Are You A Pushover?Posted: May 26, 2011
Do you find yourself doing things for people you don’t actually want to be doing? Perhaps you felt like you were roped or guilted into it, or worse yet you were doing said action to win approval from the other person, knowingly or otherwise. We have many names for guys who exhibit these behaviors: the pushover, wuss, wimp or patsy (and several others I’ll spare your virgin eyes from.) Though the names are all different, the heart of the issue is the same. It is simply an issue of not adhering to personal boundaries.
Personal boundaries are the place where you differentiate yourself from others and hold true to your values, beliefs and desires. They are essentially the limits of acceptable behavior you establish for yourself and those around you. Boundaries also define the relationships you have with everyone outside of yourself and are the foundation of your personal integrity and power. As a mature man you must take the responsibility for defining and maintaining your personal boundaries, as they are a hallmark of a strong masculine character.
Most of us have heard the adage “we teach people how to treat us”. These lessons occur naturally when interacting with the people in our daily lives. As humans, we have developed a unique social acuity in order to prosper in our structured living groups. We have evolved language, storytelling, rituals and a whole palate of emotions as a result of living within a social hierarchy. We also have learned how to interpret social status by reading the cues that others reveal about their perception of their own self worth. The fact is you are constantly revealing how you see yourself in the world. Your personal boundaries are big indicators demonstrating your belief and estimate of your own self worth, and nine times out of ten the people around you will act in accordance to your belief, whether it positive or negative.
It is adherence to your personal boundaries that builds the integrity of your character and defines you as a unique individual. What is integrity exactly? The word itself stems from the Latin adjective integer, which means whole or complete. (Finally I get to use my two years of high school Latin!) In modern English we define the term as “the state of being whole and undivided” or “the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.” For our purposes here I’ll define it here:
Personal Integrity – When one’s values, beliefs and desires are congruent with their words and actions both internally (within the self) and externally (in relationship with others.)
When there is incongruence you are either being dishonest, hypocritical or inauthentic toward others or yourself. With minimal observation people will pick up on this, especially women, who have much more social acuity than men. It is universally unattractive when the integrity of your character shifts easily with the opinions of those around you like the direction of the wind. You are seen as being easily manipulated and therefore weak and flakey. That is the exact opposite of mature masculinity, which is decisive and firmly planted in the direction of your purpose. Having solid boundaries and knowing them intimately is one of the primary roots of mature masculinity. It is your personal boundaries that act as an outer wall to protect the congruency of your character. Just like a safe protects your valuables, your boundaries protect your emotional well-being from being manipulated or stolen from you by others exhibiting what you determine to be unacceptable behavior.
The concept of personal boundaries is particularly relevant in your relationships with women. Women have the uncanny knack of being able to find exactly where your limits are and testing you to see if you maintain your integrity. If a woman finds that she is able to cross your boundaries without any repercussions she surmises (correctly I may add) that you are lacking integrity in your character, the core masculine trait that is required for a woman to be able to trust you and surrender her femininity to you. If a woman cannot trust you to have the integrity to maintain your own boundaries, how can she trust you enough to bare her own feminine vulnerability to you? The answer is she can’t, and though she may not leave, she will feel the need to delve more into her masculine side to protect her emotions, thus minimizing sexual polarity and her attraction for you. (If this concept is new to you please check out my previous posts here and here.)
Even when you do pass a woman’s test, know that she will still continue to test you over time. This is because the feminine constantly needs to feel that you are living in your masculine integrity if is she is to remain in relationship with you. If you do not pass these tests consistently she realizes she is not dealing with a man she can trust and will increasingly continue to test you to find other weaknesses. This will happen as long as you are interacting with her, so it is vital that you know your boundaries and live in accordance to them. If you do so these tests of your integrity will never be an issue.
So what you need to do to build and maintain your personal boundaries?
