Take This Test On Personal Boundaries
by Giuditta Tornetta
In pregnancy and in parenting we are confronted with so many people’s opinions on how to be and what to do with our bodies and children. More than any other times it seems perfect strangers feel free to come up to us and tell us what we should do.Building self esteem and self confidence is the key to happiness and success not only as a parents but as a human being. Have you wondered about what self-esteem is and how to get more of it? Do you think your self-esteem is low? Do you know how to tell? Here are three easy steps you can take to strengthen your boundaries and increase your self-esteem. Let’s start with a simple test:
Step One SELF
Think about how you feel about yourself. Many people think that they don’t deserve to set boundaries in the first place. Their low self-esteem makes them unable to have an opinion or make a decision. They often hide behind phrases like, “Anything you want is fine with me. If the doctor is suggesting a cesarean then I guess we should just do that” and “Don’t worry about me all I care about is a healthy baby.” A fun way to gauge where your esteem is at is doing the following quiz truthfully. Answer the following questions with true or false:
- Other people are not better off or more fortunate than me
- I accept myself as I am and am happy with myself
- I enjoy socializing
- I deserve love and respect
- I feel valued and needed
- I don’t need others to tell me I have done a good job
- Being myself is important
- I make friends easily
- I can accept criticism without feeling put down
- I admit my mistakes openly
- I never hide my true feelings
- I always speak up for myself and put my views across
- I am a happy, carefree person
- I don’t worry what others think of my views
- I don’t need others’ approval to feel good
- I don’t feel guilty about doing or saying what I want
TEST SCORE: Total number of TRUE answers you gave, EACH ONE POINT:
15-16 Points – You have a high level of self esteem!
12-14 Points – Not bad, but there is room for you to improve
8-11 Points – Low self esteem is holding you back
Below 8 Points – Your esteem is drastically low!
To build your self-esteem and your right to want what you deserve and desire, start small. Remember all your accomplishments and make a collage with mementos that remind you of what you have already accomplished in the past that you are proud of (use photographs of a recital you are proud of from when you were little, a trophy you won at a little league competition, a business card from a job you really loved, a paper from school you are particularly fond of. Just don’t say you can’t remember anything…I know there is something, even the smallest thing is important.) Now, start with something you can do immediately and easily. When we start with small successes, we build momentum to gain more confidence in our abilities. Make a list of things you want to accomplish day to day. Each completed task, regardless of how small, is building blocks towards a more confident you. Create an image of yourself as the confident and self-assured person you aspire to become. Do something that scares you, even if it is starting a conversation with strangers while in line at the groceries. You’ll learn to talk to the nurses at the hospital with more ease. Do something you are good at. Set goals, small, immediate ones and bigger ones. If your goal today is to do the laundry and take a walk and you accomplish it, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. Beware not to try to overachieve and set yourself up for failure. START SMALL.
Step Two INFLUENCES
Think of your family and/or community’s way of doing things; is that in conflict with your own beliefs and desires? Has the community around you, whether your own family or your peer group, encouraged you to change your attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to what they refer to as the norm? Example: a client came to me to discuss her decision to have a scheduled cesarean. She said: My first birth was a natural birth, my doula came over while I was in labor and we walked, moved, moaned and showered during labor. Then I fell in the shower and hit my head pretty hard, my husband came to me as well as the doula and took me out of the shower and into my bed. They were really loving and caring and kept telling me how proud of me they were, but I was thinking this is insane I really don’t want to do this, I want the pain to go away NOW. Once we got into the car on our way to the hospital I really wanted to perform for my husband and played the perfect natural birthing wife. Baby was out with a little tear, which meant that I had to be repaired with hardly any drugs. I HATED IT. I’d hired a doula and did all this because everyone around me kept saying this was the only way to have a baby, but that is not my way. I want to schedule a cesarean and I am scared of what people are going to think about me. Although to some of us a cesarean birth is not ideal, a negative experience of a natural childbirth can be even more detrimental not only to the mother but also to the child. We chose to work on the issue of boundaries and this client came to the conclusion that it was not really the birth she hated it, it was the choice she felt everyone made for her. She worked on her boundaries and went ahead and had a lovely natural birth the second time, because she had finally made the decision.
Peer pressure is a phenomenon we have all experienced in our lives at one point or another. Peers can be your community, friends or family, but even your partner. To please them, to be accepted by the group we might have done or do something that is not in line with our desires. How successfully you handle peer pressure depends a great deal on how you feel about yourself and your place in the world. Do you feel you have a right to be here in this world, to have what you need and desire? Are you afraid that if your opinion differs too much from those around you, you will be excluded and isolated? First, it is very important to really know what you want and need. Once you have a clear idea of your choices it is a matter of not allowing anybody to make you deviate from your position. Never be afraid to speak up and let others know your boundaries. You may experience many different reactions from belittlement to anger at first but you’ll be surprised how much most people respect the boundaries of others when they know what they are.
Step Three FEELING
Think of your childhood and try to remember those times and places where your feelings were either ignored or abused. Example: a client came in to see me after planning a VBAC and I asked her about her feelings. She said, “No matter what happened in my life my mom always told me how to feel, I can still hear her say to me, “There is no reason to cry, stop getting upset at something so silly, why aren’t you happy, you should be grateful.” It seemed I had no right to have my own feelings. So I learned to look at her to see how I was feeling about anything. During labor I was not even aware I had chosen a strong female doctor and kept looking at her to see how I should feel and behave during my labor. She ended up making all the decisions for me, she said my labor was taking too long, my baby was probably too big and I needed a cesarean. I know that did not feel right to me, I had been in labor for only ten hours and I thought I was doing great, but I just believed her when she said I was probably too tired to even push this baby out and I probably just wanted him out of me. So I agreed and had a cesarean, and my baby was 7.6lb a healthy boy. She looked at him and pronounced him lazy because he wanted to sleep and not breastfeed in recovery. I can’t say I have a good memory of my son’s first breath.
Sometimes, people just don’t realize that they’re crossing your boundaries when it comes to telling you how to feel or not to feel. Most moms don’t even realize they do what they do, as often they are either doing their best or they believe they do what they do for your own good. It is up to us to realize we might be stuck in a familiar pattern of people telling us how we feel vs. figuring it out for ourselves. We need to break away from that pattern. First, we must realize what we really feel. It seems simple, but if you have relied on someone else to tell you what you think and feel this will take some work. Let’s start by expressing our feelings as they come up, even if we don’t really know what they are but are simply aware of being uncomfortable or confused. Then when the time arises, when something has stirred uncomfortable feelings within you, you must speak up and let your feelings be known. Something as simple as saying “ouch” when someone has said something that has hurt you is a start to expressing your feelings in a non aggressive way. You can express yourself authentically and honestly maintaining your relationship while you get to know the people around you.
Help others feel good about themselves. When you help other people feel better about themselves and like themselves more, it will make you feel good about yourself. Write positive affirmations about yourself and repeat them, even in front of a mirror, hard but very effective. Last but not least: stop comparing yourself to other people. Low-self esteem stems from the feeling of being inferior.
These are only three small steps to stronger boundaries and a stronger self-esteem. Learning to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to communicate in a direct and honest manner. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly: especially if that somebody is you. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves – to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to love ourselves without owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us, and we need to teach our children how to have healthy boundaries by example.