Be a good little girl.
Mind your manners.
Put others first.
Don’t rock the boat.
You learned them all so well. Too well, I'll bet.
These weren’t just words to you. They defined you. You became such a good little girl, so cooperative, so nice to have around. So responsible, so predictable. So nice.
You learned that to embody these qualities, to make them your own, was to be loved. And to be loved was all that you wanted.
The more you embraced these qualities, the more smoothly everything went. The more you were loved by the people that mattered. The more they came to expect nothing less from you. The more ingrained their image of you became.
It’s why you can’t change things up on them now.
What will they say? What will they think? What will they do? You can’t take that chance.
Oh, you’ve tried. Just a little test to see what would happen.
Maybe you disagreed with something you used to agree on when you changed your position. Or you said no instead of the usual yes. You spoke your own truth instead of going along like you always did with what they wanted you to believe.
No, they didn’t like it. They didn’t know what to make of it. They didn’t know what to make of you.
Whether it was the disappointment or the withdrawal of some level of love, you felt it. I can’t do that again. That was what you learned. And like everything else, you learned it well.
And so you didn’t.
I’ve learned a lot about boundaries over the years. First, I learned that I was allowed to have them at all. And then when I went about trying to create them, I learned it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life.
To create boundaries where there were none before.
The hardest part was navigating where I ended, and someone else began.
Draw a line around you, they say.
But what if you don’t feel like you even have a right to have a line? What if you feel so uncomfortable to even say the word “no”, let alone to disagree with what you’ve always agreed to? And how do you change what’s become so ingrained as the way you are, the way they see you, the way you’ve always been with them?
No one ever tells you that you have a right to have boundaries in the first place. No one tells you that you need them. Or that you have to know what they are before you can use them.
No one tells you how hard it is to communicate directly, to say what you actually want to say, instead of deferring to what you’ve always said before.
No one tells you how wrong you feel, how selfish, how uncomfortable you’re going to feel to know that you’re disappointing someone or letting someone else down.
They don’t tell you what to do with these feelings, or where to go with them. They don’t say anything about boundaries at all.
Until you do.
You feel it before you say the word. Something doesn’t feel right anymore. This going along with what everyone else expects you to go along with, this fitting into someone else’s mold.
Suddenly, you find yourself feeling sad, helpless, hopeless, and maybe even mad for the first time in your life. You’ve got something else you want to say; another side of you to reveal.
But how, you wonder?
He’ll stop loving me. He’ll leave me. He won’t want me. And then I’ll only have myself to blame.
I shouldn’t have stood up. I shouldn’t have spoken my truth. I shouldn’t have rocked the boat.
And then the dreaded "shoulda, coulda, woulda" internal dialogue begins.
Yes, Beautiful. You needed to. It’s been a long time coming.
This going along with everyone else and what they want you to be. This being who they think you are. You grew up along the way. You found your own voice somewhere inside you. Except you never learned that its expression was OK.
No one ever tells you that the key to breaking free of the past starts by setting boundaries. Or that you have to first get to know yourself before you can set them at all. Who are you? What can you actually live with – and what is you just putting up with what you’ve always been expected to?
No one ever tells you that a healthy loving relationship has as its foundation two separate people who know where each of them ends and the other begins.
No one ever tells you how uncomfortable, how completely out of your comfort zone it’s going to be for you to learn a new language that includes the “I” statements you’ve never learned. “I feel”. “I need”. “I want”. “I hear”. “I know”. “I am”. “I’m not”.
The list goes on and on. Such simple words. Such foreign words. You mean I have a voice?
These are owning words. Words that tell the world about the real you but carry risk because yes, they do define you. This is the very thing you fear. Being known for who you are and not what someone else wants you to be.
Will they still love you? Will they still want you? Will they still accept you if you speak your own mind? If you live by your own truth? If you follow your own set of rules?
Oh Beautiful, the ones you want will. The rest never matter in the end.
This is how you find a love like no other, a love that’s meant for you and only you. You can’t find that kind of love without first knowing yourself, without being that self, without showing up with that true self.
Let them do what they choose to do with you!
Let them stay, let them go. Five, ten, twenty years down the road from now, what will matter is that you showed up. That you knew who you are and what you’re all about. How else can anyone find you if you can’t find yourself?
What about you? The subject of boundaries underlies so many of the problems we face. I’d love to hear how this topic relates personally to you - tell us in the comments!