“I spend way too much time worrying about whether I’m okay enough for people.” – An anonymous friend
Right now I’m feeling angry. I’m angry that it can be so easy to feel the way my friend feels right now. I’m angry because I’ve felt that way before. I’m angry because now I understand how many people encouraged me to feel that way.
Jim Hines published a brilliant blog post yesterday about boundaries. Please please please, if you have ever liked anything I’ve written on this blog, go read what he has to say. Go right now. I’m serious. Go even if that means you won’t finish reading this.
I grew up being taught, both implicitly and explicitly, that it wasn’t okay for me to say no. I drew a few lines in the sand, but now it pains me to think of how few, and how much inner turmoil I suffered to stand up for them.
A bit more than a year and a half ago, a person I was close to finally pushed me too far. And I started saying no, the way I wish I had done many years before.
This person tried to punish me for saying no. He didn’t want there to be a problem, so he simply ignored it. He pressured me to pretend everything was fine, to be okay with what had happened, to once more make a huge sacrifice for his own convenience. He sent me manipulative emails and the most passive aggressive birthday card imaginable. He took something he knew I cared about and tried to use it to force me to see him against my will.
I only talked about this as it was happening to a few people. Because I believed that not only did this person think it was not okay for me to say no, but that everyone else–society as a whole–would agree with him. I still think that’s true to a certain extent. Many people are not okay with the idea of boundaries, that we have the right to decide what we will and will not do in relation to other people. I’m sure many people would tell me to suck it up, to be the nice girl, the good girl, and preach the power of forgiveness. Even though they aren’t even involved in any way, they would tell me to go back to being a doormat. (Why? Why does me having power have to threaten the entire world order? I have no idea.)
As an old friend of mine used to say, that’s bullshit. I no longer want anybody in my life who is not okay with me saying no. Full stop. I have drawn my line in the sand and this time it runs all the way down to the earth’s core.
It is okay to say no. Even when people react with anger, hurt, and pique, it is okay to say no. Even if it means people will no longer like you, it’s okay to say no. (These are not the people who will love and cherish you and have your back and support you through good times and bad in any case.) It is okay to take care of yourself, and you deserve to be surrounded by people who will support you in doing that.
Never let anyone tell you differently.