Maybe, I mis-read his intentions… maybe he just gets in everyone's personal space," simply because I have felt so unattractive in the past few years I figured no one (even an old letch) would be coming on to me. Talk about giving up your power… and not loving yourself within at all! However I am a work in progress and have come a long way on loving myself much more since then. On friend boundaries though… I don't take any of that crap anymore. As I mentioned in a comment to Kim I dealt with that for many years and have become comfortably anti-social in many ways since then because of that. Like you I am a Harry Potter (and Severus Snape) freak and I always say that I'm a little too "Slytherin" to have many friends who try to take advantage of me. (I actually have a Slytherin crest tattoo, and that's one of the reasons why).

  2. Avatar
    Sibylle
    August 17, 2012 / 4:08 pm

    Hearing you aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way here, Dominee!! Like you I am learning, but I have to say I'm learning slowly and it still happens that I let someone overstep my boundaries out of a misguided wish to please.

    It can be really hard to forgive myself, but I mostly manage. How do you handle that part? "What's past turns to dust" is one of those mantras I keep repeating to myself, in order to let go and stop being angry at myself for something I can't change anymore because it's in the past.

    Much love and gentle hugs!
    Sibylle

  3. Avatar
    Sellica
    August 17, 2012 / 4:24 pm

    I finally spoke up to my parents in defense of myself during a very challenging life transition. I reiterated in a written email, using as few words as possible to be crystal clear, when it became necessary to do so again.

    The most liberating feeling came when I said, after 30 years of feeling guilt for expressing this basic statement…….."I don't care if this hurts anyone's feelings. I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness. I need space right now."

    I say, all those years I didn't speak up…..I was learning how to speak up now. And I can take that and help others…… as you are also doing now.

  4. Avatar
    Andrea
    August 17, 2012 / 4:30 pm

    Thank you for bringing up the topic of boundaries! (And thank Kim for a great post) It's so important to talk about and get support around. I find it harder to maintain boundaries around folks I better know. I get that sick feeling in my stomach which is a great signal to me I need to pay attention. I've learned and practiced to slow down when I'm feeling that way. STating what i"m feeling in the moment out loud has also proved to help. "That doesn't feel good/appropriate. Is that your intention?" Appropriate shame is how we learn. Then we have the option to come back into appropriate relationship. (Which includes taking action against and not talking to the creep that sexually harasses us!)

    As for the feeling from the past when I gave up my power, I go back and take my time feeling what it would have been like if I had said or did what I really wanted to do! Even if it's not socially appropriate. I can imagine all I want. But it helps the neurons in my brain renegotiate the event and helps put in my muscle memory what I could do if I needed to again. I"m passionate about this subject and am currently putting together a program/community where we can discuss and learn from one another! Thank you Dominee for prompting folks to think/talk/act on the subject!!

  5. Avatar August 17, 2012 / 5:39 pm

    That particular post of mine is what really started the ball rolling with me about boundaries. That prompt and post made me realize just how much of a problem boundaries were for me and how much of myself I was sacrificing because of the lack of them. And for what? Because of all those feelings in the moment you enforce those boundaries (selfishness, guilt, etc.), I have always tended to give in. But you have to look at the bigger picture and think of which choice has the bigger effects. Sometimes giving away your power and avoiding the difficulties of the moment can have longer lasting effects, just like you said, Dominee!

  6. Avatar
    Gin (Subtle Harmony)
    August 18, 2012 / 2:16 am

    Oh wow, Dominee, this is so, so true. Thank you for the reminder about how having those boundaries (and acting on them and giving voice to them) can sometimes be so very uncomfortable at the time… but so very important. (I'm sorry you went through that experience…)

  7. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 5:37 pm

    I am sorry I did too, but as with everything, it provided me with insight, wisdom, and a lesson, so I can't really be bitter about it anymore!

  8. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 5:39 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! It's so hard to look at the bigger picture but, especially when it's the same person pushing your boundaries, you realize it's going to happen again… and again… and again and unless you stop it, you allow the cycle to continue. Step #2 is letting go of the selfishness and guilt and that's something I still haven't managed to master. One step at a time though!

  9. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 5:42 pm

    I can't tell you how much I LOVE the part about re-negotiating the event. That makes complete sense to me and I see how that could really help you to face situations in a better way the next time they come around. You truly just set off one of those "ah-ha!" moments! Thank you!

  10. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 5:46 pm

    "I don't care if this hurts anyone's feelings. I am not responsible for anyone else's happiness." SO TRUE! It's so hard to take a step back and do that, especially if you tend to take on a nurturing role in life, but being selfish and taking care of yourself isn't a bad thing, it's a healthy thing and a needed thing! Good for you for speaking up!

  11. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 5:48 pm

    I love that mantra! I keep reminding myself that something good came out of it and that at least is the blessing. Thank you!

  12. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 18, 2012 / 6:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really identify with it a lot and we're on such similar paths and I am glad that both of us are moving in the right direction!

    Hahaha, I always say that I'm all Hufflepuff until you piss me off! I love that you have a Slytherin tattoo, that is seriously awesome. They were my favorite House but I never felt like I was bad-ass enough to claim it!

  13. Avatar
    Sellica
    August 18, 2012 / 6:32 pm

    Oh, thanks for the reminder to listen to what my body is telling me. Been getting that reminder continually. I also love the retelling the event coping mechanism. I did that once with my estranged hubs, and it felt soooooo much better. It healed me. I shall do it continually, because I deserve to write my own story!!!! Dominee, I love that your blog is inspiring these conversations! LIghtworkers, unite! (I am imagining all the kids from the Captain Planet cartoon being called together now, HAH!)

  14. Avatar
    Michelle Swan
    August 20, 2012 / 10:09 pm

    One of my best friends and I had a terrible falling out. She totally took me granted and had no respect for my personal boundaries. It still hurts. It made me open my eyes and realize that even with close friends and family you have to stand up for yourself and keep your boundaries strong. That is what I will do in the future.

    The story you told about going to hr about the sexual harassment is sad.You think another woman would understand and have your back.

  15. Avatar
    Dominee
    August 28, 2012 / 2:41 pm

    I felt incredibly betrayed that it was another woman, that was one of the worst parts. I wanted to ask her if it was her or her daughter that went through it, what would she think or feel. It's so hard to let go of the resentment!
    Keep standing strong girl, you'll find the right friends, people who will love and respect you!

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