In my quest to master self-love and self-compassion, perhaps the most difficult task has been to change my relationship with others. That might explain why when I began this journey, I essentially became an emotional hermit, not necessarily because solitude is so cool and mysterious, but honestly because self-mastery is much easier when you don’t have to test it against interactions with other people.
What does your self-acceptance and compassion really look like, when you have a friend who is constantly trying to break you with negative comments. What does self-love look like in the face of rejection? What does self-care look like when you are a people-pleaser? These are questions I constantly have to ask myself, as I try to transform my relationships with others. So when I found this SuperSoul Sunday video, I was elated to learn in a few minutes, 3 relationship boundaries that even until 3 weeks ago, I had yet to set for myself and others in my life.
No is a complete sentence (Shonda Rhimes)
I once had an interaction with a guy who did not respect my physical boundaries at all. He was overtly inappropriate, and constantly felt entitled to my body despite my pleas for him to keep his hands to himself. At my request to respect my boundaries, he said to me “who wants a man who listens to what you say anyway, that’s boring”. His argument was that we’d been talking long enough that I should relax and expect this kind of thing. And I, though I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t comfortable, I kept asking myself whether I was being too much of a prude, too distant, too stuck up. So I’d plead my case with him, explain in details with supported arguments why I deserved a modicum of respect and patience. All the while, I’d also try to laugh off the discomfort even though everything in my body wanted to scream and run. Still I stayed, all because I doubted this gut feeling which said, “this is not right, walk away”. That’s the thing when you don’t have the best relationship with your body; you don’t trust it enough to know what’s good for you, and you’re afraid to say no because you don’t think you’ve earned it. But please for the love of you, saying no without explanation is enough. You’re enough. Say no. Say it often. Say it unapologetically.
Don’t let people who don’t matter too much, matter too much (Wes Moore)
Last year during my 31 days of self-compassion, I wrote about this bad habit I had of being a people-pleaser, forever chasing unanimous approval even from people who had little impact in my life. This endless quest for validation is a trap that is easy to fall into when you don’t like/know yourself enough to trust your instinct. So you look outward because you believe that everyone else knows much better than you do, about your own well-being. The thing is that you will always get different opinions on the same matter, and you will lose your mind trying to people everyone else, then realize that you’ve spent all this energy on external validation while the sense of emptiness within grows bigger. Letting go of other people’s opinions is scary. Because not only do you have to risk making some people upset, you no longer can avoid the difficult task of looking within. What do you really want, and are you willing to take responsibility for any decision you make?
Don’t make someone else’s issues about you (Iyanla Vazant)
More than three years ago, I sought out a therapist for the first time ever. And one of the exercises she asked me to do was to tell her about the people whom I believe had the most influence on my self-esteem. I immediately was turned off by this, because I didn’t want this to be some Freudian exercise in which we discover that everything is my mother’s fault or whatever. But she then explained to me that unearthing these deep seated wounds wasn’t about blaming anyone else, but to give me clarity. I needed to not only identify who did what, but also understand why they did what they did. What this exercise does is that it teaches you how to step outside of people’s stories. To recognize how often people’s struggles aren’t really about you, even when you’re on the receiving end of the neglect, or anger, or abuse. This isn’t to absolve anyone of anything they might have done to you, it is so you can free yourself of the idea that you are not good enough, because someone else treated you as though you don’t matter. Who are you, when you are not trapped in someone else’s idea of you?
In your quest for self-acceptance, it will be difficult to figure out how to set relationship boundaries. Because if you’ve spent so long knowing nothing more than self-loathing and self-doubt, it’s hard to trust yourself. But that’s precisely when this is so important. Because in order to set the tone on how you want to interact with others, you have to go even deeper within, and ask yourself with all the tenderness you can muster, WHAT DO I WANT?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.