My Endless Struggle With Personal Boundaries
As a chronic people-pleaser, I have always struggled when establishing boundaries. I don’t like saying no, and I am extremely polite. I cannot stand disappointing anyone - daily, I fall prey to my dogs' puppy eyes. Yet, living with a chronic illness like endometriosis, I have realized that saying no and doing what is best for me and not others, is the way to live. Especially because it works for my mental health.
Yet, boundary-setting is not something I'm great at. In fact, I suck at it.
Sometimes it is a conversation that makes me open up about parts of my life I am not happy to share. Instead of putting an end to the situation, I indulge others and answer their questions. On other occasions, it is a doctor that is too pushy or a friend who won’t take my canceling of plans well. In both cases, I told myself I was the one in the wrong, never blaming those who added unnecessary pressure to me. In each of those situations, I was the biggest loser.
Boundary-setting has taken me decades to perfect. Even now, when I think I am doing it right, I have fallen flat on my face. Every time I let my guard down, it is followed by some ugly crying, silly amounts of pain, or a sudden bout of fatigue. That's when I am reminded just how important it is to care for my own wellbeing.
Healthy boundary-setting starts by recognizing challenging situations
I have repeatedly encountered difficult doctors, before and after my diagnosis. Some simply didn’t listen, others made me very uncomfortable. One in particular, refused to look at me or acknowledge my complaints, as he scribbled on his notepad, rolling his eyes. Almost aggressively, he repeatedly told me to answer yes or no to a surgery that would not address the route of my problem. His pushiness and rushed manner caused me to suffer from shortness of breath, and an inability to focus and express myself. That was my anxiety kicking in, telling me to make the right choice for me, which was to walk out and ask to be seen by a different doctor.
If a doctor makes us feel uncomfortable, pressured, unsupported or, disrespected, we are within our rights to not only end the conversation but to walk out, seek ways to place a complaint, and demand better care.
With endometriosis, certain social conversations require limits
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked about my child-rearing intentions. I’ve even had people I barely know ask if "my insides work". I don’t remember ever shutting down these questions— not even when they became extremely upsetting.
Invasive questions are not OK. It is really wrong to ask anyone what they intend to do with their uterus. And when it comes to answering those questions, we shouldn't worry about offending others when they are initially, upsetting us.
Self-protection equals self-care
Voicing what is best for us is tricky, especially for women. From a young age, we are told to be nice, to behave in a “ladylike” way. Any upset or our anger is dismissed as hysteria. Work colleagues, bosses and doctors tell us to calm ourselves, when they would never say that to a man. If we speak up, we are told to make ourselves quieter, smaller.
When others don’t respect our space, it is our right to point the error of their ways. Saying no is something we should not only be comfortable with, but also proud to do. Boundaries are essential to preserve our strength, our health, and happiness. It will make us better people to have around.
But if we are still learning to speak louder and firmer, that’s alright too. It took me decades to become who I am today, and learn from many situations in which I didn't do great, and I should have forgiven myself. But I am finally at a point in which my health and comfort, are paramount. And that is definitively the right choice.
Do you know what your endometriosis phenotype is?