I’ve experienced some hard lessons lately. Within one month, I was swindled by a con man, hustled by a greedy real estate agent, lied to by people I care about, hurt by a friend, and cheated out of money owed me. And that’s just the half of it. The result of this has been a boatload of stress resulting in daily headaches, insomnia, depression and extreme fatigue. I finally had to stop and ask myself some questions: What’s inside of me that I allowed much of this to happen? What can I learn from it all?
Ah! Boundaries, she answered. You need to set some strong, healthy boundaries!
But, it’s not that easy to set boundaries when doing your best to help someone by listening to their woes, trusting that their intentions are noble. The problem, however, doesn’t lie with the cons, the cheats and the liars. The problem lies within me.
I have a compassionate, caring nature. But I was shut down in childhood by a shaming father, and I became a people-pleaser, hoping to gain my father’s approval. Unfortunately, that need for acceptance carried throughout childhood, into adulthood and now, into my senior years. I became aware of this recently when I found myself stressed out by people who lacked respect for me and manipulated me to get what they wanted. When I finally stood up for myself and put the brakes on manipulative behaviors that were upsetting to me, the people involved became abusive. I understand now that I was lacking in clear boundaries to protect my heart and my wallet.
It’s my responsibility to set healthy boundaries. It’s my responsibility to practice discretion and not believe everything I’m told. It’s my responsibility to protect myself and trust my gut. It’s my responsibility to take care of myself first, and not those who bully me and who opportunistically exploit my compassion and generosity.
What a lesson! I could say that it’s taken me too long to finally get this, but I won’t. That would undermine my own process and minimize what I’ve experienced in order to integrate these new insights.
I certainly did not set healthy boundaries with my son and daughter-in-law. During the torturous events leading to estrangement, I kow-towed and tried to please them. I didn’t realize at the time that I was being scapegoated, lied to, lied about, and treated like dirt on the bottom of their shoes. Where were my healthy boundaries then? Nonexistent, I’m sad to say. I had never developed a strong sense of self-protection, so I was fodder for their insanity and dysfunction.
Recently, I had a visit from my son. We spent a day together (the first in ten years). It started out well, but then he became rude and abusive. I told him it would be impossible to have a relationship with him if he continued to be so disrespectful. I stated that I was not willing to further engage with him because it was not, on any level, acceptable to me to take his abuse any longer. We ultimately came to an understanding – which I’m glad about – but I had to get tough before we reached it. I never could have done that in the past. And for me – a mother – to choose to abort any interaction going forward with my beloved child, well, it had to get pretty bad to arrive at such a turning point.
I finally understand how much I’ve allowed others to hurt me. I finally understand how I’ve hurt myself – out of ignorance, lack of inner awareness, lack of strength and the inability to say no. I finally understand the importance of honoring myself by setting boundaries to protect my heart and soul. And I finally understand that accepting reality, letting go, and walking away from disrespectful treatment, devastating as that may be, is the only way to find peace.