Things I Learned in 2022
Man, it’s 2023 already? I feel like it was last month that we were being told of this new virus spreading quickly. We were being told to isolate ourselves in our homes, and avoid going to work. 2020 was quite a year, and I thought I couldn’t learn any more than I learned that year….boy I was wrong.
2022 was a year of immense emotional pain for me. I learned who I could trust, and unfortunately, who I couldn’t. People who meant the world to me continued to slowly destroy me, and even after explaining to them how they were affecting my mental health and well-being, they continued to act selfishly, with little to no regard for my personal safety.
It was a year of lessons, of understanding, and most importantly, of growth. I found myself in a place I thought I could never crawl out of. I found myself basing my ENTIRE worth off of the opinions of one person. I found myself changing who I was to fit their mold. I found myself begging them to love me. To respect me. To take me seriously as a human being. A place I never thought I would let myself be in. And I knew, once I realized I was there, I knew it would be a battle to get out.
Once the awareness was there, I was able to recognize when I was compromising myself, my morals, my values, for someone else. It was almost impossible at first to abstain from the behaviors, but at least now I could recognize them. I had a starting point. I started attending therapy weekly, instead of the once per month appointments I had before.
I went to my therapist, and I just word vomited to her, telling her everything I had experienced. I half expected judgment, I had never fully opened up to a mental health professional like this before, or to anyone really. But there was no judgment to be found. She met me with compassion, with understanding, and she met me with some of the best advice I’ve received to this day. And thus, week by week, I started to find myself again. With every session, I left feeling more in control than I had the week before. Until finally, I had the strength to do what I had needed to do for years. I set hard boundaries. And I stuck to them.
The process of setting boundaries has always been difficult for me. Growing up, I was not really allowed to have my own boundaries. It was seen as disrespect if I questioned my parents, or expressed discomfort with a situation. This lack of ability to set boundaries as a child, in addition to other aspects of my childhood, ensured that I would grow up to be a people pleaser, to be afraid to set boundaries or say no.
So when my therapist first told me I needed to start setting boundaries, it was as if she had just told me to read her a passage aloud in German. It felt out of my realm of ability.
You see, I was under the impression that setting boundaries meant “I can control what you do”. And that felt icky to me. It felt as though I had to set consequences for a set list of behaviors, and I had to essentially demand people act a certain way around me. But this is so far from what a boundary is. I learned that instead of being “I can control what YOU do”, setting boundaries means “I can control what I do.” It means, you can act however you want to act around me, But if you cross my boundaries, I will do whatever is necessary to make myself feel safe again, even if it means removing you from my life.
You do not set “consequences” for boundaries. No, Instead you’re setting expectations. You’re saying “this is the result of your behavior around me”.
Once this was explained to me, it made so much sense. I didn’t need to try to control what other people said or did, I needed to control what I said or did.
And so, my growth process continued. I set my boundaries, and when they were crossed, I did what I needed to do in order to feel safety again.
So the biggest lesson I’ve learned actually comes in two parts.
One: Setting boundaries isn’t about controlling others, it’s about controlling yourself.
And two: People who do not respect your boundaries, most likely never will. As soon as you show someone that they can cross your boundaries without a negative response from you, they will continue to push every last boundary you have.
I still have a LONG way to go in my growth process, but even though 2022 was extremely painful, I am thankful for the experience and education I gained during those hard times.