Contributed by AWARE, Inc – Juneau, AK

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-1-42-49-pmThe holiday season is here!  Are you prepared to be in a space of high expectations with all of your loved ones?  If you are like most, you may be anticipating having some conflict and tension with those who best know how to push our boundaries. This holiday season, AWARE invites you to prevent some conflict with some pre-holiday self-care: know your boundaries and write your own individual Bill of Rights.

In AWARE’s Healthy Relationships class for women, participants are asked to write our personal Bill of Rights. Our Bill of Rights is predicated on what we like and what we do not like. Our individualized Bill of Rights is a way of helping identify our personal boundaries and encourages us all to own it and love it.

Here’s an example of [One’s] Bill of Rights:

  • You have the right to be you.
  • You have the right to put yourself first.
  • You have the right to be safe.
  • You have the right to love and be loved.
  • You have the right to be treated with respect.
  • You have the right to be human – NOT PERFECT.
  • You have the right to be angry and protest if you are treated unfairly or abusively.
  • You have the right to your own privacy.
  • You have the right to your own opinions, to express them, and to be taken seriously.
  • You have the right to earn and to control your own money.
  • You have the right to ask questions about anything that affects your life.
  • You have the right to make decisions that affect you.
  • You have the right to grow and change (including changing your mind).
  • You have the right to say NO.
  • You have the right to make mistakes.
  • You have the right NOT to be responsible for other adults’ problems.
  • You have the right not to be liked by everyone.
  • YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL YOUR OWN LIFE AND TO CHANGE IT IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH IT AS IT IS.

You can prepare for the holiday season! If you know that at a gathering with your family for example, they will expect you to behave in certain ways- to drink alcohol or to not drink alcohol, to arrive at a certain time or stay for a certain period of time, please know that you have a choice, your choice. You may even choose to stay home. Reflect on it beforehand, and imagine what you realistically might like to say or do, how you might like to respond. It’s not your job to meet the expectations of others; it’s your work to identify your own needs and expectations for yourself, and to move in the direction of meeting them. Let’s say you really don’t like making pumpkin pie, yet every year that’s what you’re asked to bring… you have a choice. Rather than feel victimized, you can reframe to acknowledge that you don’t want to make a pumpkin pie. You can then ask if you can please bring something instead of a pumpkin pie, or you might acknowledge that even though you don’t like to make it, you’re willing to for this occasion. Either way, it’s a choice you’re making.

So what to do when a boundary is crossed, ignored, or repeatedly challenged?

  • Do your best to not take it personally and to not let anyone shake your foundation of understanding and acceptance of these rights.  The person who crossed or pushed your boundaries, in particular who continues to do so after you have directly set your boundaries has a problem with boundaries – not you.
  • You may choose to confront the person assertively, and if need be, with compassion but not excusing the hurt or insecurity they may be feeling,
  • Respect their boundaries; don’t respond with the same violation of boundaries.  Lead by example.
  • Depending on how invasive the boundary crossed or pushed, get help or make distance.
  • Take care of yourself.  Do the things about the holidays that you delight in, that makes you feel calm and centered and peaceful.

When we take the time to know our boundaries, to accept them, and then to assert and defend them, we pave the way for healthy, loving relationships, with ourselves and with the people around us.