Living a miserable life provided me with no motivation to set boundaries. Having boundaries meant forcing myself to focus only on what I had control over and release concern over anything I had no control over. Focusing on improving myself while allowing others to suffer the consequences of their behavior felt like a betrayal to my family.
Understanding I had no control over other people was a traumatic realization. People being hateful and mean was just part of the family dynamic. I had accepted it as part of family life. I learned to hide who we are from the public and treat each other like trash when no one was looking. What happened behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors. My parents often attempted to coerce behavior using physical or emotional abuse.
Failure in setting or respecting other people’s boundaries happened so often I was tempted to revert my behavior. Saying no or prioritizing myself felt like a betrayal to my family. Generational patterns provided me the motivation to continue so I could break the cycle, hence I pushed forward.
Skills in recognizing controlling behavior in myself and others grew with practice. Manipulations were no longer effective. Self-preservation and independence resulted from distancing myself from those who found it impossible to respect my boundaries. Apologies no longer guaranteed forgiveness. Opinions of others now come second to my own.
Having solid boundaries guarantees respect. When people know your boundaries, it is up to them to show respect. The consequences of their behavior slowly become their responsibility. There was a time where I would feel guilty for allowing my children or spouse to suffer consequences of their decisions. I recognize the growth I have achieved is credited to enduring the results of my own behavior. Rather than saving them, I have learned to be supportive in ways that do not inflict pain or instigate drama.
Not taking other people’s behaviors personally has also provided opportunities for growth. People who do not respect boundaries can be downright abusive if a boundary is introduced. Personal insults and hateful smear campaigns are often ignited when boundaries are suddenly put up. I forced myself to push through and understand change is never easy for anyone.
The decline in my anxiety and worry is worth learning what I am willing to do for myself and others. I slowly began to recognize toxic patterns in relationships and distance myself accordingly. Removing myself from situations of manipulation and negativity was painful.
Insecurity and excuses cannot be used when healthy boundaries are present. Responsibility for things within my control became my focus. Mistakes and consequences of others are now problems of my family and friends. Toxic people who focus on blame rather than improvement are removed from my life.
I will always love and cherish the people in my life, but no longer do I allow myself to be treated like a doormat and the source of misery for those closest to me. Focusing on what I need to be the person I want to be has proven fruitful and allowed me to grow into someone I am proud of. Shame and guilt for who I was and who my family had become no longer enters my mind. We are each exactly who we have put in the work to be.
Allowing ourselves to be used is just as damaging as the abuse itself. Fear of being unlovable without allowing others to abuse me slowly subsides. People willing to respect you and your boundaries are out there. My life was too full of people who were not willing to allow anyone new in. I had to relieve myself of those who simply refuse to respect my boundaries. I still care for the people I banished and hope someday they choose to return, knowing the boundaries and respecting them. The responsibility is theirs, not mine.
The best approach I have found to deciding what I want is to ask myself what advice I would give someone close to me if they were in my position. Knowing what I would advise gives me insight into my values. My decisions now reflect what is important to me. Popularity and acceptance have taken a backseat to dignity and integrity.
Angela Boggs is an aspiring writer chasing the dream of becoming a writer. She obtained her degree in Adolescent & Developmental Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University in order to become a better parent and stepparent. She works in the finance industry and spends her free time helping others achieve greatness through mentoring and support.