As a woman, at one time or another you’ve probably struggled with standing up for yourself. Most likely someone – your boss, your spouse or love interest, a friend, a family member, a colleague, the list goes on – did or said something that crossed a line for you.
And most likely, it was the invisible line – you know, the boundary you wished was in place and respected or the one you set but never enforced. The invisible line may be the result of any number of things but is a sure sign you don’t know how to stand up for yourself.
And you’re not alone.
Saying no is not easy. Being a doormat is losing your power. Feeling like a people pleaser is going to affect your self-respect.
As women, we have such a difficult time with standing up for ourselves. Were we taught to do this when we were growing up?
When I was in the sixth grade as recess break was ending, the teacher had us form a line to walk back into our classroom. For absolutely no reason, the boy in front of me (who was known to be a “troublemaker”) turned around and punched me hard in the stomach.
For absolutely no reason. No reason.
I doubled over in pain and looked for the teacher. I was in fear of telling her because I knew this boy would think I was a tattletale. And I wondered and was scared about what he’d do next.
A friend of mine approached me and begged me not to report what he’d done because another friend of hers liked him and didn’t want to see him get in trouble. I was shocked that she had seen what he’d done and yet, she was attempting to help her other friend and not me – the innocent victim. I considered what to do.
And I’m loathe to report that I didn’t do anything. Ugh.
I’ve thought about this many times over the years. Why did I allow someone to abuse my personal boundaries?
The problem at the time was that I had no clue what personal boundaries meant. I was afraid to stand up for myself. I was afraid of the consequences. I put my friendship first and not myself.
So what were the consequences?
Well, I went through an entire school system with him – right through to high school graduation. I did my best to avoid any contact with him whatsoever. I became a shadow person when this boy was around fearing to call attention to myself.
My parents never knew what happened because I feared they would blame me, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.
The truth is I didn’t know how to protect myself against a physical bully; it was something I was never taught.
Maybe things have changed and girls in school are taught about putting themselves first. But I don’t see a lot happening.
We women like to think of ourselves as strong, fierce and independent. But the invisible line rears its head in daily life in our work, social life and even with loved ones.
Gender expectations are partly the cause because women are “supposed” to place their needs, desires and wants after those of others. Women are “supposed” to be available, as needed. Women are the primary caretakers in the world.
And I know from personal experience how hard it is to say “no.” And saying no is not enough, because we have to believe it when we say it. We can’t be wishy-washy. We can’t mean half no and half yes.
We have to be unapologetic. We have to state clearly, without excuses, what we mean and we must have a clear understanding of our self-worth.
Because without that knowledge, we’re likely to value the desires, plans, work, or intentions of others over our own. Put yourself first.
Question whether you yourself cross over someone’s invisible line. This is something we all need to develop an awareness around. Ask yourself if you’re being pushy, taking advantage of another person’s time or pressuring someone to do something.
Develop the intention of truly helping other women.
Also, consider that setting boundaries is a practice. Don’t feel defeated if your first attempt doesn’t work. It may take time to find the right words and the strength to back them up.
Boundaries aren’t necessarily there to keep people out; they’re there to protect your well-being.
Have you set boundaries in your life? Or is there an invisible line that others feel they can cross? What’s been your experience with boundaries? Do you feel respected for the boundaries you’ve set? Please comment below. As always, we’d love to hear from you.