Setting Boundaries

After last week's conversation, I've been thinking a lot lately about the social constructs that perpetuate discrimination in our society. We all learn from a very young age the rules of gender, race, and sexuality. We assign labels to everything so that we can organize it in our mind as a simple, concise package. The binary of male & female, black & white, and gay & straight create restrictive expectations that make us feel like we have to be one way or the other. It's difficult to find an identity that's somewhere in between. Many of us fail to explore the gray area in between because we're not sure if it's okay to be something other than "normal". We fear not being masculine enough, or black enough, or straight enough for the approval of our peers. We're constantly monitoring the expression of our identity because we don't love ourselves enough to know that we're perfectly okay exactly how we are. 

A book I read recently talked about the idea of integrity. I usually talk to my students about integrity as a way of getting them to the right thing when no one is watching. But, the author defined it as so much more than that - 

"Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; 
choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; 
and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them."

Integrity is about making choices for our best interest. It's about choosing to challenge our abilities, choosing the road less traveled, and choosing to let our actions speak louder than our words. So many of us talk a lot about what we want our lives to become and what we deserve to have, but are we exemplifying those desires with our choices? Are we making the choices necessary to get what we deserve out of this beautiful life? No, not always. We tend to speak of ourselves in the best possible light, but if we put a magnifying glass on our lives, are we truly practicing what we preach? Integrity is difficult because it forces us to examine what we've been doing and seek the uncomfortable in order to change it. 

While integrity is difficult, it is also necessary.  Integrity forces us to set boundaries for ourselves and others. It helps us determine what's okay and what's not okay. I may be speaking for myself here, but I spent many years allowing people to treat me for less than I'm worth. I allowed them to befriend me only when they needed me, I allowed them to muffle my voice, and I allowed them to talk to me disrespectfully. I never defended myself either. I allowed them to get away with it in order to protect their feelings, not mine. 

But here's the issue: 
People learn how to treat us based on how they see us treating ourselves. 

Those people didn't treat me like that because they're the worst people on the planet. They treated me that way because I said it's OKAY. I was leading a life where I didn't value my feelings or my voice, and other didn't value it either. I never set my boundaries. I never defined what's OKAY for me and what's most definitely NOT OKAY. If I don't put value on myself, how can I expect others to value it? We must set boundaries for our lives. 

Boundaries are a sign of self respect and self love. When you take the time to determine your boundaries, you are saying that you love and respect yourself enough to know what you are worth. The girls and I set boundaries for ourselves this week by deciding what's okay and what's not okay. We discussed how boundaries are like a fence we build around us to keep the things that make us happy in and the thing that don't make us happy out

My boundaries: 

As I continue to grow in my self-empowerment, I am learning that there are certain things I just cannot allow anymore. I only want influences in my life that will inspire me and support me to grow. I am setting boundaries because I love and respect myself enough to know that what I deserve. When I set high expectation for myself and my life, I will only allow others to treat me the same way. 

The girls set boundaries for themselves too! My 3rd and 4th graders deal with a lot of friendship drama on a daily basis. They are navigating through the challenges of how to be a friend and what they need a friend to be. Setting boundaries allows the girls to make their own choices in respects to their self-worth. The power of making choices is truly what RISE like a girl is all about! 

So, what are your boundaries? Have you been treating yourself the way that YOU want to be treated? Love yourself enough to know that you deserve better than what you're dealing with right now. Sit down and make a list of what's okay and what's not okay for you. We all deserve to be loved, respected, and happy. Who or what do you need to eliminate from your life so that you can be truly happy? YOU are so worth it! 

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