You must have the courage to love yourself, even when it angers the people around you. That means setting boundaries, being clear on what you will and will not tolerate.
During grade 6, my first year at Oakley* Schools, I lacked boundaries because I didn’t know how to enforce them. Without those limits, I gave away my friendship, time, energy and power to people who never deserved it and left nothing for myself. I was bending over backward to please others, treading lightly, being careful not to rock the boat, and make other people angry. I had been conditioned to think that I wasn’t enough, and I should be anything other than myself. And I thought that being friendly, being accommodating, and being available would win me love and friendship. It didn’t. It got me the exact opposite- walked over, bullied, and mistaken for a fool because the people I was overly friendly to never extended the same to me in return. Without meaning to, I gave the impression that I was desperate to fit in.
A year or so later, during the seventh grade, I began setting boundaries because I was tired of being a doormat. However, first impressions are powerful and it was too late. The power dynamic and others’ expectations of me had already been set. What I should’ve done was drew the line from day one.
In junior high, although my boundaries were clear, many others violated them every chance they got for no other reason than to demonstrate their power and show who was boss. Anytime I said ‘no’ to any of my classmates at school, I would face retaliation of some kind- guilt trips, threats, or physical beatings because they had grown too used to me being a pushover. They were afraid that if I developed a spine, the benefits they were getting at my expense would stop. Therefore, the retaliation was their way of reinforcing their power and dominance and keeping me subdued.
But now that we’re all adults, let any of them try that today, and they will be very disappointed. Back then, I often wondered why nothing ever seemed to work out. Understand that timing is everything. And that you do have power, but for it to work, you must know how to use it and you must stand up for yourself the very first time bullies come for you. Otherwise, your place in the pecking order will become iron clad and once that happens, you might as well not have any power at all.
I didn’t realize it then, but during those early years in Oakley*, I was going about it all wrong. ‘You see? You must put yourself and your needs first. Never lower your standards or your boundaries! It’s okay to be kind, but never be nice! The difference between kind and being nice is that kindness is genuine. People are kind because it’s the right thing to do, not because it can win friendships or favors. Also, kind people never give at their own expense.
Nice people, on the other hand, want friendship and approval. Also, people who are nice give at their own peril and stick their neck out for others to step on, thinking others will come around when they realize how much they care. “Nicies” are under the impression that the more you suffer, the more it shows you care. Um- Wrong!
It gives the impression that you’re a pushover, a kiss butt, a bootlicker! Being nice never awards you any respect because there’s usually an ulterior motive and the reason for your niceness is to avoid conflict! Being kind, on the other hand, is genuine and others can sense the genuineness. Being kind is much more respectful. Being ‘nice’ is for wimps.
Understand that anytime you set boundaries, there will always be those who will hate you for it and retaliate. And they will fight you for a while to wear you down. That’s what bullies do! However, stick to your guns. Keep fighting for your right to be treated with respect. Show them that you will stand up to them no matter what they do, and eventually, they’ll get tired and realize that you aren’t worth the effort. They’ll go find an easier target.
So, always set limits and be prepared to fight to protect them. Be kind, yes! But if people start taking your kindness for being a fool and treating you like crap, don’t be afraid to tell these people to kiss off!
Being kind to others means being kind to yourself first.
*Not the real name of the town