In the past, I have had such a desire to be accepted that my boundaries were fuzzy. I have always found it easy to make friends and people tell me that I am an open, friendly person. These are words that I love to hear but they have often come at a price. Subliminally, I attracted people who have tapped into my giving nature, so that in the end, some friends were using me and became a disappointment. Like many of us, I have been badly hurt in the past.
This is often a problem with romantic relationships and marriages as well. The worst possible scenario is the abused wife, who is afraid of leaving her husband because her self-esteem has been shattered. If we consistently act out of a healthy level of self-love we will naturally have boundaries – we teach people how we need to be treated.
This is a difficult concept for some because they are so unaccustomed to having safe boundaries that they accept bad or manipulative behavior as normal. But boundaries can be built. It may take time, but it is possible. If we can start to recognize when someone is upsetting us, instead of just accepting it, take courage and confront that person. Learn to say ‘no’ even if it means an end to a relationship. There’s no point in saying ‘I am a woman of high self-esteem’ as you bemoan the behavior of a person who is crossing your boundaries. This is empowering stuff and worth any short term rejection from people who are possibly not true friends. It is inevitable that we will feel uncomfortable at first, as it is with any new behavior. We may even feel a sense of guilt but, as each boundary stone is put in place, it will become easier to add another layer while still being an open, friendly person. Only this time, we will attract true friends instead of users or worse still, abusers.
Tea at Sam’s, my debut novel, features the issue of boundaries when the protagonist, Celine, is caught in an abusive marriage. Read how her life turned around in the sequel, Making Scents.