Breaking Out of the Box (of Politeness)

– By Megan, A Geeky Gal –

Every once in a while, I say something kind of funny or something pretty deep. It’s not often, but it happens. During a conversation the other day when I turned to one of my favorite CMP’s (Communications Major People) for some advice concerning a co-worker’s wife, I said this gem:

I’m trapped in a box of politeness and am afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Wow. If the way I approached people was summed up in a single sentence, this would be it. I have a strong desire to be “liked.” It kills my vibe when someone is upset with me, and I constantly think about what I could have done to make them not mad. This goes for dealing with people in public too, like Pesky Salesperson at Mid-Range Store.

Story Time

I told Pesky Salesperson three times in varying politeness that I just wanted to try on some jeans. My size 10’s were feeling loose, and I wanted to see if I could squeeze into a size 8. It was a NSV (non-scale victory) that I was hoping to accomplish on a bleak Wednesday. She pulled me to all the different styles of jeans on the shelves and loaded me up with three styles in the size 8 I requested. I begrudgingly okayed .

I am happy to report that I can most definitely squeeze into a size 8, and thus I skipped out of the changing room… and ran right into the salesperson… who asked for the millionth time if she could order me those jeans in a “short.” I declined and handed back all the jeans, trying to make my way out of the store. She tried to stand in front of me and said it would be so easy! It would be so fast! They’d be here in two days! I felt my face get hot, and I blurted out I didn’t have my card or cash on me.

It was true. I had left them out in the car. That didn’t stop her from offering to sign me up for the store credit card though. I declined as politely as I could because now my face and neck were more red than a St. Louis Cardinal’s jersey, and I was sweating. I practically ran out of Mid-Range Store and back to my car.

Breaking Out

First of all, I want you, dear reader, to know that it’s okay to have a box — personal boundaries. Pesky Salesperson definitely crossed my personal boundaries in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. Not everyone’s boundaries are like mine, and that’s okay too. What is not okay (for me) is to feel that in normal social interactions I’m being trapped into being polite or just too nice.

Second, this isn’t a “how to” post. Your mileage may vary. I am very fortunate to be equipped with two CMP’s, a wonderful therapist, and a supportive husband. I’ve had the opportunity to grow and learn from the many times I’ve been trapped in my box of politeness. I’m still working on it, but I’m no longer a doormat.

Third, asserting your boundaries makes you feel like crap in any given situation when you’re not used to doing it. We know it shouldn’t feel bad because boundaries are healthy, so how can something good for you make you feel like the worst person in the world? It’s because you’ve been conditioned to let people ignore your boundaries.

What I mean is that your family, loved ones, friends, SO, or whoever has slowly conditioned you to let them cross your boundaries. Or maybe they haven’t and you just have a hard time saying no. Either way, you come out of this situation looking like a doormat with boundary issues. So how can you stop feeling so crappy about our boundaries?

  • Remember that these are your boundaries and you have a right to have them. Say it with me. These are your boundaries and you have a right to have them. Don’t let anyone make you feel like the bad guy for having a boundary. If they don’t like your boundary, they can move along.
  • Stick to your boundaries. Your nearest and dearest probably know all the right buttons to press to get their way, and they will have no problem doing it. Strangers can be even worse, trying to bully you into letting them have what they want. Stay strong and don’t give in, not even an inch.
  • The more you assert (and keep) your boundaries, the less sucky it feels. The first time I did it, I felt like I was somehow the worst person to ever walk the earth. I’m not the worst person to ever walk the earth. Neither are you. The more you practice keeping your boundaries, the better you’ll feel when you assert them later in less than ideal situations.
  • It’s not your fault. If someone crawls to you on their hands and knees begging you to let them do this thing that you don’t want, and you say no, you are not at fault for their feelings or behavior afterwards. They may try to blame you for whatever emotion they’re experiencing, and that’s okay. It’s still not your fault.
  • You can only control how you feel. You can’t control how the other person will react to you asserting a boundary. Don’t let their future reaction make you let them cross your boundary to pacify them. If you assert a boundary and they throw a tantrum or throw some shade, let it roll off your shoulder. You can remain the adult in the situation.

It’s time to break out of the box of politeness. It really doesn’t matter how you start asserting or creating boundaries. We’re all on a different journey. Whether it’s telling your coworker that no you will not be doing their work that is due tomorrow, or telling your friend that no they can’t borrow money from you, it’s time to pull that band-aid off and assert those precious and healthy boundaries.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown

Thank you Megan for guest starring today! She’s an amazing blogger over at A Geeky Gal, so go follow/bookmark her if you haven’t already. Also, she took on my Super Specific Sunshine Award Questions, so you should absolutely take a look at that. So let’s chat — are you any good at setting up boundaries? If so, when have you had to use them? If not, hopefully this can help you improve. I’m sure Megan will stick around to answer comments. 🙂 – Matthew, Normal Happenings

  1. Pushy sales people are the worst! I’m sorry you had to deal with that. But you’re right. It is important to set boundaries for yourself. I try to have some sympathy because I know some of that is the pressure from their bosses. Also congrats on the NSV!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am definitely this person! I’m glad to know I am not alone. I am not a regular liar (LOL), but one time I even found myself fibbing to a person at the grocery store who tried to give me a food sample! I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by politely declining when they asked if I wanted to try a sample (because that’s so mean, right?!), so I told them I had just brushed my teeth! Which wasn’t exactly a lie…. but I felt so guilty afterwards! I definitely need to work on this… 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for writing this Megan! It is exactly the way I, and I’m sure a lot of the other readers feel. I’ve been looking for a way out of the box for a while so am going to try and implement some of this slowly.

    The thing I hate most about my obsessive politeness is that I’m always angry with myself afterwards for being so weak.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is an excellent post. It describes so succulently the traps of not setting boundaries and wishing to please others. I think I am in a lead lined box, within another box, within another box, and so on – like those beautiful Russian dolls. Whenever I try to break out of my boxes, I get a lot of pressure from my family to get back in again, and I doubt myself and think ‘Are they right? Am I being too ungrateful/selfish/pushy here?’. It has taken me a long long long time to realise I have to set boundaries, that I need to step out of my boxes and that even though others may cringe at what I say or do, this is my life, and my path is different than theirs. My skills, strengths and weaknesses are not the same as mine, and thankfully they have different skills, strengths and weaknesses to me. I want to help others, but I have to look after myself if I am to do that.

    Anyway, that’s a very long winded way of saying thank you, your post resonated with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you’re finding ways to set your own boundaries after feeling so trapped and conditioned to repeatedly give in. I have asked myself those same questions so many times.

      I had hoped to raise some awareness with this post and even if it just one person was able to read it and see themselves in it, I knew that my job was done. It seems I’m not alone here. 🙂 You’re most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s