When is it Time to Kick Back?

by Wendy Wolfe on September 27, 2012

One of my readers shared a situation after reading my blog “Holding a Grudge According to Cats and Horses” that brought up a good question that I think could serve us all to consider.  You may see yourself here.  It is a human condition that women especially share.

From Jennifer:  “I found myself in a business situation questioning my own actions…should I stay quiet, or say something. (My business directly involves animals) I was doing business with a woman, who found direct ways and passive aggressive ways to ridicule me and my equipment. In my opinion, the animals weren’t “cooperating” because their owner didn’t tell them what she expected of them, and her anxiety level was through the roof. So I, as I usually do, kept quiet and let the owner attempt to work through her problems. This went on for eight hours. The ridiculing went on for eight hours as well. In my experience, even with the “naughtiest” animal, it hasn’t ever gone over three hours. In this case, I felt as though the owner was inhibiting the animals from doing what’s natural to them. So, I stayed longer in hopes that the owner could work through the issue. For about 7.5 hours, I stayed quiet and neutral. In the last half hour, I finally barked back at the woman.

So, I found myself wondering how I could’ve handled the situation better. I’ve always been told, the people who bark the loudest are usually the people who hurt the most inside. In the case of this woman, I strongly feel she was deeply hurting. As a human, I wanted to be kind and patient, but as an imperfect human I barked back at her. This sounds to me like your article. So when you say “The next time someone says something rude, infringes on your space or is less than considerate with you, give them some slack. Maybe they just need to kick, buck and run.” I completely agree. My only question is, at what point do you kick back?”

First, I want to applaud Jennifer for being mindful and noticing what was really going in her situation. Yes, this woman was in pain and Jennifer exhibited great compassion and understanding.  Not knowing all the circumstances, I can only speculate that what might have been helpful in this situation would have been to find a way to help the client see what she was creating.  I appreciate that Jennifer was offering her an opportunity to figure it out…and perhaps in this case Jennifer gave her more time than she deserved.

While I do think we should give people some slack, I don’t mean we should let people walk over us or be disrespectful.

Boundaries are very important…we teach people how to treat us by our actions and inactions.

Unfortunately, it is rare for boundaries to be taught to us and in fact, our lessons around boundaries are more often detrimental to our well being, especially when we are highly sensitive.  We are taught to be kind and nice to others…often at the expense of our well being.

Most of us grew up with the message that we are responsible for how others feel.  It’s innocent enough on the part of the parent; they are modeling what they learned.  But when a child is told not to do something because it makes Mommy sad or Daddy angry, the child assumes a great deal of power and responsibility that isn’t theirs.  Mommy chooses to be sad at the child’s behavior and Daddy also makes a choice to be mad.  But the lesson says that we are responsible for how others feel and that their needs are more important than ours. No boundaries exist in this situation.

The empathic and sensitive child feels Mommy’s sadness and Daddy’s anger and without someone telling her their feelings are not her responsibility, it becomes difficult for her to sort through what are her feelings and what feelings belong to another.  This gets quite complicated as she grows up.

Boundaries are not only set with our words and action or inaction.  We can also set energetic boundaries.  When you learn to sense and control your personal energy field, you can begin to create stronger energetic boundaries.  Even though these boundaries are invisible, people will notice them on an energetic level and unconsciously respond to them.

Although it is not admirable in our society to be selfish there is a form of selfishness that is very important.  Self care is not selfishness.  And the truth is, when we pay attention to our own needs, when we don’t allow others to deplete our energy, we have more of us to give.  So in a sense being selfish is a means to actually be able to give more.

If you take your cues from a good Bitch…and I mean female dog ;-), when training another puppy or adult dog how to behave around her she will tolerate a certain level, then she will give subtle warnings when boundaries are being crossed and if necessary she will snap. There is a progression in her communication.  She is telling the other dog that how they are behaving is not acceptable.

The difference between her and us is that we usually don’t say anything until we need to snap and then we take it personally.   She just sees it as communicating to the other dog what is and isn’t acceptable. Once she makes the correction, she forgets about it and her boundaries are understood.

When we let things fester because we are not speaking up, eventually the frustration will need to come out either directly at someone where we finally explode in anger or in some other fashion (like mindlessly eating a bag of chips). If instead we speak up when we need to and communicate in an authentic and loving way, we stop the tension from building and avoid the explosion.

This means we need to set boundaries like a Bitch.  We need to teach people how to treat us and be prepared that it might upset some people especially if we have allowed them to step over the line in the past.  It’s okay to say no to going out with a friend when you really don’t feel up to it.  Its okay to not pick up the phone when your mother calls (that’s what caller ID is for) when you are not in a good place to talk to her.  Wait.  Allow yourself to do what you need to so that you are cared for.  Then, when you return the call or join your friend, you can be fully present with her which is much more of a gift than responding to her urgency at your expense.

We are raised to be nice and we want to be liked and not rock the boat. But there is a clear difference between being nice and calmly exercising our right to our personal boundaries and basic respect.

If you’ve had issues with these types of experiences I would encourage you to begin getting clear with your boundaries calmly and without drama.

When we know what we are willing or not willing to tolerate and establish this up front, people begin to treat us differently.

And in the end, there is much less need to kick back.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

MamaRed September 27, 2012 at 11:01 am

Fantabulous article Wendy, fantastic. And it is soooooooooooo true on so many levels! I teach my clients (mostly women) how to be consciously “selfish” (or, as I call it SELF-ISH™: Selfcare Energized by Loving Forgiveness, Invigorated by Spirit Healing) in order to set appropriate boundaries and heal themselves AND others. It is such a vital distinction, especially given how so many of us were raised to take responsibility for others and negate ourselves and how we’re doing, feeling, and acting.

Thanks for such a beautifully written response to a VERY important topic.


Diane Ludeking September 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Oh boy! This post resonated with me in a profound way, Wendy. This line in particular made my ears perk up: “But when a child is told not to do something because it makes Mommy sad or Daddy angry, the child assumes a great deal of power and responsibility that isn’t theirs.” There is so much truth in this one sentence. I can think of times I’ve been on both sides of this coin. I’ve taken responsibility for upsetting someone AND given my power away by allowing someone to upset me. Thank you for this post – I now have more clarity about the ever challenging dance with boundaries.


Leslie September 27, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Hi Wendy! This is an excellent post on boundaries and arrived just when my daughter and I were talking about how we both need to adjust our boundaries to better serve us. You have it all explained here “in a nutshell”. Thanks


Daniela LeBlanc September 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm

You are so right Wendy. You can be empathetic, sympathetic and trying to be helpful. But when the other party infringes on your space (mental, personal, physical), it’s time to be clear about your boundaries. And that’s where most of us women fail because we have not set them and are unclear about them ourselves. If we are not clear about them, how can another being know where they are? Horses have taught me a great deal about boundaries, about their flexibility and firmness at the same time. If you eliminate the word “let” and switch it with “allow” – you will have openend your awareness how powerful you can be yourself. It isn’t about not honoring the other person or animal but about clear intention.


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