“I’m sorry, am I being too much?” “I’m afraid of looking clingy.” “No, it’s okay – don’t worry about it.” “I don’t want to be a burden.”
These are just a few of many common phrases used when it comes to avoiding setting the necessary boundaries for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – the anxiety, stress, and hesitation surrounding asserting these boundaries is absolutely valid, and can stem from many experiences and behavioral patterns. If we’re raised to believe in the consequences of any capacity for speaking our minds, we learn that repressing how we’re feeling is a safety mechanism. If we’ve experienced an unhealthy relationship in which we might not have felt/been safe, we learn that repressing how we’re feeling is a safety mechanism.
The list only goes on.
Specifically growing up as a queer-identifying femme woman in an incredibly heteronormative society made me believe that using my voice in her louder, rawer nature was “too much.” That it’s not “attractive” for a woman to be openly emotional. Or to set boundaries if she’s feeling disrespected or uncomfortable. Or to say no.
It deeply saddens me to see a stigma so prominently geared towards silence over truth.
Instead, we should be learning how to set boundaries. We should be learning how to stand up for ourselves during an uncomfortable situation. We should be learning about the power that comes from speaking our truth, and how to navigate a situation where we may be concerned for our safety. Learning to be silent is a violence in itself that comes with its own set of consequences.
Recently, I was spending time with my friend Isabelle on a Friday night. Two men kept trying to interrupt our conversation to flirt. She finally turned to them, looked them in the eye, and firmly said, “Hey, I’m having a conversation with my friend right now. I can’t talk to you.”
They didn’t bother us for the rest of the night.
Watching her be so assertive and grounded made me feel safe. It encouraged me to do the same moving forward. It also confirmed that this ridiculous stigma of being “too much” for asserting our truths is complete, utter b/s.
My friend was fierce and powerful. And that made all the difference.
I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve felt uncomfortable and wanted to say something or take action, but didn’t out of fear – and I’m working very hard to change that. But it’s not easy when it’s so ingrained into our systems to “just be quiet.”
One of my biggest classroom rules is teaching my students that it’s okay to say no. Many of them are navigating this uncertain adjustment period of being in-person again, and a lot of these students are going to need extra time to properly settle in. Too often I’ve seen students and children scolded for saying “no”, and it’s time that we start actively listening and using a deeper sense of understanding.
Setting boundaries sets a tone that says, “I deserve to be treated better. I respect myself enough to stand up for myself. I am worthy of healthy relationships and open communication.”
We are worthy of respect. We deserve to feel like we are easy to love. We are worthy of relationships that lift us up and encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves. And most importantly, we are worthy of speaking our truths and prioritizing our well-being no matter what.