I’ll tell you a secret about today’s Life Talks Monday…this topic was one of the first I thought of when I came up with the idea for the Life Talks series, and it’s the one I’ve been struggling to write about the most so far. This post has been sitting in my draft queue for over a month with nothing more than a title. I had the post almost completely written, then I deleted it and started all over again. Having boundaries is so, so important to your peace of mind and happiness, but it’s not an easy thing to execute.
I think the biggest reason it’s been tough for me to write about is because all of those little life lessons that taught me to have boundaries, I learned through dating in my 20’s. And that was a time I don’t like to relive. I married my high school sweetheart at a shockingly young age and had never dated before. Then I found myself divorced and tossed into the deep end of the dating pool around the age of 24; and I was incredibly naïve.
In my innocent mind, dating was pretty simple: meet guy, make connection, relationship grows. Ohhhh my silly little child, how cute and simplistic was your thinking! Friends, I can tell you right now that I was a total doormat and went through more than my fair share of wishy-washy men and hard knocks before I stood face-to-face with reality. Reality was–I had no idea what the sam hill I was doing. I didn’t know that dating was essentially a game where you have to pretend you don’t care about someone even if you do, and the first one to “catch feelings” loses.
I can tell you right now that I am not, and never have been, competitive. That wasn’t my idea of how building a relationship with someone should be and I refused to participate in such debauchery. So I bowed out. I flipped the dating world the double-bird and walked away from it. I became impressively content with my single life, to the extent that I didn’t even miss or crave connection from the opposite sex. I thought I had done it. I had finally conquered the one weakness that human beings have…the need for companionship. I was flying solo and happy that way.
And this is the point at which I tell you I was wrong. Sure, I was content and at peace with my life and didn’t have men playing yo-yo with my feelings anymore. But I was also lying to myself. I wasn’t “above” the dating world; I was hiding from it. I was so tired of being taken for granted and feeling rejected and like I wasn’t good enough for someone to want me for the long haul, that I took myself out of the equation. Men couldn’t make me feel less than if I wouldn’t even allow them access to me, right?
I’ll tell you something, my lovelies…men (or women, depending on your particular gender and sexual orientation) cannot make you feel less than. The only person who can make you feel less than is yourself!! How? By not having boundaries!!
A person–and I’m not talking just romantically, I’m talking all relationships in life–can only take advantage of you or make you feel less than if you let them. The most important thing you will ever do for yourself is set boundaries. If you do this, then there is no need to hide out from the world or be afraid of taking chances. You have to know yourself, know what you want, know what you won’t accept, and know your deal-breakers. And then you live by them, and stand up for yourself whenever someone challenges them, no matter how you feel about that person.
That is the part that gets difficult…believe me. When you care about someone, especially in a situation where you’ve developed feelings for someone, sticking to your guns isn’t easy. Everything in you will want to cave and abandon those boundaries that you set. But if you do that, you’re only teaching that person not to respect you, and you’re showing them that you will be that proverbial doormat. You have to remember that you put those boundaries in place to protect yourself, while still being open and vulnerable to people. You have boundaries to teach people how to treat you, and to weed out the ones who won’t treat you right.
I’ll share with you some bullet points for having boundaries:
- Know what you want, and what you won’t accept
- Know what your deal-breakers are, and stick to them no matter what
- Stand up for yourself!
- Never let someone make you question yourself
- Don’t let your emotions override your good judgment – you set your boundaries during a time of clarity, so don’t abandon them in a time of feeling and confusion
- Love yourself!!
That last bullet point is the most important. If you don’t love who you are and have respect for yourself, it will be impossible to expect someone else to. Having that mastered will make setting your boundary lines, and then sticking to them, that much easier.