1. Know Thyself
Know who you are, where you stand and what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Basically this means intimately knowing your values or “moral compass” and being comfortable to stand firmly behind it. This is not to say that your moral compass is inflexible and cannot evolve, but rather that those shifts are consciously chosen and thus you take responsibility for them. (This also just so happens to be massively attractive to women.)
If you feel you don’t know the boundaries of your values I suggest taking time to look back on the events in your life where you felt manipulated and compare them to find any consistent patterns. Journaling is very useful for this, as the more you write the more the patterns will emerge. Once you see the patterns you will be able to determine where your boundaries begin and the lines of demarcation lie. By investing in this time of reflection you will begin to truly know yourself, and it will be practically impossible for you to be controlled or manipulated by others.
2. Courage over Conflict
For most people the real issue is not so much knowing where their values lie as is it being unapologetic and unafraid for standing up for them when conflict occurs. By embracing the courage to face conflict intentionally you can resolve it from a place of honesty, strength and freedom. You are taking personal responsibility and making deliberate decisions that stem from your values and desires rather than your emotions.
When someone’s behavior crosses your boundaries and breeches your integrity it is your responsibility to let them know their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If you do nothing you are accepting their behavior by default through your inaction, thus handing them implied consent to do it again. By knowing your boundaries intimately you are able to consciously choose confrontation from a sound place of mind rather than getting caught up in your emotional reactions over the issue. The more you do this the more confidence and personal power you will gain in your relationships, and the much less likely you will be challenged in the future.
3. The Power of No
Before you are able to sincerely say “yes”, you must have the freedom and comfort to say the word “no”. The power of no is essentially the power of choice. When you do not have the liberty to say no to someone’s request you basically are powerless. This powerlessness is all too often self-induced when, despite our freedom to say no, doing so brings us anxiety because we are overly concerned with what others will think. These concerns are rarely based in reality, as most people are far too busy managing their own lives and anxieties to worry much over your non-compliance. To manage this anxiety, become consciously aware when you are feeling anxious or conflicted as a result of your inability to say no. What are your fears if you do say no? What are the actual likely repercussions? Is the worst-case scenario something you will be able to live through easily enough? More often than not our perception of the repercussions is far worse in our minds than they ever could actually be. Recognizing this is the first step to regaining your power.
If you struggle with saying no, start out by declining small requests that have no real bearing for you. By doing so you will eventually get comfortable with saying the word while maintaining your power. Then slowly move up to the larger requests that begin to cross your boundaries. As a rule I never hesitate to say no to win/lose scenarios, for those situations almost always cross my boundary of fairness and are outside of my personal integrity. Use your self-knowledge to determine what requests are outside the limits of your integrity. The beautiful thing here is that this process of desensitization not only builds up your courage to stand up for your boundaries in the face of pressure, but gains you confidence every time you do so that transcends every area of your life.
4. Be Proactive
When it comes to boundaries, a good offense is sometimes the best defense. When you are proactive and communicate immediately that you have boundaries, you set a precedent for respecting your limits when others are interacting with you. This is particularly useful when dealing with controlling, powerful people and especially so with women.
If you find yourself dealing with someone like this, set a deliberate boundary as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be over anything significant and ideally is done so in a fun and playful manner, but a precedent is set nonetheless. Doing this demonstrates that you understand boundaries and will not hesitate to enforce them. These people will also be much more likely to treat you with mutual respect and comply to your requests in the future.
Too many of us forget the indisputable truth that no one actually has power over us unless we permit them to. Our personal boundaries are our psychological filters that allow us to keep our power for ourselves and live within our integrity. While the price for non-compliance can be high in some situations (say the IRS for instance), most often the repercussions are minimal and inflated in our own perceptions. Decide now to know your boundaries and live true to them no matter what the cost. Being conscious of your boundaries provides you the freedom to decide exactly how you want to live and with whom you will spend your time living it with. Rest assured it is a decision you will not regret. Furthermore, you will be living your life from a place of strength, integrity, liberty and peace of mind…just as a real man should.
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