That is one of the main messages in the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it really hits home for me.
My whole life, I’ve had a problem with boundaries, or, actually, a lack of boundaries. In essence, I’ve allowed people to step all over me because I was obsessed with being a nice person. Even if someone was unspeakably rude to me, I was never rude back, and I certainly didn’t call them on their behavior. I’ve allowed myself to be ripped off, stepped on, and emotionally abused. As a child in school, when I was bullied or beaten up, I never fought back. I’ve always found it amazingly difficult to say, “No,” “Go away,” “Leave me alone,” or “F*** off.” In short, I’ve taken massive amounts of crap in my lifetime because if people see an opportunity to take advantage, they will do so, and I practically had “WELCOME” tattooed on my forehead.
This lack of boundaries goes hand in glove with accepting the love we think we deserve, because when your borders are kind of fuzzy, you begin to think you deserve the intrusions you suffer as a result.
Ah, but the universe is a wonderful teacher, is it not? It often seems as though the very type of person who needs to be put in your path so that you might learn and grow will be dropped there like an obstructive boulder, and you will be forced to go over, under, around or through that person to get to the other side.
I have to say that being in a relationship with someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be brutal and devastating, but it can also be an opportunity for growth like no other. When someone in your life knows how to push your buttons and doesn’t hesitate to do so, you learn exactly what your buttons are, and that gives you the opportunity to explore the reason behind those buttons. That can be quite useful.
When you are essentially living with a big old bully, you either learn to stick up for yourself or you cave in under the pressure. I decided to stick up for myself. And now, I must say, I don’t take crap from anyone. I am a woman of steel.
At first I was a little militant about it, a little rigid. I can see how it would have been easy to become a bully myself. But with time I learned to tone it down, and now I don’t push, but neither do I allow intrusions on my boundaries. I’m not afraid to establish my very reasonable rules, and if someone doesn’t like those rules, well, there are plenty of other people out there to play the game with.
The other day one of my coworkers said that she needed me to go through all our grocery bags that we use for trash bags and throw out the ones that had holes. Five years ago I might have done it. I’d have resented it, but I’d probably have done it. On this day, though, I just looked her square in the eye and said, “Uh…no. If you have a problem with bags with holes in them, simply throw them out when you come across one.” And that was that. It was a little thing, but for me it was a triumph, and a hard-won triumph at that.
But all this boundary drawing has had a delightful effect. Many of the people I love are actually behaving much more courteously, and it actually seems like it’s a relief not only to me, but to them as well. People actually like to know where the limits are. It makes it that much easier to travel through life without bumping into stuff. And having boundaries of your own teaches you to respect those of others as well.
So the trick is to determine the kind of love you want, and better yet, the love you don’t want, and then apply the restrictions accordingly, and you’ll be amazed how well your personal frontiers will be respected.
Peace in the kingdom. Maybe it’s not that hard after all.