Whether you’re dating, in a relationship or just going through a difficult life experience, a feeling of confusion and uncertainty often takes over. During my 20s i was really clueless about a lot of things like the concept of personal boundaries and what sort of behavior is acceptable or not.. and so on. Looking back, i feel like i did not even understand my own needs. Not everyone is lucky to have had a stable life. Some people might have had a tough childhood or adolescence, others maybe had a good upbringing but difficult life experiences. A well developed sense of self gives you clarity about the important things in life. It helps in decision making and standing up for yourself. Otherwise we will not know what we will or won’t put up with.
While having personal boundaries may feel odd at first, it’s important that that we do have them. If some people seem ‘sorted’ it’s not because they’ve figured life out while you’re lagging behind. Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves and feel like we’re lacking or somehow jinxed in love and life. Negative thinking then turns into self narrative which clouds your judgement. So the best way forward is to be clear about a few things to start with. Just so that you’re not grappling with problems as you go ahead. Having said that, they’re not meant to be followed blindly, it’s important to also understand why we believe in these principles. These things are good to know and follow for everyone. And there aren’t many things which are universally applicable to everyone! I’ve found that these basic principles have helped me time and again in various situations.
1. I act in my self interest. I put up this point first because this is the one most people struggle with. We somehow seem to think that by acting in our self interest, we are being selfish. That kind of thinking never really allows us to focus on what we really need. We often feel guilty to act upon our interest because we are worried how it will impact others especially those closest to us. If this is how you feel, you need to understand that if you take a decision which you know is not right for you, then you’re not going to be happy and if you’re not happy, those close to you will not be happy either. Understand the difference between being selfish and doing what’s right for you. Your actions can be considered selfish if you are consciously doing something for your own advantage that will hurt someone – whether it’s mental, physical or emotional. They don’t include doing those things which have to do with your life only, these include actions and decisions related to marriage, career, education etc.
One way to figure out the difference between being selfish and acting in your self interest is to ask yourself, who will have to bear the consequence of taking (or not taking) that decision or action the most. Acting in our self interest is taking responsibility for ourselves.
If it’s your well being it will impact the most, then feel free to do right by you. That’s right, even if you feel guilty. I’m not asking you to invalidate your feelings. Any decision taken because of guilt is not the right one. Instead try to figure out why you’re feeling guilty in the first place. Sometimes, we even use guilt to avoid making any decision or changes. You think so long as you’re thinking about others ( when it’s not required), you don’t have to focus on yourself. If you’re the kind who gets uncomfortable when the spotlight is on you and you have to make decisions for yourself, then you will need to think about the reason first. If you don’t get your back, no one will. And they can’t be expected to either. Whatever you do, just remember that you alone are responsible for your life.
2. I stick to my values no matter what. Never do anything which makes you feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if everyone else is doing it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most attractive option out there. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’ll miss the bus so to speak, by saying no. People get calculative and think about what they gain by doing this or that. It’s not about that. You must do that which comes naturally to you. Trying to act over smart, albeit sub consciously, only prompts us to make dumb choices. Don’t get carried away by a temporary state of mind. Our choices in life must absolutely align with our values. If they don’t, then you’ll feel bad about them and yourself sooner or later. Therefore, if you haven’t already, you should figure what your values are. How do you do that? Keep a journal and notice the topics you write about more. Do self reflection. There are also a lot of online resources, tests etc that help with this. If you don’t get ready answers, it’s ok. Just be patient and it will reveal itself in time.
3. I don’t tolerate abuse, disrespect and indecency. Anytime someone disrespects you, you have to immediately distance yourself from that person. Violence, physical or verbal, is totally unacceptable. You should also not be ok with being shouted at or put down. You should not give them even one more chance. One lapse and they’re out. Because you can be sure they will not change just because they said so. Mostly we are clear about what constitutes abuse, but we often don’t take signs of disrespect seriously. Like someone being rude or inconsiderate of your feelings, taking your time for granted, saying one thing and doing another.. because we think these are low level transgressions we often just ignore them. Usually these things say a lot about someone and if you overlook these types of behavior, then they are sure to create problems later.
4. I don’t wait around for anyone. Keep it simple. If they don’t have time for you, it means they’re not interested. Why would you waste time on someone like that? I know it’s really tempting to play the guessing game and wait and wait and wait. But at some point, you have to realize this. The only thing that is sure right now is that they don’t have time for you. Period. The more you wait for someone, the lesser your self esteem gets. It’s really demeaning to yourself and plays havoc with your mind. You start to question yourself whether you are right in waiting, maybe they really are busy and so on. And really all it does is create a sense of confusion and self doubt. No one is worth that. If someone is interested to talk to you, meet you, spend quality time together and yes, even spend their life with you, then they’re not going to keep you guessing. i’ve seen people waiting for a phone call for days without any communication in the meantime from the other person and i’m like.. wake up and smell the coffee! Get on with your life and if someone is meant to be in it, they’ll make time for you.
