Thursday, January 26, 2012

Line? What line?

I was talking to a friend today about an experience she had which was a little unnerving...  I won't go into details but it involved something of an interpersonal nature.

I ended up sharing some things that have happened to me recently, and comparing them to what would have happened in the past.  The differences were like night and day; as I described the changes to her, I even surprised myself.  

Perhaps one of the biggest changes I've seen in myself in the last 3 years has been The Line.  

You may know The Line about which I speak.  It's that boundary line that exists between people, the one that separates who I am from who you are, that separates my business from your business.  

Up until 3 years ago, I didn't have one.  And I didn't think anyone else had one either.  It made for some very uncomfortable situations for others - and for me - and it ended friendships because I either clung too much and let people walk all over me, or I pushed into other people's business and tried to control their lives. (Oh, but I didn't call it controlling. I called it "helping.")  

So when I first discovered that other people had this "line" - and that I'd been stomping all over it and/or pushing past it into other people's "stuff" for decades (and this was why they figuratively ran screaming in the opposite direction) - that was the first thing that had to change.  

It took months of practice to let go and allow people to be who they were, to let them have their own opinions and beliefs because they had a right to do that.  Even if I felt they were wrong.  Even if I wanted to help them, SO much.  I learned - slowly - to let go of my need to be right, my need to be the rescuer, my need to have the last word, my need to be needed.  Sometimes I still need to relearn some of those things, but they don't take as long now as they did then.  As I let go, a good many of those relationships started to change - for the better.  People felt safer around me.  And I didn't feel like I had to hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders.  That was so liberating for me.

As I learned that others had boundaries that needed to be respected, I also discovered that I had my own "line" - which I had never seen or been aware of before.  Once I realized that I had this line - and that it wasn't okay for people to cross it - I began to test it.  My first foray into standing up for myself happened at work, over a recurring issue which I'd been putting up with, a situation where I previously would never have dreamed of standing up for myself.  And one day - spurred on by another occurrence of it - I just did.  In fear and trembling, I described the problem to my supervisor and said what I needed.  And he was like, "Oh.  Okay."  Just like that.  

I made a lot of mistakes along the way.  But I found that most people were willing to overlook those - and when they weren't (confrontation, another big bugaboo of mine), a simple open conversation worked miracles.  And nobody got angry.  Nobody attacked me for having an opinion or for looking after myself.  

And I found that as I gave people their space and expected my own, I started to like the new me that I was becoming: a more confident, relaxed person with something to contribute when asked.  

This was the most amazing part of it... liking myself.

Who knew?

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