Boundaries Part 1: Know Your Rights
Respect, reverence, and self esteem are basic requistes. Refuse to be a competitor who struggles for personal rights.
Have you ever watched those old sitcoms from the 90's where two siblings who shared a room drew a line down the middle that the other wasn't allowed to cross? Sometimes I wish it was that easy to draw a line and tell people not to violate it. However, many of us struggle with outlining clear areas that we do not want people to penetrate. This could be in the form of our bodies and personal space, our schedules, or even our personal information, stories, or secrets.
One of the most fascinating realizations that has come out of the #METOO movement is the theme of women being paralyzed by fear or feelings of disempowerment at the moment of their victimization and long after. The theme of not knowing or feeling that they had power to stop their victimizers has been the main driver of this movement. This has brought forward discussions about rape culture, consent, and power. The problem is that there has been a long history and norm in society that forces women to feel that they have no choice but to accept and acquiesce to advances and expectations placed on them.
This has played out every day for centuries, where women have been subjected to men, becoming objects of uncomfortable gazes, catcalling, workplace harassment or assault, and most horrendously, rape, simply because they "aroused a man's sensibilities". This may be debated, but in many ways this phenomenon is not one done only to women. Women are subjected to this kind of abuse because, on a whole, society promotes and accepts abuse to all of it members in some way, shape, or form. We find this point to be important because, we ask ourselves why. Why do men feel it okay to do this? Why have women for so long accepted this? In this series we discuss how the a lack of cultural awareness of asserting and accepting clear boundaries has created a toxic culture that violates everyone, but ultimately creates unfair and harmful treatment of women.
For reasons that are often unknown, society seems to create roles for people and rules that must be adhered to in accordance to these roles. - i.e. woman= subservient, man= dominant, child= subordinate, and elder= revered. There is also little to no choice about what role one gets, and should you dare defy these roles, you are often subjected to social backlash. Sounds like something out of a dystopian science fiction movie, doesn't it? From some standpoints one might argue that there are reasons for these distinctions and the consequences that result from not complying with the social standards. For example, if a child does not listen to their parents, they could be hurt or killed; thus a punishment of some sort is considered necessary to train the child to be obedient for his or her safety.
There is usually some relevant reason why society has adapted to certain standards of behaviors. However, these adaptations often become maladaptive when they are removed from their original context, like a fish removed from water under strict orders to continue breathing. Its like a horrible game of telephone where messages are increasingly distorted as they pass from generation to generation.
Rights vs. Roles
Just in the way gender roles have come to oppress women at times, social roles have devolved across the board. We have allowed social code and roles to overshadow human dignity. We are lumped into groups rather than being seen as individuals who are to be treated according to a set standard of personal rights. We are herded like masses of societal cattle, organized by our perceived usefulness to the massive robotic operation and little else.
Many of us have been raised to internalize our roles so deeply that we are unaware of our individuality. Boundaries are our ways of reclaiming our rights as individuals on our own terms, and at our own pace. Key to this idea of developing healthy boundaries is re-framing our roles into rights, and understanding that our roles are subject to our rights and not the other way around. Of course we will still have to function in society in our roles, but from this standpoint we come to have a true sense of self and understand what is healthy to allow for ourselves and what is not.
An understanding of rights offers a way to empower ourselves to more clearly and assertively set our boundaries, which leads to clearer communication, healthier relationships, and the possibility of adding to a more respectful culture overall. Think of this as a personal declaration of independence, or better yet, a declaration of healthy relationships. When we have a clearer understanding of where to draw our lines, they might be a little easier to defend. Tony Robbins states that "the quality of your life is the quality of your relationships." The quality of your relationships is the quality of your communication. Therefore, by commutative property, the quality of your life is the quality of your communication.
Certain Inalienable Rights
Because the world came installed with a general principle of freewill embedded within it, you always have the inalienable right to choose for yourself the life you want to live, even though people might try to talk, trick, or even try to force you out of your rights to make your own choices. As you work through the concepts, it is important to first assert your boundaries, and upon doing so, remember a person's respect of your boundaries is equal to their respect for you. Listed here are rights that you can always be sure of:
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is asking you to go somewhere, do something, or maybe to talk, but you know that you have other things that your need or want to do for yourself? This is often the situation where you begin to wrack your brain for a good excuse, such as other plans - very important plans you have that absolutely must be attended to.... by you... specifically... at that exact time. In the meantime, you start to feel anxious and stressed, or maybe even feel guilty about the situation. This is a sign of poor boundaries and a lack of understanding your personal rights. You have the right to your time. No matter what, you are in charge of your time and spending it however you want based on your priorities.
