Hello Groovy People!
I am a people pleaser. I am not sure when this started, but I wasn’t always like this. I do know that at some point in my life I began to emphathize with others. It got to the point where I’d change my thoughts, words, and even actions to make sure I did not offend or hurt anyone around me. This, as you can tell, is not healthy. Nor is it conducive for a fulfilling relationship with others. Yet, I did it any way. The issue is the fear of rejection if I offend or do something that someone doesn’t like. As you can also tell, this makes me very frustrated and often alone. You would think that being kind, nurturing, and always thinking of other people’s feelings would make people like you. It does not. If anything, people use it as a way to hurt you or belittle you. Not everyone is like this, but most are.
This leads me to my next tid bit about myself. As much of a people pleaser I am, I do have boundaries. This has been learned over time and it is not easy. In college, my first time around, I met a young woman who I believed was a friend. I had went out of my way to make new friends in college and was sucessful in that endeavor. I am, or was, good at making friends. Long story short, this particular woman was not a good friend to me. I did my best to be kind and enjoy her company, but she was often rude and told me to shut up. While some people may see this as normal for friends, I personally did not. It took months to gain the courage to tell her about my feelings and even longer to rid myself of her. This was because I was not used to revealing my feelings, for fear of hurting her’s. Granted to say, I did manage to tell her how I felt and how she made me feel when she used those hurtful words. She did not understand and did not care. Some time later I did manage to rid myself of the platonic blunder by ghosting her (a term not used until over 10 years later by social media).
This incident, along with others, made me realize that I needed to create boundaries. The idea of boundaries, to me anyway, is that you set a standard for how you want to be treated. This does not mean the other person can’t be themselves, but if their behavior is hurting you mentally, emotionally, or even physically, then you have the right to let them know how you feel. Any relationship is a two way street. Respect and knowing your worth is something that most people can understand. Now, if the other person is not in agreement with your personal boundaries, then perhaps that relationship is not worth it.
As far away as that college incident was, I was reminded of my journey of establishing boundaries when I recently went to visit blood relatives for a graduation party. Due to the plague, I only went because I was told the graduate would be there. The idea was to drop off my gift, say some parting words, and leave. I was told there would be masks, distancing, and the graduate would be there. To my surprise, the person I was there to see was not there. To make matters worse, the home began filling with others (one woman who did not have a mask along with my aunt). I remained calm and thought I’d wait a bit so that I can see the graduate off. Again my people pleasing took hold and I ignored my notion to leave. As more people entered the small dwelling, I decided to leave to not risk my health. I had on a mask, but the social distancing would be impossible by the time the graduate made it back home(he was graduating at his high school which was something I was told about once I got there).
Before leaving, his mother, my aunt, asked me to take a picture by the wall. I did not mind and smiled through my mask. The idea of smiling even though no one would see it was amusing and so I made a remark joking as I usually do. She then proceeded to ask me to take off the mask for the picture. I did not comply. Not only was this a small kitchen, but two people there did not have masks, and there were two others in the room as well. In this moment I had decided to maintain my stance. She did not like this.
My offense was not taking off a mask during a plague for a photo opt. Her tone changed, she ridiculed me for being scared and asked why I would even show up. Perhaps many would agree with her, but I found the display of her words quite rude. I was not afraid to go to a small gathering of four people (initially the aunt, the graduate, and my father who I live with). I was not afraid to give a gift and leave quickly. The point I am trying to make is that I was fine with the idea of showing up as long as the number was small, masks were worn, and I did not stay long. This however was not the case and I had been misled multiple times. The issue was that there were several people there and two without masks. I did not want to risk exposing myself or others to a pathogen. Was I wrong? Still refusing to remove my mask I told her that I was not comfortable taking it off and that I did not want to risk infection. I also answered her very rude question of asking me why I even came if I was so scared. Humiliated, I laughed it off to not continue the uncomfortable situtation. She insisted I take a plate and passive agressively asked me to wash my hands. Funny how she just berated me for being cautious and not understanding why I was refusing to remove my mask. But she wanted me to cleanse my hands. I complied, and once I had my plate I left.
I am very sensative and felt utterly shocked and exhausted by the entire ordeal. I played it over multiple times in my head and cried on my drive home. Was I being too sensitive? Did she have a right? The point is that boundaries are about your comfort and well being. As long as your boundaries do not impead on the life of another, it cannot be bad. The most you do is risk going against someone else’s way of thinking. I was proud of myself for not risking myself and stood by the firm belief that going to the party with the lies told to me was not a risk, but it had become one once more people gathered.
I had a clear boundary of not risking my health and when someone challenged it, I stood firmly in my stance. Refusing to take off my mask was not going to hurt anyone and the risk of infection outwayed any faux pass that my behavior caused. Yet, the aftermath was a nightmare. Sometimes your boundaries and what you are willing to allow don’t fit what others want or expect. Regardless, if your boundaries help your state of mind or health, then there can be no wrong. I know it is hard to have boundaries. If I didn’t develop strong boundaries so long ago, I would have caved and took off my mask. Sure there could be a chance that I did not get sick, but the point is why risk it? It matters to me.
What are some of your experiences with boundaries? How did you feel when you made it clear to others? Did they accept or did they ridicule you?