Violating Boundaries: Assert Yourself And Take Charge
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Benjamin Franklin Are you sick and tired of being treated like a doormat and having people walk all over you? If you answered yes, read on. It’s time you learn to assert yourself by respecting and honoring your personal and professional boundaries. It is important that you do so because if you can’t look out for yourself, nobody else will. We have all at one time or another experienced boundary violations from friends, relatives, or co-workers be it intentional or unintentional. Such encounters can become very uncomfortable and difficult to deal with, especially when dealing with people you know intimately.
How can you stop the cycle of abuse and take control of your life? It starts with self-honoring and self-respect. Know yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses, know what you stand for and what you don’t stand for, know your boundaries. As the Greeks once said, “Know thyself and you will know the Gods and the universe.” Be aware of your physical, emotional, and social boundaries in the different areas of your life including personal, professional, family, and relationships.
Take the time to honestly communicate with boundary violators letting them know in no uncertain terms that you don’t appreciate being treated in a certain way and will not tolerate it. Different circumstances will call for different ways of dealing with such issues depending on your work, your personality, and the situation. For example, Rebecca Rosenblat (aka Dr. Date) is a Toronto sex therapist who does the lecture circuit on sexual relationships and driving one’s lover wild in bed. As you can imagine, she is having her boundaries violated all the time. Many people assume, wrongly, that because she is a public figure and authority on sex that they have the right to make sexual innuendos and inappropriate remarks. If that weren’t bad enough, some deranged people think they actually have the right to have sex with her! One such person walked up to her after she finished delivering her seminar and bluntly stated, “I’d like to f*@#k you.” She laughed and quickly brushed him off by saying, “My seminar was about driving YOUR own lover wild in bed…not me…I have my own husband!” In her profession, Dr. Date finds humor and a sharp, quick wit to be most effective. One time, somebody had physically grabbed her tush.
In response, she kneed him right in the crotch! This person wasn’t too bright and asked a stupid follow-up question, “Why did you do that for?” She responded with, “You touched my ass, I touched your crotch!” In Rebecca’s case, because of the nature of her profession, she chooses to respond to verbal abuse in a verbal way and physical abuse in a physical way. But violators beware! Not only is this type of behavior socially inappropriate, it’s just plain stupid; you can end up with a court order, a life-debilitating lawsuit, or some serious jail time. People who continually violate their friend’s boundaries need to back off and smarten up. It’s a recipe for disaster, ultimately ruining the relationship that has taken so long to build. We all have friends who love to give advice but seldom follow it themselves. Gone too far, they begin telling you what to do with your life. These people feel that because they are your friends, they have the right to tell you what to do and try to change you. And if you don’t change and do what they tell you, they take it personally. Friends who commit such relationship sins should wake up and smell the coffee. My message to them is, “Stop! Take a long look in the mirror and realize that the only person that can change is YOU! Stop trying to take out the speck of dust from your neighbor’s eye and remove the plank from your own!” Make a top ten list of how you may be violating other people’s boundaries and work towards eliminating these bad habits from your life.
If you feel you are a victim of such ‘boundary hunters’, you need to sit down with such friends and explain to them honestly what you are feeling and how you want to be treated in such circumstances. You might start by saying something to the following effect: “I don’t like it when you keep telling me what I need to do with my life. Sometimes as a friend I just want to confide in you and feel supported. I’m not looking for advice, just some understanding and empathy.” Should this pattern of boundary crossing abuse continue unabated, then I would strongly advise that you exercise respect for yourself by ending the relationship and moving on. “But what if this person happens to be my boss?” you might ask. “Won’t it jeopardize my job and future opportunities for promotion?” My answer to this question is a direct one: regardless of whether it’s a family member, friend, co-worker, or even employer, if you don’t like the way you are being treated stand up for yourself and say so! Have the courage to confront whoever it is who is crossing your boundaries and exercise your right to be treated as a free and intelligent human being; even if this means terminating the relationship, leaving, or getting fired from your job. You don’t deserve to be continually mistreated in any situation. In fact, in many cases the person being confronted will have a new found respect for you when you show enough backbone and courage and stand up for who you are. As a case in point, Janick Leonard, now a professional Network Marketer, served as a waitress ten years ago for a trendy Mont-Tremblant restaurant.
The owner had a big anger management problem and would constantly scream and publicly chew out his employees in public. One day he chewed her out for no apparent reason and started calling her names and verbally abusing her in front of clients. She quit her job right on the spot and left, setting an example to those who kept taking the abuse. “I couldn't handle being treating like that,” she writes. “He crossed my boundaries and I decided I would never let anyone treat me this way ever again.” It’s probably one of the best decisions she has ever made. After she quit, she wrote a letter to the owner expressing how she felt and letting him know that all the employees felt the same way, creating awkward tension and resentment whenever he was around the restaurant. The employees were pretending to like him while the truth was that everyone was talking behind his back, and Janick expressed this in her letter to the owner. As a result, this letter changed the way the owner treated his employees from then on.