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enforcing my boundaries is a pain in the ass

Credit: Amy Wright Glenn

Meg posted this on Facebook a little while ago and even though I don’t know who Amy Wright Glenn is, I really loved this. Then I started to think about what it actually means for me to be able to do this and I got very uncomfortable. Boundaries are hard for me. I have only a few I know how to clearly enforce and the ones I do have I protect liked a possessed zealot. Boundaries are my achilles heel, the bane of my existence. Bane comes from the Old English, “destroyer or murderer”. Boundaries, or lack thereof in my case, are the destroyer of my mental health, my sanity, my wellbeing.

How many of you have good, clear boundaries? How did you learn this? Did your parents teach you to have good boundaries? Mine certainly didn’t. In our house, you did what you were told, nothing less. You did not fight or talk back, you didn’t stand up for yourself, you didn’t protest. You just did what was expected of you with military precision. Unfortunately for my parents they had a daughter who never quite got the memo. I did what I was told, sure, I was terrified of disappointing or angering. But, I often spoke up, I often protested, especially as I got older. This didn’t go over very well and it caused a lot of chaos in the system.

I learned to fight, that was it. I learned I could cause conflict through anger and outrage because that was the only way to get anyone to pay attention to what I was saying. Even then they didn’t take me seriously. So I learned that to get anyone to take you seriously you have to get angry. I’m learning that in fact, this isn’t what healthy people do when they communicate with one another. Isn’t that amazing to have to learn that at 42? I am learning that I can enforce my boundaries without melting down. I am learning that I do know how to communicate appropriately and still get my point across. We tell our girls to use their words all the time and yet this skill fails me when I’m really upset. I just get angry or, if things are really going badly, I shut down completely.

So remember folks, if you have issues with enforcing your boundaries in a healthy, productive, respectful way like me, you can unlearn these habits. You can learn new communication skills. You can learn to express your needs in a way that doesn’t make the other person upset or defensive or angry themselves. If it’s possible for this middle age lady with serious boundaries issues to do it, you can too. xo Janet

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