For over a decade I had a stressful relationship with someone in my life. At the time, a single phone call from her could take my day from happy to miserable. And a visit from her… I won’t even go there.
She was my own personal mean girl.
I had stories about her tirades that became nearly legendary within my group of friends.
And no matter how many times I told those stories, or how much love I received as I tearfully described the pain she caused me — my situation never improved.
I overate and shopped and every other numbing behavior I could find, but the pain was always there.
I was stuck. I felt powerless, like a victim. In fact, I was a victim.
But now I know, she wasn’t the main person victimizing me. I was.
That was such a tough pill for me to swallow. In fact I kind of choked on it a few times before really getting it down.
To realize I held some responsibility for all those years of pain — was nearly unthinkable!
However, what I recognized is: we all get to choose what we allow. I’d allowed myself to be treated in a way that felt uncomfortable.
There was an upside to this new way of thinking. By taking responsibility for my part, I could stop my suffering. This meant I no longer had to be the ongoing victim of anyone’s poor behavior. I could choose how to respond and therefore ultimately choose how I wanted to feel.
Now I know that I get to set boundaries for how I want to be treated. We all have this power.
A boundary is simply a request with a consequence. It’s an act of self-care. (<– Click to Tweet)
It’s saying that if you do X, then I will care for myself by doing Y.
In my case, I could have communicated to her that at times her manner of speaking felt hateful and demeaning to me and request she refrain from this behavior. (That’s the request.) Then I could have chosen to say “goodbye” when she continued to talk to me in that way. (That’s the consequence.) You get the idea.
I am not saying it would have been easy. But it certainly beats the alternative.
When I think about boundaries I often think of the old saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” A boundary is a bit like that fence. If we maintain a strong fence (boundary) by being clear on what we’re unwilling to tolerate and by communicating it lovingly but firmly — it can actually strengthen our relationships.
Any mean girls (or guys) in your life? Is it time to check those fences?
All my best to you,