I’ve tended to find that this is one of the areas that people write to me most about: ‘Someone is taking advantage of me by overstepping my boundaries, how do I make it stop?’
The first thing I ask is whether they’ve asked them to stop, or spoken with them about it? Their answer is generally no, with a list of reasons why they can’t.
If you consider the question properly, then realistically, there is only one answer, and that is to learn how to share the truth about how you feel, and teach others how to treat you differently.
If not, then what answer are you actually hoping for? The only other possibility is that others somehow magically change their behaviour without you having to mention anything. That would be lovely, but life rarely works out that way unfortunately. Here’s the catch; people who do this generally have no idea they are, until someone has the courage to tell them. Ultimately, no one can overstep your boundaries unless you give them permission. Until you tell them what your boundaries are, they will not know.
It is deeply empowering to understand this. Because once you do, you’ll realise that you really are in control of how you allow others to treat you, or of just how much negative treatment you allow yourself to accept from others.
So why do others overstep our boundaries? Well, there are a few reasons, but when people feel low, they often tend to take (become needy), without realising how their behaviour is affecting others. When people feel positive, they tend to want to give. It’s all perfectly normal and applies to each and every one of us. So these things are going to happen now and again, and it’s how we deal with it that counts.
Might it be possible to think about those who overstep your boundaries in a different way? They are your teachers. They are brought into your life to help you find your voice and speak your truth, because in all honesty, how could you learn this without them?
One of the biggest awakenings for me was in realising that saying no to others did not automatically mean I would face confrontation. Not at all. I actually found that people respected me more. You can always share your truth in a firm, but kind and loving way. You’d be surprised how positively others respond when you do. Just keep it factual, and don’t make it personal. So instead of saying ‘You make me feel…’, take responsibility for your own feelings and you could say something along the lines of ‘When you do…., then I feel….’. It’s still explaining how their behaviour affects you, but without the blame.
Now the clever little thing about boundaries is that others will continue to overstep yours until you learn to say no. All too often we don’t say no because we fear rejection, disapproval, being judged negatively, so learning how to become comfortable with this is one of our greatest lessons. It takes courage, but once you master it, it will stop (yes, it really will), because when it does arise you will deal with it so effectively and quickly that you’ll barely notice it. The reason we tend to notice it so much is because we allow our resentment to linger for such a long time before saying anything.
So until you do, you’re likely to remain frustrated at how others treat you.
Always remember, you’re teaching them…
And they are teaching you…
So while you sit in silent, or not so silent, resentment, just allow it to dawn on you that you really don’t need to feel this way.
Remember too, that stating boundaries, saying no, walking away, speaking your truth even if it hurts, is necessary to help others understand how they too create their own lives… that how others show up around them is a reflection of their behaviour. If you keep saying yes, then you deny them one of life’s most important lessons, whilst also denying your own opportunity to speak up.
Until you learn to do this, others are in effect creating your outcomes instead of you. And this is actually where the frustration lies… within yourself, at yourself…
Remember always that the energy in which you share your boundaries is a reflection of you, not the one trying to overstep them.
If their response is to use emotional blackmail against you, then hold the mirror up to them lovingly, letting them know that you won’t be blackmailed into anything. Most people who do this are blissfully unaware of their patterns, though their intention is to bring you into guilt so that you give in and agree to what they want.
So, learning to say no without feeling all the guilt is essential. It doesn’t serve you and is self-indulgent. Your soul knows this, it just forgets sometimes…
Remember too, that if they are offended because you’ve said no, then it’s only because you’ve brought their games out into the open and refused to allow them to take advantage. Unfortunately, this can sometimes cause them truthache. They will get over it with a little space and time. If they don’t, then are they really someone you choose to spend your time with? It’s also good to have a reality check by asking yourself why you’re so concerned about offending someone who seems quite happy to offend you…
This really does become so much easier as you practise it. When you have mastered the art of saying no in a positive way, you will feel a deeply fulfilled inner contentment. Until then, your teachers will keep appearing. If you think about this logically for a second, they have absolutely no choice but to continue showing up…