Picture from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/en/users/muazzammzmy-3837079/
Here is what it is like to be stepped on.
Imagine this. You are a high school teacher. You are the “fun” teacher. You think that students love and respect you.
One day, towards the end of class, you hear this yelled at you: “But it’s not my mess!”
This is a persistent student’s response to your order to vacuum the room.
It isn’t a difficult task. It only takes five minutes. All the student has to do is vacuum up the food on the floor.
“It’s his mess!” cries the student.
The student then proceeds to point to his friend and classmate. This of course is not received well by the accused party, who instantly starts denying and accusing as well.
You want to say something, but are nervous that the students might think poorly of you.
The two go on arguing until finally the bell rings.They continue their argument all the way out the door.
The floor is still a mess.
You think, “This will teach them!”
So, you grab the vacuum and do their job out of spite.
Wow! You really showed them! (sarcasm implied)
Maybe you think the above scenario is far fetched.
“That would never happen to me or any other teacher for that matter! The students were totally controlling the situation.”
But that is exactly what happened to me a couple of years ago.
Following the above mentioned scene, one of my fellow teachers who saw me vacuuming simply said, “Paul, you can’t let them do that to you!”
I shrugged my shoulders, continued vacuuming, and continued feeling hopeless.
It has taken many instances like that to finally snap me out of it. I have had to learn the hard way through trial, error, training, research, counseling, professional development, falling on my face … and the list goes on.
The good news is that I’m doing better…not perfect…but better.
And if you identify with being stepped on, you can do better too.
The one thing you are missing
Maybe you feel like your situation is not getting better. Maybe you feel controlled, manipulated, and abused. The fact of the matter is that the your problem is precisely that: YOUR problem.
Maybe if someone else changed his or her behavior, life would be easier for you, but you can’t count on that. You can’t change other people. You can only change your own attitudes and actions. In the end, the most powerful life changes will come from the changes you make to yourself, not the changes others make to ensure a more comfortable life for you.
Your changed attitudes and actions in response to others behaviors can be summed up in one word: Boundaries.
But before you charge out into the world and start pushing people around, there are some paradigm shifts that you need to make.
Boundaries are not selfish.
The first thing that you need to realize (and I have to remind myself daily) is that boundaries are not selfish.
For some reason, even after hearing lots of different teachings on boundaries, something inside of me still squeaks, “Yeah, but aren’t boundaries selfish?Aren’t I just excusing selfish behavior? Aren’t I supposed to die to myself and consider others over myself?”
You are not doing anyone any favors by not setting boundaries. If anything, you are lying to them. And worse, you are probably holding on to bitterness and resentment.
Boundaries allow you to truly be yourself. That means that when you say “no” you really mean it and that makes your “yes” sincere and powerful.
Boundaries make you more responsible, and that feels amazing!
As an adult (or even young adult), you are responsible for yourself. No one else is responsible for you. You are the one who is responsible for your health, your finances, your time, your emotions, your needs, and your wants.
You cannot neglect this responsibility.
If you do other people will be picking up your slack. If others pick up your slack, they will over time become bitter and controlling. By setting boundaries on what others control, you are saying that you will take care of it.
This in essence is a double boundary. You are telling others that you can handle your self, and you are telling the lazy irresponsible part of you that you will not tolerate irresponsible behavior.
When you take care of yourself, you become healthy enough to look out for others and help carry loads that are too much for them to carry on their own. This time you help not out of obligation, but out of desire.
Starting with boundaries is not complicated.
Alright, let’s get going! Starting with boundaries is as easy as 1–2–3.
In reality that 1–2–3 is for me because I have trouble remembering lists any longer than that.
Here is a 3 step process to setting boundaries that you can do today.
#1 — Recognize your feelings, wants, and needs.
When you feel crappy, you feel that way for a reason. When you feel sad, you feel that way for a reason. When you feel angry, you feel that way for a reason. When you feel happy, you feel that way for a reason.
Don’t let anyone tell you, “You shouldn’t feel that way!”
Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are.
They are meant to move you to action.
You need to notice your feelings. Write them down if you have to. Then ask yourself VERY SPECIFICALLY what you want or need in the situation that is causing your feelings. It’s not selfish. It’s responsible.
#2 — Do something differently and set a boundary!
Something is causing you to feel angry, or frustrated, or sad. After you have clarified your need, decide how you are going to act or react differently the next time the situation comes up. Let the involved parties know (even if it is just yourself) that in the future things will be different because you are going to do something different the next time the situation arises.
Nothing has to stay the same. You can change your actions which in turn influence the outcome.
#3 — Enforce the boundary
This is where it becomes exciting.
When the situation comes up again, don’t get discouraged. You are going to feel nervous. That’s ok.
Maybe the said parties will feel offended. Not your problem.
Set the boundary. Follow through with your word and observe the new outcome. Did you notice a difference? Did things change the way that you wanted them too? Maybe you need to adjust your boundary. No worries. Adjust and try again.
Back to vacuuming.
The scenario mentioned above may seem small and insignificant, but to me it was huge. How could I let my classroom get so far out of control that even my small needs and wants were being overlooked?
And what was worse is that it wasn’t just in the classroom. It was in every aspect of my life.
It took (and is still taking) small steps to get to where I want to go. I had to practice saying no to small things. I even would say no to things that didn’t bother me just to practice setting the boundary.
But now after much trial and error, I walk a little taller, feel a littler calmer, and feel happier with myself and with others. There is hope. You don’t have to feel stepped on.
Join the conversation.
The article today was taken from reading and research that I do on a regular basis. This specific topic was largely taken from the book “Boundaries Participant’s Guide — -Revised: When To Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
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-Paul (aka Profe Pablo)Other Resources