Looking Glass Boundaries
"Sometimes that may be staying in a situation, making a change, or moving forward in a completely new way."
When my daughter was four years old, her favorite word was “No.” She freely used the word whenever she didn't agree with what you were asking of her or if she didn't want you to approach her. I was on a business trip back to our hometown and decided to bring the children along so that they could spend time with family members after my meetings were done.
My daughter's bright smile, a head full of curls, and crystal blue eyes attracted a lot of attention whenever she walked into the room. It seemed that everyone around us wanted to spend time with her. I reminded her that I would be right beside her wherever she went as usual. She knew I would always be watching over her and at arm's length if she needed me.
For some reason, and one that I never questioned, she decided not to engage with her newfound relatives or friends who were delighted to meet her. Each time when someone new approached her, often times she stated in a firm and clear voice “No thank you." She did engage in conversation when she felt safe and comfortable to do so with particular people.
I had observed my children at this age, shy away from someone and rapidly walk over to hold my hand but this time was different. She, in contrast, stood her ground and confidently stated “No thank you.” This created a boundary that nobody tried to cross due to the way she looked them straight in the eye. It was completely up to her.
My daughter was Socially Distancing before we even knew what that was! This was almost twenty years ago. This what we now need to do everyday to ensure our health and safety.
My children receive the most hugs from their older relatives. They are doted on and often are the center of attention, without choosing to be so. Especially during family gatherings, respect for elders is highly valued and saying “No” to an elder could be viewed at times as a sign of disrespect.
I wasn't sure why she was like this, but I knew it was right for her so I allowed her to do so without commentary from me. A couple of relatives felt offended when they each approached her and said something. "Oooh, Not friendly", one said. Another one joined in saying, "Her middle name must be ‘No’ because she says it all the time." hoping to draw a laugh from those who were nearby. Being that she was my child, I did respond to each comment and after my two responses the comments ceased. To the first person, I said, "No, she's very friendly. She said no thank you." I made no apologies for what she said. I supported her decision to distance.
A key marker for Self-Respect starts with knowing your needs, wants, and goals. Sometimes this may be staying in a situation, making a change, or moving forward in a completely new way. This is completely up to you.
In order to create clear boundaries, we identify what will work for us in the long term. Ask yourself - does this (fill in the blank) bring me happiness, peace, and joy? Am I accepted for who I am or do i find myself changing aspects of myself?
It is essential to your overall wellbeing to practice daily positive affirmations such as "I am important. I value myself. I cherish my time, energy, effort." Those who feel the same about themselves will respond to you through showing mutual respect.
They will celebrate each step of the process with you. Affirm and reaffirm your boundaries. Honor yourself. Making mistakes along the way allows us to continually grow and become better. For ourselves, and for others.
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