I’ve always considered myself to be a strong woman, so it came as a bit of a shock to me to realize that I failed to set boundaries in my relationships and was putting up with a lot of BS because of it. Once I learned to set some clear expectations and stuck to them, everything changed for the better.
I realized my needs are just as important as everyone else’s. I really had to step back and accept the fact that I was constantly putting everyone else’s wants and needs before my own. I always considered this trait to be a positive one, but it was breaking me down inside and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t change overnight and I definitely still struggle with it because I don’t want to come off as uncaring. However, I’ve come to accept that if I’m not happy and fulfilled in myself, there’s no way I can be a good partner/friend/family member.
By gaining self-respect, I became someone other people respected. It took a lot of soul-searching to really regain my sense of self. I didn’t believe in myself or feel that I was worthy of being listened to. Once I gained some confidence and began to respect myself, however, I noticed it was returned to me. The way I presented myself to others actually did affect how I was seen and treated.
I became confident saying no. It’s funny to remember how much I struggled using this word with people I cared about. I was so worried about upsetting people that I’d say yes out loud when internally I was pretty much screaming the opposite. The first time I actually said no was terrifying. Still, it was actually received pretty well and that made me feel more empowered to say it in future. Now, I’m always upfront and honest if I don’t like or want to do something and it feels great.
In turn, it totally upped my communications skills. Saying no was just the first step. That made my confidence skyrocket and I was able to be a lot more open with my thoughts and feelings in general, especially in romantic relationships. I always thought I was a good communicator, but mostly I would just do my best to make peace and not start a fight. There’s a right way to go about being vocal about my difference of opinion—I just had to be confident in my speech.
I was a lot better at giving and taking constructive criticism. While I’ve always expected people to be straightforward and honest with me, I wasn’t always the best at handling criticism even if it was constructive. I’d put on a brave face but secretly pout about it for entirely too long. I also didn’t want to criticize anyone else if I knew it would hurt their feelings, no matter how needed it was. However, I made a promise to stay true to myself and accept that most people do have my best interest at heart when giving me harsher feedback.
I learned how essential prioritizing is. Balance doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ll take on a lot of responsibility and then procrastinate until the last possible second if I can. I still wanted to take on some responsibilities, but by setting boundaries, I was forced to take a harder look at exactly what was important. I realized I can’t do everything—I had to make sure I was taking care of myself as well as the people I care about and make peace with the fact that sometimes I was going to fall short. Doing so has really lowered my stress levels.
In removing the boundaries that kept me from facing my fears, I became braver. Sometimes the fear of doing something scary sent me into a serious depression. I hated being paralyzed by the prospect of doing things just because they were frightening so I decided to grow a pair and it changed my life for the better. Just like using the word no, taking on difficult situations became something I’d wished I’d tried before.
If a relationship did end, it wasn’t coated in drama. Some relationships just run their course and there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to save them. Still, with boundaries and confidence in place now, I don’t lose it when this happens. I’m able to handle the situation as a rational adult and it makes the healing process so much easier. I don’t know why I didn’t try this sooner.
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