One of the most difficult things for women to do is to draw boundaries and keep them in place. “We’ll experience upset, irritation, and even anger at a particular behavior, but often do nothing to put a stop to it.
Many women wonder if this is because they suffer from “low self-esteem.” We think that if we felt better about ourselves, we would demand better treatment from others. Actually, it is by recognizing the value we are to other people that we will insist upon better treatment for ourselves. We’ll endure verbal, emotional and, even, physical abuse to the degree that we think we need the person issuing it.”
Women are, as I’m fond of saying, “designed without boundaries.” On a purely instinctive level, which affects more of our lives than we admit, we are certain that our very survival depends upon being liked by women and found pleasing by men. Our safety from “the tiger” is linked to the group protection other women can provide, or the brawn and resources a man can provide. Because of this, we’ll put up with any behavior right up to the point where the tiger is a better bet. Thus, we’ll endure verbal, emotional and, even, physical abuse to the degree that we think we need the person issuing it.
Does this sound familiar? This is how a woman will behave when she is in a feminine mode. When she is “man mode,” she’ll guard boundaries as fiercely as any man, with little tolerance for behavior that really bothers her. But being masculine will prevent her from being considered in a romantic context by men and she’ll never inspire the treatment she craves. By consciously setting and enforcing boundaries, she can allow herself to be feminine, but not be walked all over.
There are two issues to address—where to draw the boundaries and how to find the courage to enforce them.
Where should a woman draw the line? This is up to each individual. There are several possibilities for placing limits on what we’ll allow in our lives. It is important to note, though, that the distance between her and the line she draws will determine how gracefully a woman can enforce her limits. “When a woman draws the line at what she needs, she enforces her boundaries by simply stating her needs.”
If a woman sets her boundaries very close, where she doesn’t put up with behavior that frightens her, when confronted with such behavior, she’ll probably react suddenly and emotionally, harshly attacking the person in front of her. This limit is too close—she still feels too vulnerable. She could push the line further back, and not accept behavior that angers her. On the receiving end of what angers her, she’ll probably react more slowly, and more coldly, but still have a cutting edge to her reproach.
She could set her boundaries even further from her center, and not put up with behavior that upsets her, or puts her off-balance, or saps her vitality. This is the level that we call a woman’s needs. Examples of these needs are respect, appreciation, listening, and affection.
When a woman draws the line at what she needs, she enforces her boundaries by simply stating her needs. Because her boundary is not right up close to her sense of survival, she can do so more graciously, rationally and patiently. She has more choice in her response, and less reaction.
Where does she get the courage to talk about her needs?
Where does she get the courage to enforce her boundaries? By reaching inside and tapping into “the Queen.” Tap into the essence of feminine dignity and power that every woman contains within her. The Queen knows that she can only be her best self when she has what she needs. The Queen understands the paradox—that getting what she needs can be one of the most generous things she does for the people she loves.
Drawing the line at your needs takes courage and a commitment not to yourself, but to the people you love most. They are the people who suffer when you are off-balance or upset. They are the ones who benefit when you have what you need. This is why I wrote, “Actually, it is by recognizing the value we are to other people that we will insist upon better treatment for ourselves.”
Honor the Queen that you are. Honor the difference that you make. Honor your limits. Draw the line. Get what you need. Be your best self. Please.
By Alison A. Armstrong
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