You Are Free!

freedomAh, freedom! On this 4th of July weekend, we celebrate America’s independence. In the summer, we become more care-free. Our clothes express this freedom as we turn to less constricted and more flowing styles. Boots and sweaters get packed away and we put on sandals or flip-flops. The kids are out of school and schedules feel easier. You are free!

Lots of great events are happening that underscore the “freedom” we enjoy in America. The Supreme Court of Justice of United States ruled that gay couples have the right to marry. America Ferrera wrote an open letter to Donald Trump in the Huffington post confronting him about his racist comments about Latino immigrants. Hurray freedom!

Recently, a friend of mine had an experience that made me think about another example of freedom, the freedom to speak our personal truth. Someone she trusted and admired let her down. They had a business agreement and this person backed out on the agreement putting her and her family in a very difficult situation, feelings of betrayal and abandonment overwhelmed her. She calmly expressed her disappointment to this individual. Even so, her friend did not acknowledge the breach, did not apologize and pretended it didn’t even happen. Though she practices daily forgiveness and unconditional love, it really rocked her world.  

As she meditated on this relationship and the recent event, the incident became a reset and key to free her from a harmful pattern. This person had long demonstrated selfish behavior in their relationship.  Because she is very empathetic, she had been bending over backwards to feed this person love, generosity and compassion even if it meant not respecting her own personal boundaries.

However, she realized that this was not serving her or her family or even her friend.  We are called to see others as equal and with unconditional love. However, we are not called to tolerate other’s behavior if it harms us. She realized that biting her tongue and putting up with acts of selfish behavior for many years was undermining her truth.  

Then, she had the epiphany: she realized that she was free to not put up with this behavior any more. Free! She still tries to hold her friend in a positive light and sends her love. However, she is free from continually pretending to be okay with her friend’s behavior and to let her friend over-ride her personal boundaries. How liberating!

I can empathize with this challenge. From a young age, I was taught that I should “play nice.” Being raised by an Asian mother, I was taught to be nice to everyone no matter what. Swallow your pride. Don’t say anything to rock the boat. If I tried to disagree, I was told that I had a “big mouth.” 

Culturally, it was confusing time for me growing up. As an Asian, I was taught it was socially unacceptable to be outspoken and unattractive to speak up and assert myself. As an American, I was being taught that to “play nice” while the 60’s raging message was to “fight for equality.” I think this was a confusing time for many girls.

Even in today’s world, I see little girls receiving conflicting messages about their behavior everyday. I have caught myself asking my daughter her feelings and then in the same breath telling her to “be nice” when she is expressing her feelings about her personal experience. This seems benign enough. However, hearing enough of these admonitions erode self-confidence over time. 

It is toxic to tell your daughters just ignore her feelings and to “be quiet.” Essentially, I learned that my personal truth and my boundaries were not worthy of respect. It took a lot of time and painful experiences to realize that my voice matters and that it’s okay to speak up. When my situation arose, it took a lot of courage to speak up and express my feelings, to speak my truth. It was uncomfortable because I am not used to doing it and the limiting beliefs I was taught caused me to be afraid of being rejected. 

Asserting feelings can feel scary and feel out-of-control if one is not used to voicing dissent. It takes courage. Also, it takes practice and the best place to start is to allow your daughter a safe place to vent and to provide her empathy. Listening without judgment and connecting to her concerns is a way for her to explore her boundaries and know that she is worthy of respect.

The other day my little girl came home upset from a lunch with a family member, this family member bought my daughter lunch. “Mama!” my daughter almost in tears exclaimed, “[She] took my drink and even I after I said “No!”, she drank it!”  I listened to her vent. In a busy day, this can seem like such a little thing. However, I assure you it’s not. It’s the beginning of building a lifetime of self-empowerment. 

Next, I told my daughter that I was sorry to hear that. I told her how I don’t like it when people take things from me without my permission.  I agreed that it’s not okay for other people to take things away from her without her permission. I told her that if she says “no” that “no means no” and it’s important for other’s to respect her request. Finally, I asked her how she would like to handle the conflict. We made an agreement on how she would feel safest to deal with the conflict. Next time, she will be armed to assert her “truth” in a respectful and safe way.

It is a necessity to establish boundaries and encourage our children to do so. It is important protect yourself and to teach your children that it’s not okay for someone repeatedly disregard their boundaries. It is important as an individual and as a parent role model to show our kids how to exercise their inner-strength in a calm way to express themselves.

If we are to raise respectful children, we must show them respect. This will teach your children that people who respect each other will see boundaries in a positive way and will honor your boundaries. Allowing a family member, a friend or a colleague to continually cross your boundaries is unhealthy. This behavior erodes self-confidence and courage over time. Shrinking from speaking our truth undermines our safety and equality.

Stand your ground. Be firm. Be consistent. And if you find a person continues to undermine your feelings and you feel scared or in danger, find an ally to help you stand your ground and put some distance between you and the offending person. You are free! You are free to choose your feelings. You are free to speak your truth. You are free from tolerating behavior of other’s that disregards your personal boundaries. Enjoy your freedom and shine on!

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