When I was young I used to be afraid to speak up when I didn’t like someone’s behavior. My mind would create a story about the future and punishment that was due to me if I spoke my mind. The stories were a lie, of course, created from the place of fear, but I didn’t know it back then. Fear moves our attention into the future, but the future does not yet exist, so in reality it’s only an illusion of the future, isn’t it? It may become a reality if we believe that’s what will happen though – we will make it happen!
Going back to the young version of me, I’ll give you an example: a friend would cancel on me last minute, and even though I was disappointed or even angry (I did spend last 2 hours getting ready after all … ) I’d just ‘let it go’. Letting go was ‘noble’ – my parents always said ‘be the smarter one and step back’. That was what I was telling myself I was doing. But I have to admit – in reality, I simply didn’t want to lose a friend, and in my mind that was the outcome of me expressing my discontent.
So after few days/weeks my friend would cancel on me again. And again I’d swallow my anger. So the situation would repeat over and over and over. I would get more and more frustrated. There were 2 ways our relationship would go:
1. I would continue to keep quiet and develop feelings of being victimized, resulting most likely in some form of sadness (from crying my eyes out to deep depression) and feeling unimportant – I must be, since my friend keeps blowing me off … Taking pity on myself I would move away from all my friends (not just the one cancelling) and that’s the end of the relationship (s!). I’d die alone.
2. I would finally work up the courage to say something about her cancelling habit and in response I’d hear: ‘You’ve changed, you never minded before’ (yeah, I did mind, I just never said anything … ). So she’d stop being my friend on the account of me being different than I led her believe. In turn I would become more cautious when befriending others in the future, probably to a point that I wouldn’t let anyone too close to me, afraid they would not accept me the way I was. I’d die alone.
In any case scenario, I’d get the exact thing I was afraid would happen – losing a friend. And dying alone … Only that it didn’t happen because I spoke my mind, but because I didn’t!
Looking at my behavior from few years perspective, it was me who was at fault. People treat us in a way we let them. Every relationship has some unspoken rules and boundaries, developed through our responses to situations we encounter. We show others what we are willing to accept and what is out of line in our dictionaries. So I taught my friend that I had no boundaries in relation to last minute cancellations and she thought she wasn’t doing anything wrong. If I only spoken up the first time it happened, we would still be friends, aware of each other’s boundaries. Or we would not become close at all, if the boundaries didn’t suit us. But we would save ourselves a lot of heartache and suffering, that breaking a relationship causes (not only a romantic one – we love friends just as deeply as our family or significant others).
I realized all that a while ago, after all I have been on soul-searching journey for about 15 years now, but it wasn’t until I started loving and respecting myself truly and deeply, that I was able to put it to practice.
If you don’t respect yourself, you don’t think you’re important enough to even have boundaries. You don’t pick things/people in life that are beneficial to you, but just deal with whatever comes. After all – who do you think you are to tell others they can’t do something??? Sure, everyone can act however they like, you’re not anybody’s boss. But you don’t have to allow people who’s behavior hurts you or bothers you to have place in your life.
Such attitude meets with a lot of criticism – I’ve experienced it myself. I have been called picky and snobby when I said I choose people I allow into my personal space. I used to mind, now I don’t. I understand that people who feel hurt by the way I live my life, are probably not brave enough to do the same, although they secretly would want to. Yes, I’m sure everyone wants to speak their mind freely, that’s our basic need and our birthright. We are supposed to be true to ourselves, not pretend we like everything and everyone. We should respect every person’s right to have their opinion and their way of life but we don’t have to cross paths with those we’re not compatible with. Life is so short, it’s a waste to spend it with anyone but the people we feel good with.
I have to say I’m proud of myself. It wasn’t easy but step by step I was able to claim my right to be myself and speak my mind. I let go of a friend, who was constantly late (I felt cramps in my stomach when I told her, but I did it anyways). I refused to keep helping another friend, who spoke for hours about her problems, never listening to mine (that was hard too). And I showed an unreliable handyman to the gate, expressing my dissatisfaction of his services to my landlord, who hired him (that actually felt good!).
It gets easier the more you do it – practice makes perfect after all. You’ll need to take some time to figure out what your boundaries are and slowly start showing them to people in your life. It’s best if you do it at the beginning of the relationship, but better late than never, as long as you explain to the other party that you’ve always felt like that but did not speak up, afraid to lose them. Let the words come from your heart, not from your mind, that way, there will be no hurt feelings. There is a thin line between speaking your truth and speaking your Ego’s illusion, but I’ll leave that for another time…