This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.
My therapist gave me “homework” every week. That homework was to practice setting boundaries. He told me that setting boundaries was the key to feeling safe, and he was right. Until I learned how to set boundaries, I could not feel safe. I was always at the mercy of whomever I was interacting with.
Setting boundaries was extremely hard for me to do. I learned at a very young age that I had no boundaries. Anyone in my life could take anything he or she wanted from me, and I was powerless to do anything about it. The people around me would lead me around like a puppet. I was so easy to control; it was pathetic.
There were two exceptions to this: (1) I refused to have sexual intercourse before getting married; and (2) I could stand up to keep my child safe. I did allow boys to pressure me into doing more than I wanted to do, but I was resolute in not having intercourse with them. I am not sure where my strength came from, but it was there.
As for my child – I shocked hub and his parents by being able to turn into a complete b@#$% on behalf of my child. For example, they could not figure out how to work the car seat correctly one time and drove my baby home with the car seat not completely fastened. This passive little wife/daughter-in-law went off on them, telling them that they would not be allowed to transport their own son/grandson EVER if they could not be responsible enough to buckle him into the car correctly. (They never made this mistake again. LOL)
It took me a long time to learn how to set boundaries. I thought setting boundaries meant being a b@#$%, and I though that “being a b@#$%” was the worst thing in the world. My therapist assured me that I needed to “act like a b@#$%” in my own head to come even close to being “normal” in setting boundaries.
I finally learned how to do it by recognizing that each time I let another person walk all over me, I was choosing to harm myself rather than say no to an inconsiderate person. As I got better at setting boundaries, I noticed that it was only the people who were used to treating my badly who had a problem with it. Those who had no desire to “use” me thought it was great.
I have gotten much better about setting boundaries, but I still flounder from time to time, especially in times in which I am feeling vulnerable. Also, it is much harder for me to set boundaries with family members, and that is where I need the boundaries the most.
Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney