A significant component of my weight loss program is about teaching people how to set appropriate boundaries with others. Why is this important? Because when we have no boundaries, we tend to allow people to “get away with” things that we’re not comfortable with.
They try to tell us how to live. They nag us when we don’t act the way they think we should. They try to manipulate us in to doing what they want us to do. They shun us if we don’t conform, or they get outright rageful if we don’t take their advice. Sound familiar?
We might try to eat better, but “they” get upset at us for not “splurging,” or “just having one.” “Just one won’t hurt,” they tell us, trying to pressure us in to eating something we know isn’t good for our waistline. “I made it just for you!” They pull out that old standard on us: GUILT.
We might try to be clear with them that we don’t like how they’re behaving towards us. We try to say what we need from them, but they get angry and tell us we’re being selfish. Then they storm out of the room, not allowing us to finish explaining how we feel and what we need.
Again and again it seems that we’re made to feel self-centred and selfish for not doing things the way others would have us do them. Or for not believing the way they believe. Or perhaps for not supporting them in their bad behaviour(s).
In reality, all we’re doing is trying to listen to the little kid in us that’s telling us what s/he needs. But we’ve learned over the years that to do so usually results in chaos, discord, anger, sometimes even violence and abuse (verbal, emotional, physical and/or perhaps sexual). SO WE LEARN TO BE QUIET, TO STIFLE THAT DESIRE TO EXPLAIN WHAT WE NEED. Just to “keep the peace.”
We become peacekeepers, letting others say or do whatever they want in order to try to “Not get them angry.”
“It’s not worth it,” we tell ourselves and others, when we’re encouraged to speak up and state our truth. “He/she/they’ll only make my life hell if I speak out.”
Well, they may try, but ultimately it’s best for us to stand up for what WE need, because we are as important as they are, and our needs are as important as theirs are.
Here’s the thing: if we don’t stand up for these things, we teach others how to treat us unfairly. The next thing that happens is we become resentful. Resentments are the foundation of comfort eating. And comfort eating, friends, is the basis of most peoples’ weight problems.
No matter how painful speaking your truth is, not speaking it is more so. That’s a guarantee. I’ve experienced it myself, and seen it in dozens of others I’ve worked with over the years.
Here’s a text message I received from a client who finally decided – after working with me for 6 months – to speak her truth to the man in her life who was emotionally abusing her. It has literally changed her life. By her own admission, she no longer feels the stress and strain of having to “take care” of others and their feelings.
Note that I’ve changed all names, and received her permission, to share this with you:
“Hi Mike. Thanks for helping me through this horrific year. You’ll be proud to know that your wisdom has led me to file a restraining order against Jimmy. I’ll get back on track with everything including your fitness plan…thanks again…I am proud of myself but the justice of the peace didn’t issue it because James isn’t a physical threat. So much for that but you and I both know that I would never have done that if it wasn’t for you.”
It’s no coincidence that, since she has done this, she is bang-on track with her eating and exercise program, something she hasn’t yet been able to do
Want to know if you should speak up about what’s bugging you? Whether or not the cost is worth the reward? Here’s a surefire way to figure it out.
Do a “Pro-and-Con” list. “Pro” all the reasons why you should speak out, then “Con” all the reasons why you shouldn’t. But do one more thing with the list that you probably haven’t done before: rank each reason from 1 to 10. 1 means that it’s not a very good reason, and 10 means it’s an excellent reason.
Add up the numbers for each column. If the “Pros” outweigh the “Cons”, then you know what you need to do. If the “Cons” outweigh the “Pros”, then you’re probably not ready yet. Wait until the “Pros” outweigh the “Cons”, because you have to be ready to deal with the possible backlash that might come from speaking out about what you need.
Give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose except the resentment and anger that comes when you let other people dictate who you are, or how you should live.