Relationships can be tricky; especially the romantic variety. For sensitive introverts like myself, it’s all too easy to set aside our needs in order to appease and please others and, above all, avoid conflict. I would say that it’s probably my biggest personality flaw. I’m not quite sure where this need to avoid relationship friction comes from. My childhood? Doubtful. I had a pretty amazing childhood. Perhaps, it’s just the way some of us are wired through a mixture of genetics, upbringing and random experiences. All I can say is that pretty much all of the painful experiences that I’ve endured stem from this intense desire to keep the peace, even if it means ignoring my values and abandoning my personal boundaries.
Unfortunately, this personality trait can make us particularly susceptible to users and abusers. More specifically narcissists who care about no one but themselves. You may never actually encounter someone like that in your lifetime, but if you do, I pray that you quickly recognize that person for what they are before they lure you into their fantasy world. They’re charming AF, and will do anything to make you believe how amazing they are when in fact they’re just liars and manipulators. They’ll promise you the moon and stars at first, and you’ll ignore the subtle warning signs, but eventually you’ll see the ugliness seep through the cracks in their persona. They’ll make you believe you’re the irrational one, and that you’re exaggerating and blowing things out of proportion. Your self-worth will plummet. You’ll feel isolated and perhaps too ashamed to tell a friend. You’ll think that maybe you’re to blame after all. I was lucky to get out when I did. It took a lot of strength and resolve to get out of that relationship. It lasted only three months, but the residual effects lingered for years.
So how do you stop this from ever happening to you? How do you set personal boundaries but more importantly honor them? These 3 simple tools can help you do just that.
Make a Heck ‘Ya list
In order to set your personal boundaries, you have to get clear on what you value the most and how you want to live your life. Instead of focusing on the things you don’t want, make a list of the things that you absolutely, unequivocally want and need to lead your most authentic life. Include all areas of your life such as work, personal relationships, family, health, hobbies and so on. This list will be your Heck ‘Ya List and it will guide you through every decision that you make.
Practice Saying “No”
Whatever question doesn’t coincide with your Heck ‘Ya List should be answered with a resounding “no”. You can start off small and work your way up to the big things. For example, politely declining invitations to dinner parties with people you don’t connect with, saying no to doing a friend a favor if it means infringing upon your precious leisure time. The more you say it, the easier it gets. Try to focus on how you feel rather than how the other person might feel in the moment. Too often we ignore our feelings for the sake of others. Stop doing that! Your feelings matter and saying “no” is a form of self-care.
If you’re uncomfortable with saying “no”, a good alternative would be to tell the person you’ll think about it and get back to them. Sometimes you need to buy a little extra time to reflect and make a clear-headed decision without a cloud of potential social disapproval lingering over your head. It’s as simple as saying “hey, let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you!” See? That wasn’t so hard.
My hope is that you can take back your power and really honor your wants and needs as a human being. I know it can be hard to “let people down”. I know you don’t want to seem like a selfish person, but in the end all that matters is that you’re living your life the way you want to live it. Be wary of manipulative people who try to exploit your niceness by listening to that little voice inside your head. That little voice is always telling you the truth.
Can you relate to any of this? If so, please share your experience in the comments section below.