How many times have you been in the situation where you felt you’re really annoyed, either by the loud neighbours or the kid with his loud headphones, or the date invading your space before you’re ready?
How many times have you said nothing to your friend, your boss, your colleague or your partner, kept quiet for years until one day…you exploded so badly that all there was left were ruins?
I get it! In the end, shouldn’t the world around us simply know how to behave, how not to push our buttons? Shouldn’t people just be nice and considerate? Oh, I so get it!
But we all know – that’s not how it works. Most people are simply focused on themselves and don’t feel the need to think of others. I guess often it’s not malicious intent to hurt or annoy others, and sometimes you simply have people who are so egotistical, they truly believe the world should revolve around them. At best such people are a bit selfish and unaware, at the worst they know exactly what they’re doing and simply don’t care.
So now the world is in uproar – or is it just a world showing boundaries?
As I’m working on my book about relationships, I point out how important boundaries are. I’ve probably mentioned them several times before but today it hit me:
All the protests in the world right now – they are nothing else but people finally finding the courage to show their boundaries.
Boundaries are nothing else but our rules who determine what others can do to us, or NOT do to us.
If we don’t have boundaries, people walk all over us.
If we have boundaries but don’t have the strength and courage to enforce them, people still walk all over us.
The ruling class has been walking all over us for centuries.
Why am I talking about this when usually I’m only writing about relationships? Because there are many forms of relationships, not just romantic ones.
The most common one is actually the relationship with an authority. First, it’s our parents, then our teachers, then our boss at work and then the ‘system’ (from police to those who run our countries).
I had to ask myself, why is it so hard to keep up our boundaries? Well, it’s especially hard when survival is involved.
What’s easier for you? To be prepared to walk out of a job or out of a romantic relationship (given that you don’t financially depend on your partner)?
I say it’s more difficult to tell your boss ‘where he can put it’ if he’s being abusive, then to your partner. Right?
In an ideal world our parents would have taught us what boundaries are and would respect them as well. That means when a child says no to overly eager hugs, the grown up instantly releases the child.
In an ideal world we would grow up and be able to calmly inform anyone around us who is overstepping our boundaries, to step back. But do we?
No, we don’t. Instead when we’re on a train, we are afraid to confront the teenager to ask him if he could lower the volume please. Our quiet resentment is building up in anger and I had to watch an old man in Germany completely ‘loose it’ and shout at the youth to ‘fucking turn their bloody music off’.
The youth very quickly obliged and felt bad, but they would have been happy to make the old man happy, if only he had the skill to say it politely.
He missed out on the chance to connect with them and they missed out on the chance to learn that there is a world around them, in a nice way, I mean. They’ve learned alright but probably with some bitterness and resentment towards old people now. A drift has been created, something was destroyed before it could be built.
Ever since, I’ve practiced to just turn to the person next to me and ask with a smile if they can turn the music down. So far, everyone was happy to oblige, no drama needed.
But boy did my heart race the first couple of times before I said anything!
The same applies to a date. The last guy who tried to insist on kissing me even though I made it very clear I don’t kiss on the first date, left in a huff, drove off in his Mercedes and I never heard of him again. And it was the first time I felt really good about that.
His loss. And I saved myself lots of time and heartache and I didn’t even realise that my future husband was literally around the corner from that.
Imagine if I hadn’t kept up my boundary that night, which was there to weed out the wrong men? I would have never met my husband who respected every boundary to a T.
But before that, I was in many romantic relationships where I struggled to keep up my boundaries and the result of that was what we have today – fire and destruction.
We have waited too long, we have trusted too much that our authorities would take care of us – despite all evidence to the contrary.
It takes a lot of confidence and courage to speak up and that is exactly what is happening now.
We are speaking up. We have had enough for a long, long time and we have found the courage only now, in the depths of our pain and desperation, because the music of our authorities was far too loud for far too long and even when we spoke up, we weren’t heard, no one would want to listen.
So we are making them listen…
My husband says, we will either have a renaissance or a revolution. Let’s work on the renaissance before we have the second option which won’t end up well for anyone.
And how can we work on being heard without setting buildings on fire?
Simple. Just like in a romantic relationship, we have to speak up clearly enough to be heard and seen. Only once our partner is confronted with boundaries, he can actually see us and finally knows what we need to make us happy. And once he/she sees us, real communication can start, calm and constructive communication.
And finally a relationship can be built.
