Speaking Up

It can be so tricky keeping healthy boundaries in relationships. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of what healthy boundaries really are because of the faulty ways we’ve been socialized. Unhealthy boundaries may have become normalized for us. We may have been trained to cater to and be caretakers of others, submitting ourselves to being taken advantage of, sacrificing ourselves for others. It is built into our roles and society expects us to conform no matter the fact that it is violating our boundaries and places us into submission to others where we are exploited and condemned if we realize the inequity and try to stand up for ourselves.

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries can also be complicated by the effects of being raised in a dysfunctional or toxic environment. When we reach adulthood we can claim our agency and re-educate ourselves on what is healthy and appropriate.

The problem is we may not even have the awareness that what we’ve become accustomed to is unhealthy because it’s all we’ve known. Until we break free from the abusive environments and relationships we may not be able to see clearly how damaging they have been.

It will be difficult to establish healthy boundaries within a dysfunctional/toxic framework, we have to create space or experience the relief of a nontoxic healthy environment so we can contrast and compare. It helps us to see that there is indeed an alternative, a better way. We then realize we have choices and can choose to disengage and set boundaries that are loving and healthy for us.

https://www.romper.com/p/9-things-you-wont-remember-if-you-had-a-toxic-parent-what-that-means-18169679

It is essential that you have a strong connection and integration with your emotions. Often times while growing up in order to cope and maintain attachment with our caregivers we may become detached from our emotions so that we may feel emotion but not know why… we can’t connect the dots because we’ve learned to disengage from the painful emotions that arise. To actually face the pain inflicted upon us from unhealthy caregivers would interfere with our ability to trust them, we have to rely on them so to survive, to cope, we minimize, deny, dissociate, and repress, or instead internalize and blame ourselves. They are the authority in our lives and we believe them implicitly. We accept whatever they dish out as best we can and this leads to acceptance of boundary violations because it’s what we are taught.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201802/facing-the-pain-child-abuse

We are also socialized with gender roles and expectations that are not healthy or equitable. Our society is rife with harmful toxic norms that promote abuse of power and dominate, discriminate, bully, abuse, exploit, and oppress. There is a backlash against those who stand up for equal rights and who try to establish healthy boundaries, who are speaking out against injustice. It takes courage to enforce healthy boundaries because it comes with risk depending on the level of maturity of those involved.

Sometimes the safest thing is to remove yourself from unhealthy situations if you can because abusive people typically do not respond well to boundary enforcement. If you have to keep repeating your boundaries and they keep violating them, then it’s probably time to end the relationship. It doesn’t matter how good a person’s intentions are or if their feelings will be hurt, if they are not respecting your boundaries then they are not a healthy person for you, why tolerate harmful behavior? Why hurt yourself by keeping them in your life just because you don’t want to hurt their feelings? What about your feelings, your health, and sanity?

How do we know what our boundaries are? I had to read many books on boundaries, emotional abuse, and codependence to educate myself on what’s healthy and acceptable. I also had to reconnect with myself and my emotions. I had to spend a lot of time alone with myself and journaled, a practice I’ve kept since 2006.

I came to really know myself and what I valued, what was most important to me. I paid attention to how I felt in my relationships with others. I began to speak up for myself, to confront the issues that violated my boundaries. I educated myself on defense mechanisms and how people employ manipulative tactics to confuse you, to keep power and control over you so they can keep violating your boundaries.

I became firmly connected with my inner truth, with my values and my emotions and I began to trust myself again. I began to honor, value, and respect myself so that I no longer submitted to those attempting to dominate me. I learned that I have agency over myself and no longer believed people when they tried to bully me, and tell me I was wrong, that I had no right to my feelings, beliefs, or perceptions, those people who dared to try and gaslight and manipulate me. It didn’t work anymore once I reclaimed myself and listened to my logical heart.

It still took practice, speaking up for myself did not come easily or naturally. I kept honoring my inner truth, my emotions, and learned how to navigate intelligently. I learned how to express myself in a nonviolent, noninflammatory manner while establishing boundaries. I eventually learned that if something kept nagging at me, it was a dealbreaker and needed to be addressed. I practiced prioritizing what was worth being upset over so that I no longer was disturbed by insignificant, inconsequential things, or things that I really had no control over like bad drivers. I’ve learned that it’s best to trust yourself and speak up immediately. Sometimes to be certain I will journal it out and or seek validation from an objective person before addressing the boundary violation with the offending party.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/addiction-and-recovery/201908/boundaries-and-the-dance-the-codependent

Keeping healthy boundaries leads to a life of more freedom, peace, and relief. It’s important to be able to say no to things that are unhealthy for you and only you can know what that may be. You are the only one who knows what your boundaries are and only you have the power to enforce them in your personal relationships.

In some hierarchies though, unfortunately, we individually do not have the power to change them, but we can band together as groups to create social change like in the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter.

If more of us would take the time to learn about healthy boundaries and then enforce them it would lead to a healthier world. We would then model healthy boundaries to future generations and we would have a healthier society. If we continue to put up with it then there will be more of the same. Why not choose what’s most loving and healthiest for us? That’s why I’ve adopted a zero-tolerance for drama policy because I want to maintain the boundaries that promote the healthiest, most loving, peaceful, and joyful life possible.

Michelle Miyagi
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