We live in a society where speaking freely or standing up for ourselves can get us, women, labelled "difficult."
Often we are groomed to please others and "sacrifice" our own desires from an early age. We are taught cooking, and cleaning but not self-defence. We are expected to know our "limits" but aren't taught to protect our personal space and set boundaries.
Knowing what is unreasonable and what is not to be taken lightly is particularly important for women and children irrespective of their gender.
I didn't know, until my late 30s that setting boundaries was something I should be doing with my relatives, friends, and sometimes even family.
Saying "no" at the workplace came to me effortlessly. When I went for my first interview, my father advised me to be frank and say a clear no to any condition that made me uncomfortable. You can read about how I tackled with unreasonable requests at work here.
I saw my mom frequently give up her own comforts to help the people around her. And she would confront people only as a last resort. Whether you like it or not your children learn to do what they see you do.
The idiom - like mother, like daughter - fitted me very well. I tried hard to be "good" to people around me and avoid confrontation. But it did not work for me.
The expectations of the people around me kept growing until I was terribly "cornered." At one point I was under so much stress that I started getting frequent headaches and neck pain.
I realized if I didn't put some limits in place, things would get even worse. There were some things I was happy to do and some things that were absolutely wicked to be expected of me.
I wanted to stand up for myself and let my people know when something was inconvenient to me.
But wanting is not doing. I feared upsetting the cart - that people will think I'm not a good person.
A friend asked me two questions that changed my perspective: Was I sure people said I was good behind my back? And even if they did, was it okay to let them invade my personal space so that I am known as a good girl. Would that really make me happy? And that made sense.
It was tough to speak up the first time. And there were misses too because you just can't switch it on. Still, I knew I was on the right track.
Most people understood and took my "no" fine. Well-wishers understand and accept you even if you decline their request sometimes. Some, who could not accept "no" gracefully, were upset, naturally. But about them another time.
Three things about being "difficult"
A - A thing about setting boundaries is that no one else can decide it for you. You have to decide for yourself and your little ones.
B - When you decline a request, you do not have to defend, debate, or lie about your feelings. Be firm, frank, and polite.
If you give in easily, it's like giving others a free pass to ignore your needs in the future too. So stay strong. But be convinced that you're doing the right thing.
If it feels right to say "yes" to something, do it by all means. These are your boundaries, you may be flexible if that makes you happy.
C - And you may find it tough. But still, you have to speak up and stand for yourself. Because no one else can do it for you the way you can.
Yours truly "difficult"