We have now seen that a few voices are not loud enough. Which means we need to combine our voices into a choir so big and loud that no one can ignore us any longer.
The key word is – organise ourselves!
And then we have to keep that choir alive and have regular practice, every week, every month, every year.
It means we have to organise ourselves into a body so impressive that our boundaries will be understood by just looking at us. The boundary with the simple message – you can’t mess with us. You better not mess with us…
What can we do? Everything is at our fingertips.
We need to learn about all of our history.
We need to greet each other on the street and connect.
We need to organise dances outside, learn the names of our neighbours and invite them to the barbeque.
We need to go to council meetings to observe those who want to exercise power.
We need to vote, form or join the next political party which will represent ALL of us.
And above all – we need to find a way to peacefully protest just like the French have done it for hundreds of years.
Relationships… There can’t be a healthy relationship in any form as long as one party doesn’t insist on its boundaries.
All we need is a habit of speaking up and getting any bullies out there used to the fact that we exist.
And that we aren’t going to make it easy to ignore us ever again.
So back to the question, why is it so hard to speak up to say something to a youth on the train or to our partner right at the beginning, before resentment builds up? I mean, besides the financial aspect at times.
Simple. Fear. Everything always comes back to fear. It’s boring really for me to point this out at each topic I try to discuss, because literally everything always comes back to some form of fear.
In this case it’s fear of rejection and fear of potential conflict.
Just think about it for a moment, go back to when you were little. Indulge me.
I can still clearly see when I tried to ask a grown up for something, especially a parent. First, I was ignored, so I started to feel desperate to be heard. Then I finally got a “What the hell do you want?” which of course was a conflict already, it felt like a slap, showing me it was wrong in the first place to even TRY to get attention. And in the end when I’ve finally asked for what I wanted, I got a resounding ‘no’. If I insisted despite the no, some form of punishment possibly followed.
Of course children can’t just get everything they want. I’m not objecting to that. I’m objecting to the way parents handle communication with their children because guess what – these children grow up and will communicate in that exact way with their own family.
So how could it be handled?
This is what I do with my step-children or any other child and yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s the only loving and constructive way.
“Didi, Didi, Didi!” the little one calls out for example. – “Yes, Kevin.” I respond with a smile if possible. – “I want outside.” – I usually kneel down to be on his level, look at him and say: “Sorry, Kevin, it’s raining outside. And Didi has to cook. Do you want to help me cook?” – His eyes sparkle and all of a sudden he’s forgotten about going outside. How does a three-year-old help me cook? I let him tare up the lettuce for example.
It was either that, or I would suggest to read a book or to paint. A bit of distraction, that’s all that’s needed and of course attention because at the end of the day, that’s what he wanted, to spend some time with me or anyone really.
I didn’t have a minute to myself to be honest when he was at our house but it was so much fun!
At the end of the day, all a child wants, is attention and a good reason for our decision.
And that doesn’t end when we’re all grown up. We still need attention and we need a reasonable explanation for any action we don’t understand – and if the explanation doesn’t hold, then it’s time to hold our partner or our authority accountable.
But that’s not what we’ve been taught to do, is it now? All we’ve been taught is to shut up and do as we were told, no questions asked.
And the resentment starts building up…until it makes us ill and we let it break us.
I say there is no need for that. I acknowledge it’s not easy at the beginning, but with just a little bit of practice, you can strengthen your courage to speak up right at the beginning when something bothers you. Start small by nicely asking the person next to you to please lower the volume of their headphones, tell your partner right away how much it hurts you when he or she isn’t looking at you when you’re talking (without blame!), tell your neighbour that it’s past 10PM and you need to get up next morning, tell your boss that if he/she wants to insist on yelling at you, that you need double the pay.
I hate conflict myself, I’m a total wuss when it comes to that. But as long as I couldn’t stand up for myself, I ended up in scenarios like getting pregnant within a blink of an eye, loose the baby after a few weeks and then have the guy walk out on me. And that’s just one of the horrible scenarios I’ve been through.
And guess what? It wasn’t their fault, it was mine. Because I never insisted on what I needed and didn’t speak up right at the beginning.
Yes, sure, I could have blamed my parents or family or the whole freaking town where I grew up, but how does that help, blaming others for my misery? It doesn’t solve anything. It is what it is, right now, and I had to find a solution.
So I grew some balls and practiced my boundaries. Simple 😉