The author Mandy Hale once said “It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.” This really resonated with me as there have been many times in the past I have allowed others to treat me badly in an attempt to be more likable. After taking assertiveness training I am relieved this is now less of an issue in my life, but I continue to learn every day. What struck me most about my training was how common this issue seems to be for so many, and just how deeply it can affect us. If others continually take advantage of us the cost can be devastating. It can lower our self-esteem and confidence and, in some severe cases, even lead to depression. But how others treat us often seems so beyond our control, after all, how can we change other people? Fortunately, the answer actually lies within us.
When we allow others to mistreat us we act passively, failing to set boundaries and voice our objections. For those of us with passive dispositions it can feel frightening to speak up, especially when it could cause conflict. We can default to a passive mode for many reasons, a common issue is a fear of upsetting others. Low self-esteem and wanting others to like us can also lead our passivity. Whatever the underlying reasons, passive people neglect to express their feelings, thoughts, opinions and beliefs in an open, honest way and often, if they do express themselves, they do so apologetically. When we apologize for who we are in this way we subconsciously communicate that we are less important (which I can assure you is not the case) and this can empower others to take advantage of us and treat us badly.
When others disrespect us we are usually left feeling helpless, powerless and inhibited. If this sounds familiar there are many indicators we can look out for to discover whether we are passive. A soft unsteady voice, apologizing unnecessarily, not saying what we mean and averting eye contact can all be tell-tale signs. Fortunately we don’t have to remain the victim of others – the power to set and vocalize healthy boundaries lies within us and it is a skill that all of us can learn.
But what are boundaries? Boundaries are limits surrounding what we consider to be reasonable behavior or treatment from others. They communicate our level of self-worth and respect. When we effectively express our boundaries to others we encourage and influence them to treat us with the level of respect we deserve. If you are at a loss as to what your boundaries are, you may want to read last months series ‘How to free yourself and assert your rights’ which looks into the intrinsic rights which we were all born with – these are the basis for our most basic boundaries.
To begin creating further healthy boundaries we must first decide what our limits are. A good way of finding out our limits is to think back on times when we have felt resentful and taken advantage of. These real life situations can provide us with vital clues as to where our boundaries lay. Why were you resentful? What did you feel was unacceptable about the situation? Try writing down three small boundaries using this technique of self reflection. Next week we will discuss how to be assertive so you can assert these small boundaries to others and continue to build upon your success by repeating this process to uncover larger boundaries you wish to create.
What were the three small boundaries that you wrote down? Are you mainly passive, aggressive or assertive? Is there a specific area of your life where you are more passive when compared to other areas of your life? (I’m more passive in the workplace, for example.) Please comment and share your experiences with our community to gain insight, encouragement and support.
- Think back on times when you have felt resentful and taken advantage of. Why were you resentful? What did you feel was unacceptable about the situation? Try writing down three small examples using this technique of self reflection.
- Uncover three boundaries these examples highlight as relevant to you. (We will work on how to assert them next week).
‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You’ by Anne Dickson, available on Amazon