We all have people in our lives that like to give us their opinion whether we ask for it or not. Sometimes we have the courage to say “thanks but no thanks.” Other times we grit our teeth and let them steamroll us with their tirade.
Whether these people are well-meaning or whether they are evil, sadistic, destructive, and hostile; you have the right to set a healthy boundary with them. There is no law (that I’m aware of at least) that says you must continue to get shit on over and over and never put an end to it. You may assume because they’re family or a life-long best friend you feel obligated to “take it,” but that thinking must be given careful reconsideration.
In The Art of Being, Erich Fromm says, “There is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them. (Bold added for effect) No meeting between two people, no conversation between them, except perhaps the most casual one, leaves either one of them unchanged–even though the change may be so minimal as to be unrecognizable except by its cumulative effect when such meetings are frequent.”
So I dare ask the question; have you ever gauged how healthy the interactions are that you have with people?
How many times have you been with a person and felt more alive, or in a better mood, or discovered new energy you didn’t realize you had? You could have the worst headache in the world or cramps from hell (this applies a little more to my female readers in case you’re confused guys) and then an exchange with another human you admire will lift the headache like the sun lifts the early morning fog. While talking to them you completely forget about your cramps and instantly life is good.
On the other hand, who hasn’t experienced the opposite effect? You look at your ringing phone and your stomach turns when you see who’s calling. Or that coworker who literally drains all your energy sits by you at lunch. An exchange with someone that depletes your energy, causes you being depressed, makes you feel hopeless, or is an emotional vampire–they suck the life right out of you–these are the people you must establish a healthy boundary for.
But if setting a safe distance or healthy boundary is not an option at the moment; Fromm gives some great advice: “Inasmuch as one cannot avoid bad company, one should not be deceived: One should see the insecurity behind the mask of friendliness, the destructiveness behind the mask of eternal complaints about unhappiness, the narcissism behind the charm. One should also not act as if he or she were taken in by the other’s deceptive appearance–in order to avoid being forced into a certain dishonesty oneself. One need not speak to them about what one sees, but one should not attempt to convince them that one is blind.” So basically, in a nutshell, Fromm is saying to pay attention! Don’t be sucked into their game and don’t fall for their fake niceness.
I can relate to being “forced into a certain dishonesty” like Fromm suggests. I have been with people who have taken me in with their deceptive niceness and/or appearance only to realize after the fact that I was sucked into dishonesty–at the very least dishonesty with myself.
If you don’t feel the freedom to be your true self with someone, set a boundary.
If they cross the line over and over with their unwanted opinion, set a boundary.
If someone is an emotional vampire and is sucking the life from you, set a boundary.
If in your interactions with someone you notice you always give and they always take, set a boundary.
If you find you don’t like yourself very much after spending time with a certain person, set a boundary.
If someone always guilts you into seeing them, set a boundary.
Fromm goes on to give you the permission you may need to help yourself create healthy boundaries. Remember, there is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them. With that thought in mind, he says; “If other people do not understand our behavior–so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being ‘asocial’ or ‘irrational’ in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e., approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself–to his reason and conscience–and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”
There’s a healthy process we all go through while growing from a little boy or little girl into a healthy adult. That process may be slowed–or halted altogether–if we lack the ability to set boundaries. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings–anyone who stakes a claim on your well-being–may be too attached to your life and your activities. There’s a fine line in families between love and support and then the opposite which is manipulation and control.
Assuming you’re an adult and can make your own choices, what is stopping you from setting healthy boundaries from the controlling, manipulating, or opinionated figure in your life? There’s a way you can tell who these people are without even being in their presence; you find yourself having conversations with them in your head when they aren’t even there. You may be trying to justify an action or explain yourself to them before they even ask you about it. That’s when you know you may have an issue.
Let’s be clear about something: A healthy boundary doesn’t mean you stop loving the person or you never talk to them again. You can still love someone even if from a safe distance. Like Fromm implied, Pay Attention! If you feel like you can’t be yourself with a certain person, set a boundary. It should go without saying, but the those that love you unconditionally will love you inside and out, top to bottom, whether they agree with everything about you or not.
The bottom line is this: Spend as much time as possible with the people that give you energy and life. Limit your time with people that suck the life out of you or try to manipulate and control you.
Toxic people suck! Avoid them at all cost!
I have more to say, but enough for now.
Peace my friends!