Over the past few years I started paying more attention to my boundary setting skills. And I realized I had work to to do. I’m a big believer in that you teach people how to treat you. First I had to define my boundaries. I asked myself what I will tolerate, and what’s non-negotiable in terms of how I wanted to be treated. Defining this for myself more clearly helped me develop a guideline of when and how to approach people and situations where I felt my standards of treatment were being violated . Then I began to implement. When it came to my relationships, not everyone made the cut.
In some cases I severed ties with people who were not in alignment with my evolved state. In other cases, people and situations began to fall out of my life, one by one. It was as if some people lost their minds, or maybe their true colors were finally revealed… And we were done. I wasn’t happy about the way these relationships ended but I accepted it because I knew I was evolving and not everyone was going along with me on my new path. Often when we reach higher levels in personal development the people, situations and environments that no longer serve us will exit our lives, with or without notice or our consent. But boundary setting doesn’t stop at our personal relationships. It needs to be implemented across the board.
Boundaries need to be set with that abusive boss who believes she can talk to you any kind of way and engage in behaviors that sabotage your mental health. Boundaries need to be set with the doctors who doesn’t listen to you or is dismissive of your concerns and doesn’t collaborate with you in making decisions about your health. Boundaries need to be set with that teacher or school administrator who treats your child unfairly. Boundaries need to be set with that annoying neighbor who takes way too many liberties, is too nosy or creates undesirable living situations. Boundaries need to be set with that stranger on the street who asks, “Is that your hair?” Yes, people out here try it. And I feel like I’m someone who people always think they can test.
I was recently at Walgreens and the cashier made a comment about my appearance. I thought, WTF? In the moment I was stunned and chose not to say anything. I didn’t want to go Cardi B. on this woman and embarrass her even though she’d given no regard to my feelings. But when I got home I decided to let her know her comment was inappropriate. I called the store and described her to the manager who put her on the phone. I told her the comment made me uncomfortable and that her only job was to ring up my items and be pleasant, not to make personal comments about my appearance. She seemed astonished that she was being confronted about it but apologized. I could have let it go and I almost did. But I decided she needed to know that her behavior was unacceptable. I decided to let her know what I would not tolerate.
I’ve often been confronted with forward comments and questions from strangers, but in moving to St. Louis it appears there’s a culture of intrusiveness. And in addition to strangers feeling entitled to the private details of your life here, there is also a pervasive culture of micro-aggression against people of color that regularly requires a “what we not gon’ do” reality check. The environment here has given me a lot of practice with setting boundaries.
Creating personal limits can be very difficult, particularly if this is new behavior. It takes courage and requires being patient with yourself. You may question your right to establish the standard of how you will be treated with some, especially if you feel the distribution of power in the relationship is uneven. But just because someone may have a level of authority over you doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to advocate for your respect.
As adults, we are responsible for the behavior we allow in our lives. There are times when we have to endure being treated poorly, but those instances should be temporary. And we should be plotting our escape into healthier dynamics. Setting boundaries is a self-respecting and self-loving act. When you establish your standards of treatment, you may lose some relationships, and that’s ok. Others may actually strengthen, or you will develop new relationships and situations that will honor your higher level of self respect.
When you raise your standards internally, your external conditions will rise to meet you. But most importantly, and what can be guaranteed is that the relationship with yourself will be fortified. So be clear on what you deserve and let people know. Because dear, “Those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”
How are you setting boundaries in your life?