No one is allowed to touch you, crowd your space, or change your designated environment (e.g. your home, room, office, desk, etc.) without your consent. A person who does this and is shocked at your assertion of this right is a person who is either not aware of your boundaries or does not respect them. Also, in an increasingly digital world, your phones and other digital devices are also a part of your personal space. This is why we have passwords to access these things; they would not be protected if they were not personal. This means that you are not obligated allow anyone access to your phone unless you truly are okay 100% okay with it. You are not obligated to reach out (by phone, text, DMs, or otherwise) to anyone who causes you anxiety or distress in any way. Furthermore, you are not obligated to respond to anyone's repeated effort to engage with you in this way either, that's why we have block settings.
You have the right to create and maintain the type of energy that you would like to have around you. This is usually managed through the kind of people we keep around us. If you find yourself constantly having to try to undo or resist someone's negative energy, there may need to be a change, or distancing from this relationship. You are also entitled to communicate your preferences regarding your environment or surroundings, though no one is obligated to accommodate you; however, you are also within your rights to leave that energetic field in search of what you find to be more soothing to your soul.
One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is "I have no choice." You have the right to your desired will or actions. This does not mean you can force anyone to do what you want or that there will not be consequence to poor choices, but you have a right to make those choices. People often have a way of interjecting or projecting their desires onto others. They might try to change your actions through mild persuasion all the way up to threatening ultimatums. People who do this sometimes do not realize that this behavior is controlling, so they might subtly or overtly try to control your behavior unless you firmly state that they need to stop. If you do assert yourself and they threaten your relationship with them, your livelihood or safety, or even theirs, this is an emotionally immature and/or straight-up abusive person. Either way, do not pass go, do not collect $200, immediately begin to initiate a way out of this toxic relationship and implement strict boundaries until they can engage in healthier relationship patterns.
To further point out the seriousness of this problem, realize that in the field of law enforcement, this type of behavior is called racketeering. It is done by a person who tries to extract a behavior from someone by artificially creating a problem, packaged as a threat, which can only be solved by compliance. You are not a part of a mob (unless you are, then this article is especially necessary for you). You are allowed to live as you choose, and to make choices in a way that makes you feel most comfortable and produces a happier life for you. You always have a choice. Your choices may bring inconvenient consequences at times, but you still have a choice nonetheless.
You have a right to your thoughts. This includes your own perspective, opinion, desires, worldview, etc. Other people may disagree with it as they exercise their right to their own thoughts, but they do not have the right to change yours. Making your opinion or perspective a universal rule for everyone else is a danger sign of an unhealthy relationship, community or society. Impinging on others' thoughts creates a sick society as a whole, and toxic relationships in a smaller scale. There is a place for healthy debate, but that cannot take place without a standard respect for each individual's thoughts.
You have a right to your beliefs. Your personal truth and belief about life, no matter how different, is owed regard and respect from those around you. Others do not have to believe the same as you, but them not seeking to berate you or punish you for believing differently is key here. If you hold a belief that is different from those around you, they may seek to use their roles over you as parent, partner, boss, etc. in order to influence your belief system if it does not support their own. I am not able to make a prescriptive statement on what exactly you should do (as that would disrespect your experience), but I want to reiterate how powerful our will innately is. You are owed the right to your own experience. Therefore, anyone who seeks to aggressively change your belief systems after you have stated an unwillingness to do so, should be avoided, not necessarily because everything you believe is correct, but because they are disrespecting a clear communication of boundaries, which indicates a toxic personality.
Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter
If you adopt even one of these steps, I hold confidence that your relationships and interactions will be more honest, and as a result, your life will be just that much better. What I also am confident of is that you will receive push-back, and you will be tested. The beauty is that if you feel your life has been plagued with fake friends, poor relationships, family drama, and bad dates, after applying this skill, you will eventually have truer friendships.
Your intimacy with others will become deeper.
Most importantly, you will experience a closer and healthier relationship with yourself.
Knowing and enforcing your rights will test your relationships. The ones that pass the test will remain and grow stronger. Those that fail with wither and die. If you find anyone disrespecting your boundaries through the violation of any of the rights above, the first step is to state your rights then ask them clearly to respect them. If they demand further explanation for your no or start engaging in debates as to why they should be able to continue doing what they are doing, etc., I guarantee that this is a toxic person who has been exploiting your kindness in order to get what they want out of you (knowingly or unknowingly). If you explain to them your rights and they still persist, chances are high that their resistance will be borne from a frustration that their ability to exploit you has ended. But, don't worry, this is the start of more healthy and meaningful relationships. You are separating the wheats from the tares. And you, dear friend, are definitely moving forward to a healthier and happier life.
We've created resources designed to help you assess and begin to deal with this specific issue. We have a free community area that gives you access to guide sheets relating to the topics discussed in this blog. Check out our free community resource area to access downloadable PDF guide sheets for this blog and much more:
We have created original merchandise for this blog series that are intended to help remind you of the messages of self love and acceptance we have talked about here. Click on the items below or visit our store page to shop for original products made with you and your journey to move forward in mind.