How many times have you agreed to do things you didn’t want to?
You’ve said ‘yes’ when you meant ‘no.’
You’ve had sex when you didn’t want to.
You’ve let others speak for you without claiming your own voice.
You’ve picked up the phone even though you knew it would mean listening to your mother complaining.
You’re not alone.
I personally spent decades acquiescing and saying yes to things I didn’t want to do. Agreeing to activities, meals, and even my way of living without even giving it a second thought.
And I really had no clue that I could live any other way. I felt like giving everything was my way of serving others and maintaining good relationships.
In fact, if you had asked me if I was the kind of person who agreed to things I didn’t want to do, I probably would have shaken my head and said, “No, that’s not me.”
But, in truth, I had no real boundaries.
So, instead I internalized my needs and kept them neatly tucked away, appearing as if everything was perfect on the outside – while on the inside, I felt empty.
Like so many of my clients, I really didn’t know what to do. I felt trapped and ultimately stuck in a victim mindset – blaming and telling myself that there was no way to really change things.
In the end, my inability to express my needs only caused distance between myself and my then husband. And it caused me to disconnect from who I really was!
That’s exactly how it was for my client, Rebecca.
She and her partner Brian had already been together 13 years when they met. She felt angry and resentful at all times and she and Brian frequently fought.
The only time she really found peace was when he traveled and she could focus on herself.
Rebecca struggled to share her needs to Brian, in part because she was raised in an extremely poor family where emotional needs felt like a luxury and, in part because she felt that Brian held all the power financially.
At Brian’s daughter’s wedding, Rebecca felt dismissed and excluded from the festivities even though she had helped Brian raise his children. But rather than tell him how she felt, she left the wedding early complaining of a headache.
For months, she and Brian fought and rather than tell him how she felt, she would blame Brian for his inability to see how he had treated her. She even went so far as to make her own plans for Christmas with her mother and told Brian he could spend time alone with his kids.
When I asked Rebecca if she could imagine a different way of handling this situation she stared at me and simply said, “No, I have to start protecting myself!”
The truth is Rebecca felt the only way she could reclaim her life was to fight back and draw a line in the sand.
Rebecca’s position is common.
Many of us believe that in order to truly get what we want we have to get angry or issue ultimatums – so that our loved ones will take us seriously and respect our boundaries.
But, I can assure you, that rarely works.
How many times have you issued an ultimatum to your partner, friend, child or even parent and it just went ignored?
The likelihood is that you’ve experienced this more than once.
And for Rebecca, it was a pattern that was repeated over and over. After digging a little deeper, Rebecca was able to see that hiding her feelings and issuing ultimatums wasn’t working.
She was also able to see something even more crucial.
That even though Brian may have been hurtful, in the end she was the one who was violating her own boundaries!
The truth is that Rebecca was hoping that Brian would see how important she was. She was hoping that he would set the boundaries she needed with his children, but she never expressed what she needed.
Rebecca had never been taught to express her needs or to even set a boundary with anyone!
As she looked at her life, she realized that in her business, with her family and especially with Brian – her main role was to take care of others and ignore her own needs (or at least believe that others could meet them for her).
It was incredibly eye opening and allowed her to begin to see Brian in a new light.
Instead of always expecting he would automatically meet her needs, Rebecca began to share with him what she needed and tell him when she wasn’t ok with something.
And although it took some time to adjust the way she delivered her communications, understanding that she had been the one violating her own boundaries all along actually made Rebecca feel more empowered!
Instead of always looking to blame others, she could start making choices aligned with who she wants to be and how she wants to live!
This is what happens when you recognize that it’s you who is really violating your boundaries!
Recognizing that we have a role in setting effective boundaries and maintaining them allows us to see choices where we thought there were none. It also allows us to take responsibility for our lives.
For me, it was the magic key to truly having a life that I wanted! One where I have faith and trust that in most situations, my needs will be met.
And it can be that way for you too!
Today I want you to consider, who is truly violating your boundaries? When you’re able to see fully how you might be involved, you give yourself the greatest gift of your life.
P.S. You can now pre-order my new book Setting Boundaries will Set You Free: The Ultimate Guide to Telling the Truth, Creating Connection and Finding Freedom. And when you do, you’ll receive access to my new FREE Live video workshop, Zen & the Art of Boundary Maintenance: Holiday Edition on December 17th so you can give yourself the gift of peaceful boundaries this holiday season!