5. If someone rejects me once, the relationship is over. If they’ve made the decision that for some reason, they don’t find you interesting enough or worthy enough to accept you the way you are, then you will not pursue a relationship with that person. By the way, if you try to convince them otherwise and keep pursuing them for a relationship, you will lose your self respect. Don’t expect them to verbalize it either. Just know that if the signs are there, it’s good enough. Stop overthinking it. Just move on. Even if they change their mind later, it’s not good enough. A lot of people think maybe it’s worth it to give it a try one more time. But really how can you be sure you’re not a last resort option for them? Or that they really do want to have a relationship with you? That’s why you need to be clear in your mind. One shot is what everyone gets.
6. I will not compare. Whether it’s the circumstances that you find yourself in or your choices both past and present, take a vow that you will never compare them with others. Your life is your journey and you can’t get ahead if you focus on others. Essentially that’s what it is, because by looking at how others are living, you can avoid taking the necessary steps to improve your life and design it the way you want. If looking inward makes you uncomfortable, you need to pause and reflect as to why that is. By the way, you cannot completely know what someone’s life is about. Yes you can go by what they tell you (which will most likely be filtered) or even social media where most folks are busy crafting a perfect image of themselves, but you will still not get the true picture in it’s entirety. So, forget about others and just live your life.
7. I will not second guess myself. So many people wallow in self doubt and misery. They want someone to magically appear and say they’re doing fine, they’ve made the right decision, they’re worth it.. etc. I mean, come on! You’re the only one responsible for your decisions and what you think of your ability to handle things. So why do you want to give that power away? Debating with yourself means you can’t go forward full steam, and that’s the real setback. Self validation is an important tool to live our life in line with our values. It’s up to us to use it.
8. I don’t feel the need to impress anyone to be in a relationship with them. It’s important that you don’t care about not coming across as a ‘good girl’. A real relationship is based on honesty and trust. Both people must trust each other to show themselves exactly as they are. You cannot keep acting forever anyway and after a while, you’ll start to resent it. Even if you manage to impress them, how will you feel knowing they’ve fallen for a fake version of you? Just be true to yourself and let the chips fall where they may. This goes even for relationships we have with family members and friends. Don’t feel the pressure to maintain closeness or play a pre assigned role you have in your head. Do what comes naturally to you. The right people will find a way to be in your life.
9. I don’t justify or explain myself to anyone. Don’t apologize for the way you are. Never try to explain yourself because the people who understand you don’t need it, and those who don’t, do not matter. It’s their problem, not yours. I generally find that people whose values sync with yours, automatically tend to ‘get’ you. I’m not saying it’s ok to be rude or flippant, of course not. But when you’re just living your life or doing things (which affect you primarily) a certain way, and someone has a problem with it, you can be sure that it’s something to do with them. Also, you don’t need to justify your decision or life choices to anyone, so long as you’re convinced. Depending on your closeness with that person, you may need to communicate it and sometimes in a delicate way, but that’s about it. Beyond that, you’re not answerable to anyone but yourself.
10. I don’t believe in using anyone as an emotional crutch. Be responsible for yourself. Expect others (adults) to be responsible for themselves. Don’t let yourself be pitied ever and never pity anyone. Stay away from people who try to emotionally manipulate you. Sometimes, it’s done so subtly that you won’t even realize it’s happening. Don’t play the role of a shrink or rescuer to anyone. Don’t assume people can’t look after themselves. Sometimes they themselves may not realize it and if they don’t.. then run! You will feel spent if you try to right the wrongs of the past of someone, in order to make them feel better. Poor relationships are often characterized by an unhealthy dependence on the other to fulfill the emotional needs. I must point out here that this is different from being there for someone generally, like when someone is going through a bad time or a difficult experience. We all go through periods in life where we need support, emotionally or otherwise. This is different from someone with ongoing psychological issues that have nothing to do with their current circumstance.
It’s unwise to be in a relationship with a person who has unresolved past baggage which interferes with their present. To be in a healthy relationship, both people need to emotionally mature and understand that they alone are ultimately responsible for they carry themselves and go forward in life. Similarly, if you have any issues which make you seek out people who can fulfill a certain role for you, so that you can avoid taking charge of your life, then resolve that first. Take time out for yourself, travel solo, seek counseling, basically do whatever it takes to be ok being alone first. We must be strong and be fully there for ourselves if we stand any chance to be in a healthy emotionally fulfilling relationship.
These principles will help you negotiate difficult situations better and back yourself in weak moments. It’s not about a bunch of rules, rather it’s about what makes our life easier. It helps to have boundaries in place, so that we can live life in accordance with our values. Our values are closely tied to our sense of identity. Without it, our life lacks structure and we feel loss, even anxiety sometimes. Being honest and open with ourselves, enables us to live our life the way that’s right for us.