Setting boundaries was one of my main challenges in my life. As a child, I used to experience abuse constantly and was a victim of bullying. As a grown up, I would feel like I need validation from everyone constantly. I had this belief that who I am is shaped by the perception of others. This resulted in a feeling of never being good enough, working a lot to get approval from others – which would never be enough.
I was bullied for being a bit overweight.
I was bullied for wearing braces.
I was bullied for being a good student – and having a natural love for learning.
I was bullied that one of my parents is a teacher.
When I walked in a room, I expected someone to tell me what was wrong with me.
I had this constant feeling that everyone else is better than me.
Looking back now, I feel compassion for every one who put me in that situation. I learned that every situation shapes you and teaches you something. Every abuser is actually a teacher – they teach us to develop stronger boundaries for ourselves and stay within our personal power. To raise our self-esteem.
Once we learn that lesson, we no longer attract people who will go over our limits.
How can we learn once and for all and fully step into our personal power?
1. Identify abuse
First of all, we need to be able to identify what abuse is. Learn to know what abuse is and how abuse feels like. Once you learn this, you will be protected from gaslighting.
In short, gaslighting is when your emotions and thoughts are ridiculed by the abuser. When you are made to feel like you’re exaggerating.
Let’s take a real life example: a girl whose boyfriend is constantly yelling at her. After telling time and time again that yelling is a no, he keeps doing it. After a while, of course, she starts to reinforce her boundary in a more aggressive manner. Now, he is making her feel feel like she is the crazy one. She is now questioning her own judgement.
This article in Psychology Today is sharing 11 signs of gaslighting that you should be aware of.
Abuse can feel very subtle. So how do you identify it?
- It feels weird in your stomach
- It feels unfair
- You feel like you can no longer count on your own judgement
- You are constantly doubting your own sanity
- Your self-esteem is suffering
- You feel like walking on eggshells around a person
Abuse can be verbal, emotional or physical. Many times, you might not have the resources to identify what you feel and say what’s wrong.
Healthline is making a comprehensive list of How to Recognize the Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse. Identifying these behaviors will help you know what you set a limit for.
Note that physical abuse had no justification. If you find yourself in that situation leave as soon as possible.
2. Start to say NO
Once you identify the abuse, begin to set limits. The abuser will only go as far as you allow. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. In the beginning, you can start in a more empathetic way, such as: “When you say insulting things like that, it makes me feel very bad. I would really appreciate if you stopped doing that.”
If you get a response like “you’re exaggerating”, make sure to stand your own ground. If you are made to feel like you’re exaggerating, whatever you set the boundary for will happen again, for sure. In that moment you need to be prepared with a consequence and reinforce the boundary.
“If that happens again, then…”.
Say very specific things like “I will not be spoken to like that. If you yell at me during our phone call I will have to hang up on you”.
Once you set your standard, you have to be brave enough to enforce that. The moment you are setting a standard, the other side will most likely try to break it. That is the moment when you need to stand your ground.
Exit the victim mentality and take responsibility for your own state. A mindset of power is something that will enable you to take action and responsibility for your actions.
3. Have compassion, but realise it’s not your job to fix anyone
A constant taker will meet a constant giver – it’s how the Universe works. You may feel inclined to give, even when you are the one experiencing abuse. You may feel inclined to initiate the other person’s healing process. Your only job right now is to protect yourself. You are not there to mother your mom, dad, boyfriend or girlfriend.
One of the main things when dealing with emotional abuse is that, as an empath, you might try and change the abuser, empathise, see the wound behind it and, at some level, want to change it. It’s not your job to parent anyone.
Learn how to create a bubble of safety around you and protect yourself.
4. Don’t be afraid to lose the relationship
If you try to make amends and things are not improving in any way, you might be called to disengage in a physical way. That means leaving the space you share with the abusive parent or spouse, or asking them to leave. Many people think that by setting a boundary they will lose the respect of the other side. In truth, respect will be gained once you express how you want (or don’t want) to be treated. Though hurtful in the moment, you will gain a lot more in the long run.
Whatever is the situation you are experiencing, just know that you deserve to be loved and cherished. You deserve to be treated like a human being, with dignity. Ask for support and confirmation from your loved ones.