From Doormat to Bitch In 5 Seconds Flat | Assertiveness: The Happy Medium

We are each responsible for our own well-being and boundaries. This is something I wish I had learned at a much younger age so that perhaps I'd be closer to mastering the associated skills to achieve balance around this, but I have made progress in accepting this concept as truth.  
I've spent a lot of my life so far playing the victim role.  It has come naturally, since I was legitimately victimized so many times a child and young adult.  There does come a time in adulthood, though, when we can no longer hold on to the identity of the victim.  To do so would be to further victimize ourselves.  
This includes how we allow others to treat us.  A therapist in IOP recently mentioned that we, as adults, show people how it's okay to treat us.  For example, if someone is complaining that his friends always treat him like a doormat and repeatedly take advantage of his kind and giving nature (by taking and taking and rarely offering anything in return), there is some responsibility that falls on the one who is complaining.
People take cues from us as far as what we will tolerate and how we will be treated.  If you always say yes to requests, even when doing so causes you to resent yourself and/or the other person (perhaps you are tired, not interested in an activity, or just plain don't want to do it -- but you say yes anyway), then people will come to expect you to say yes and will likely have no idea that you are doing so against your own true desires.
It is not until you shift your way of responding that other will consequently and inevitably be forced to change how they interact with you and what they come to expect of you.
There are many causes and reasons for putting others first, including not wanting to be rejected, not wanting to be seen as mean, fear of abandonment, and even not believing we have a right to turn down a request.  There is cause for everything -- including the way we currently respond to others. 
The key is in what was modeled to us early in life.  According to Anne Katherine, author of  Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin:
"[w]e learn about boundaries by the way we are treated as children. Then we teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us. Most people will respect our boundaries if we indicate where they are. With some people, however, we must actively defend them."
Assertive people with few boundary issues fascinate me. I was with a friend yesterday when he brought in his vehicle for a body estimate. During the course of the quotation process, the auto shop owner offered all types of discounts, which excited my friend; however, when the employee suggested that my friend lie to his insurance company to get a discount on his deductible, my friend politely sat up in his chair, and in a firm but not mean voice, said, "I just want to make something clear.  I'd love to save some money, but I am not willing to lie to my insurance company, and I am not comfortable with you lying to them either."  "Got it," replied the owner.
I was in awe.
It's not that I would lie to my insurance carrier either, but I'm not sure I would have stood up to the employee, especially when he was being so "nice" offering me various discounts.  Even though lying to my insurance company would be against my values and ethics, I'm not so sure that I would have been so direct, firm, and honest with the owner -- at least not initially.  I think I would probably feel like I needed to be polite, nod and acknowledge him, and led him on that I'd be going along with the deal. I'd then leave, knowing full well I had no intention of doing business with the company under those circumstances, and then either let them know after the fact or not at all. Somehow, I'd place my need for him -- a man I didn't know and who was suggesting doing something dishonest -- to like me rather than standing up for myself.  That's a real problem, and I'm ready to face it. 
I used to be quite the opposite.  Those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder often think in black or white terms (all or nothing), or dialectics. In the case of being passive versus assertive, in the past, I saw no middle ground.  I'd either respond in a completely passive way, allowing others to take advantage of me, or I'd turn into a complete and total bitch, full of anger, hostility, and judgment. I would go from feeling like a doormat to exploding in response to the resentment, and I could be quite cruel. There is a middle ground, and the journey there is paved with learning boundaries and self-care.
Here are some quotes from an excellent book I've just read. I've selected it as the first book in an upcoming BPD Book Club, date to be determined.  The book is called, "Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin," by Anne Katherine.
Perhaps reading these will help to better understand boundaries and why we have issues around them - and being assertive - to begin with.
  • "A boundary is a limit or edge that defines you as separate from others. A boundary is a limit that promotes integrity (3)
  • Boundaries bring order to our lives. As we learn to strengthen our boundaries, we gain a clearer sense of ourselves and our relationships to others. Boundaries empower us to determine how we'll be treated by others (5)
  • Our emotional health is related to the health of our boundaries (8)"

Another quote from the book is one that I found very relevant in my life right now. Being that I am very active on Twitter, I encounter others who are at many different points on their own personal journeys. At times, things others say can be triggering. I set my limits by asking kindly if "TW," the code for "Trigger Warning" could be placed at the the beginning of such tweets. If someone declines, I choose to "unfollow" them to take care of my own personal boundaries and engage in self-care.  I used to forgo using Twitter during those times, but I no longer want to handle it that way, missing out on something I enjoy.

Recently, a person on Twitter with whom I've interacted many times (who is usually quite kind, fun, and helpful), was evidently dealing with some painful issues of her own.  Her tweets about her eating disorder and cruel comments about body image made me feel upset.  I let her know this firmly. She responded in sarcasm and passive aggressive tweets.  I remained kind and asked if the person would like to continue to be connected because I did not have time for immaturity or games. I was SO proud of myself.  I wasn't trying to be mean. Instead, I was practicing this:

"I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I'll let people treat me. One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me." (15)
How are your boundaries and assertiveness?  What skills do you practice to get stronger in these areas?  What examples can you think of that demonstrate a need for better boundaries or for being more assertive? How about example so implementing effective boundaries or being assertive?
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

1 comment:

  1. This is great I so need to read that book.
    It's been happening to me that I apologize a lot (too much) when I fail in something (for example being late to band rehearsal). But then people feel like they can treat me like I'm a disrespectful person or like I don't even care, or they start telling me what to do, even if they know is there's something I DON'T want to do (like taking my son with me to rehearsals, just because I can't concentrate with him around and rehealsal time is MY time).
    So I need to reduce confidence level. I have to apologize If I'm wrong, but not too much.



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