Leaps and Boundaries
Sometimes we simply have to shore up our boundaries and say “no” to people, places, and situations that bring us pain. Though seemingly insignificant, the appropriate use of that tiny, two letter word of negation can completely change our lives. If we decline to spend time with people who harm us, or with whom we are not at all compatible, or in jobs or living situations that diminish us, then we have more energy for experiences that bring us creative inspiration and joy.
And many of us, particularly women, believe that we must constantly change ourselves rather than quitting abusive relationships or jobs, because according to current pop psychology, “everything around us is a reflection of ourselves.” (That phrase has always struck me as particularly egocentric and an example of poor boundaries.)
An awful lot of women stay in abusive relationships and jobs where they are undervalued, simply because they believe it is their responsibility to fix everything, or to work on themselves so that they can handle abuse more effectively. And ironically, for many there seems to be a schism between work and home life. Many women tolerate behavior from spouses that they would never tolerate on the job, and vice versa.
For many of us, removing ourselves from relationships, jobs, or places that don’t work for us may bring feelings of guilt and failure along with relief. We may think we should have tried harder as if relationships are a goal to be achieved, rather than an on-going process of connection between people who may have differing motivations and values. We may have tried everything we can think of to handle a job we loathe or a boss who doesn’t care, or a family member who does not respond to attempts to resolve issues.
While it is a sign of emotional maturity to ask what we may have contributed to a dysfunctional relationship or work environment, it is also mature to recognize when it is not our responsibility to fix something. Sometimes, that little word “no” can move mountains, relieve the weight of trying to fix someone else’s behavior, and lighten our life considerably. And if saying “no” seems too abrupt, phrases like,”that doesn’t work for me,” are fine too. And if we do feel guilty for having clear boundaries and taking care of ourselves, perhaps we need to think about messages we were taught about our own worth. There is a lot of power in saying no.