Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”
― Henry Cloud, Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No
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The other day on my Instagram story on @masterselflove I asked everyone to answer, “Who makes you feel bad about your body?” It was so sad to see that most of the answers said it was their own Mother or both parents. Your parents are people you look to when you want to feel safe. Instead, your parents might make you feel like garbage and unsafe. That is not the way it should be and I am sorry if you are going through this. In no way is it okay to verbally or physically abusive and if you feel afraid for your life please seek help if you still live with your parents. Talk to another family member that you trust about getting you help or someone at your school or church/religious group. For those of you who may not be going through abuse and just want to know how to set boundaries with your parents that is what I want to discuss today.
A boundary is the established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you. Your why or purpose of your life is the first step to creating healthy boundaries. If you have not yet taken the time to know what your why and purpose is, it is likely that your boundaries will be weak. Read the blog post Know You Why before you work to create healthy boundaries. Then you can learn below how you can come up with a plan to set clear boundaries while keeping the setting positive and sticking with the plan.
Keep it Positive. First off what has helped me is to realize that some things may not be your parents’ fault. It may be how their parents were raised and just think the way they are treating you is the norm. Again, if they are extremely abusive don’t excuse this at all and get help. For example, if your Mom has been a chronic dieter she may have learned that from her Mom and just thinks it is the way of life. Especially with diet culture which brainwashes people to think they are never good enough so that they can buy their latest and greatest diet fad program. A lot of people also like quick fixes and don’t want to take the time to learn about proper nutrition and exercise without the goal of losing weight. Have a bit of compassion for your parents if they simply don’t know any better about dieting and body image issues. It is never ok for your parents to keep commenting on your body and asking you to change it. If they constantly talk to you about your weight it says more about them than you. Your parents may have weight issues that they never dealt with and feel insecure and are now taking it out on you. If your Mom has an eating disorder she could have terrible mood swings and will likely take it out on you and your family which is not healthy at all. The best thing you can do before you communicate with your parents is to become aware that the way they treat you is not a real reflection on you. Don’t ever think you are unworthy because they may tell you that. I know it is easy to get angry at your parents but try to think about the positive things that they do for you. Don’t think of them as monsters just realize they are human and make mistakes and probably are so unaware of how they treat you.
Create a Plan. Write down the number of ways your parents hurt you with the way they talk about your body or yourself. Write down how it makes you feel. Practice a plan of communication-based on the things you wrote down that hurt you the most. You will have to come up with clear boundaries that you want. For example, a boundary will be to stop taking bad about your body because if makes you feel bad about yourself. You will plan to sit down with your parents and tell them that they are hurting you. Tell them exactly how it makes you feel before letting them know the boundary. Just simply say it “I don’t want you to talk about my body anymore.” Then you have to let them know that if they don’t follow your boundary what will happen. For example, it could be that you will no longer be part of the conversation and you will walk away or if you don’t live with them you will leave. You have to come up with clear boundaries and consequences you are willing to abide by when you plan to talk to them. Practice talking about your boundaries out loud, so you build some confidence before you actually speak to them. By any means do not apologize for communicating how you feel stand firm on what you are saying. Now if your family is really abusive and you know they wouldn’t even give you the chance to talk you will have to think about possibly limiting your time with them and possibly no contact. If you still live with your parents and are too young to get a job again I would seek help to get out of that abusive situation. If it’s that bad of a situation and you still live with your parents when you are old enough to get a part-time job I would do so and save money to buy a place of my own the minute I turn 18. You don’t ever have to stay in a situation that is abusive or toxic. There is always a way out even if it takes time and sacrifice you can do it. You don’t’ want to live in a prison or continue to take such abuse because your life will be so much harder.
Don’t Be Afraid of Intimacy. Opening up to anyone can be tough because we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to the chance of being hurt. However, opening up will bring you far more benefits in life regardless if you do get hurt at times. If you open up to your parents, there is a huge chance that as I said earlier they had no idea they were hurting you. When they finally understand when you communicate with them this may make your relationship so much better. This will give you so much self-respect because you stood up for what you believed and what mattered to you. Empower yourself to make healthy choices and take responsibility for yourself.