Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Me and Mr. Darcy and All Those Boundaries

I always said I was like Elizabeth Bennett. For years, I felt I was most like her than any other Jane Austen character. I say what I think and I find some things uproariously funny. I'm also proud, stubborn, and very generous --I enjoy a good walk! But then I started thinking about how I was like other Austen characters, and I made some interesting discoveries.

I'm like Emma --I love to match-make, I tend to speak without thinking, I have a true sense of my privileges (and don't take them for granted), and I care deeply for those I love, even when my desires for others don't match what they truly want.

I'm like Marianne --I love poetry, passion, and nature. My love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation; I offend without meaning to, and when I find out I have, I do what I can to fix it. I dwell on the past and can often focus on regret until it's incapacitated me mentally.

I'm like Elinor --I have a deep sense of propriety. I can be very loyal, protective, and I often sacrifice my wants for the needs of others. As the oldest, I am a rule follower.

I'm like Catherine --I have a vivid imagination and will plan out different possible future circumstances. I love romance! I feel at ease in a large family, and I find over-the-top opulence to be exciting at first, but incredibly intimidating and needless overall.


I'm like Mr. Darcy --my good opinion once lost is usually lost forever. Once I lose someone's trust, it is incredibly hard for me to ever trust them again. I may pretend I trust them, I may treat them with cordiality, I may forgive them for the things they've said and done --but once I've been truly burned (especially by people I truly admired and loved), humiliated, or treated with disrespect (online or in person), I simply cannot trust them, anymore. But like Mr. Darcy, I have been known to anonymously use my power to help those I love when I can. I'm also a very loyal friend if my trust has been earned (or earned back! It can be earned back --it's just really, really, really hard).

I used to think that my "Mr. Darcy side" was a true failing (Elizabeth Bennett's words! and Darcy didn't disagree). For years I mourned this side of me, thinking that I was being petty, stubborn, or sinning. Recently, I've begun to realize that what I was doing was protecting myself from further harm. I feel things so deeply --I'm an empath, dear reader. I feel emotions around me and when a relationship starts to dip it's toes into toxicity, I panic a bit. I've been thrown into the fire many times (or under a bus, or hung out to dry, or... whatever cliche you'd like to insert here) and instead of getting myself out, I would yell, "guess I like being hurt!" and jump back in --because that's what I believed forgiveness meant. I would, literally, give of myself to friendships, even after they were all but disintegrated, because if I was to lose even one friendship (or family relationship), it would somehow mean I had failed at being a person. Charity, I thought, meant more than long-suffering. I seemed to think it meant constant, personal suffering.

Well, several years ago, I learned that it's not being cruel to remove myself from hurtful relationships --I was actually being cruel to myself for staying. I learned about healthy boundaries the hard way through experience. In fact, here's a few things I've discovered:

1. How to recognize when a person cares about themselves and their own agendas much more than me, either as a person, a friend, a family member, or a fellow ward member.
2. Knowing when forgiveness doesn't mean having to have a close (or any) relationship with somebody.
3. Recognizing that an online relationship is simply a reflection of the real relationship.
4. Watching people's opinions of me change very quickly based on what I agree with politically or religiously or because of my personal circumstances, like the family I have, the finances I have, etc. (this is always a red flag with me).
5. Realizing that the way I'm teased (mocked) is a direct reflection of the animosity or ill feelings a person has of me (not always, but this has been the correct conclusion so often, I can't ignore it).
6. Learning to recognize passive-aggressive behavior quickly.
7. Knowing that because I care too much what others think of me, I tend to hold onto relationships longer than is healthy, so I've had to learn to let go.
8. Just because I don't communicate with someone often doesn't mean I don't hold them in the highest esteem (and vice versa). Years can go by in between contact and I still have nothing but love and respect for them.

I'm also self-aware enough that I know I've been the toxic person for others. I know I've been really patronizing and I can be condescending, rude instead of bold, and defensive. I think my opinion is the best, I err on the side of honesty, and sometimes I push myself into conversations/situations that don't involve me. I know this. I don't think any of us are immune from being the wrong one in a relationship (we're all human, after all). When I sense people are withdrawing from me, I let them go. I didn't used to. I used to work so hard to apologize or make things better in order to save their opinion of me. It's taken a lot of work to get to the point where I understand when I really care about a person because of who they are, or I actually care about a person because I only care what they think of me. In other words, I'm allowing people to lose their trust in me, without allowing it to diminish my own worth or self-care, or --in some cases --my good opinion of them.

So, I guess, in that sense, I'm allowing others to be Mr. Darcy, too.

Really, though, all this comes down to is healthy boundaries. They're tricky, dear reader. But we have to learn how to recognize them and find ways to implement them so we can be better friends and better people overall.

Now, does anyone want to come over and watch some Pride and Prejudice with me? :) 


Courtney said...

Love this!!!! I feel all the same ways you do and am ever thankful you sent me a copy of the Boundaries book. I had to tell myself over and over "I can be kind and loving and have healthy boundaries."

Courtney said...

Love this!!!! I feel all the same ways you do and am ever thankful you sent me a copy of the Boundaries book. I had to tell myself over and over "I can be kind and loving and have healthy boundaries."