Category Archives: Boundaries

Actually, I get to make my life decisions. Not you.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

**Note: religious references included**

My church has an email list where ladies can ask for help, look for things they need, sell things they don’t need, etc…. I use it frequently because I’m a single mom trying to do the work of two people and I usually need some help. So a while back, when I wasn’t getting enough hours at work, I posted a notice that I was looking for odd jobs to make some extra money. A woman on the list contacted me and encouraged me to apply where she works. She was very pushy and adamant. (She totally ignores me at church, and has been distant the few times I’ve tried to start a conversation with her.) She insisted I should apply at her employer because the hours are kid friendly, and I’d be working while the kids were at school. She wanted me to be a school lunch lady. Now I don’t look down on that position or anybody who works it, but I really need to earn more money to get by. The pay was minimum wage, and the hours were only 2-4 hours a day. No way I’m going to support a family on that! So I put in an application for substitute work, but kept looking for something better.

On a whim, I ended up finding a job that I loved. It is completely different from anything I’ve done before, but it’s taught me a lot about what I’m good at and which direction I want to go next. I loved the job and got a lot of compliments from clients. I soon became a company favorite! However, the company itself was not stable, so I started looking for the same position in a better company about six months later. I again posted on the church list asking for ideas, and the same woman again suggested I go where she worked. This time she was a bit angry sounding and basically told me I “should have” gone where she told me to go. I hate “should haves!”

Within days, I found a new job in my new field with a far better company and slightly higher pay. I was very happy! Unfortunately, unlike the previous company, this one required I work Sundays, which is a no-no in my church. I made my availability as short as possible on Sunday, but I still have to work it from time to time. I feel okay about this, but I have trouble finding childcare since my church is against working on Sunday and most of my friends who baby-sit for me go to my church. So, I posted on the list asking if anyone had any advice or knew anyone who could baby-sit on a Sunday.

Oh. My. Goodness. That woman replied again and basically told me off. She didn’t just reply to me, but she replied to the entire list berating me for not taking the job she kept trying to get me to take. She even specifically noted in the message that she was telling the whole list so others could know. She was telling me off saying if I’d done what she said, I wouldn’t have this problem. It was so darned rude, that I didn’t bother to reply. Good grief!

I wasn’t about to engage with that inappropriate email from her, but in my head I was thinking everything I wanted to say! Here’s the deal, lady: I make the decisions for my life. Not you. I made the decision that worked best for my family, my income needs, and my conscience. I found a job in a helping profession, and I feel like this is the way God is leading me. I am so happy serving people and helping to take care of them, and I’m proud that I can do good work. I’m also realizing that I want to follow this lead because it’s a talent I never knew I had and it gives me more life satisfaction than the demoralizing office jobs I’ve been working. So basically, bossy pants, I’m going to go the way God is directing me–not some woman I barely know. I’m pretty sure He has more sense ;)

Oh it irritated me that she sent that message. I don’t think she’s an abuser or anything, but definitely a bit controlling. Some people just latch on to the idea that they know how to run your life better than you do. I think she’s living in some kind of la la land, too, because she is married to someone who supports the home and her work is just for extras. Maybe it’s just fine for her to work a few hours a week at minimum wage, but I have a mortgage to cover, and no one else to help pay it!

Like I said, I didn’t engage her, or reply with as nasty a message as she sent me, nor did I bother to defend myself. Frankly, it’s none of her business why I didn’t choose to obey her wishes. It’s just so bizarre that someone I’ve attempted to talk to twice in two years, (only to get a cold shoulder,) thinks she gets to control my life.

Nope. I am perfectly capable of doing that myself, thank you.

Turning Post-Traumatic Stress into Post-Traumatic Growth

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I learned about a new idea tonight–the theory of Post Traumatic Growth. After going through an extremely abusive relationship, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I think my case is “mild,” but it sometimes comes back to me and ruins a day or two with flashbacks and bad dreams. I hate what happened to me, but sometimes I can see that it changed me for the better. I wish I could have changed for the better without being abused, but the events definitely pushed me into realizing I needed to learn to protect myself from predatory people and it inspired me to put more value on myself…and to better take care of myself.

In abuse recovery groups, we often hear cliches telling us that things will become better than before and that we will learn to be stronger and happier after trauma. It sometimes seems very hard to believe, but on good days, I know it’s true. My life, and my treatment of myself has changed dramatically for the better since I escaped from an abuser and said “no more!”


The article I read tonight was based on the book Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth
When I read this article, I could relate. The idea of growing stronger after trauma is not a new idea, but I’m excited and inspired that there are researchers studying it and learning about it. The article notes that, it isn’t the trauma that helps us grow, but instead we grow from our reactions and our thoughts about it.

In that study, participants who went through a period of deliberate rumination, in which they thought deeply about their experience and how best to find a way forward, were more likely to rebound to a better place.

 

 

 

The article mentions that it is important not to get stuck, though. That is something that is hard to avoid for those of us who continue to deal with abusive people. It’s really hard not to focus on how bad things are, when it seems like no change is in sight. I know for me, my head understood how to “get over it” a lot sooner than my heart did. I finally had to make the jump from just understanding how to feel better to actually, actively getting better!

 

Here’s another quote that especially spoke to me:

…in another report, those who felt more depressed after their diagnoses were more likely to say they had made positive changes up to two years later compared with those who found the ordeal less trying.

That’s pretty comforting. Of course we hate going through really rough recovery after domestic abuse, but those of us who have it harder are more likely to make the bigger, better changes. There is light at the end of this tunnel! Sometimes we struggle to believe that we will rebound better than ever, but now there are experts and studies to back us up and gives us information on who recovers better.
Here’s another article on the subject that lists some characteristics of people who grow instead of “breaking.” One of the things that can help you recover better is a good social support system, but here’s an interesting quote:
Support from those who have had your experience can be just as helpful – even if those people are strangers. Back in the day, this takes the form of bereavement groups. Today, it can be a Facebook group or an online community.
This is good to know! Especially for those of us who are estranged from abusive families, or who have watched our abusers fool and take all our friends away from us.
Another thing that can help is “emotional” disclosure. Talking to others is good, but so is writing in a journal or sharing what happened to you. There are more helpful points and ideas, but it all comes down to: we have the power to view our traumas in a productive way and choose the mindset to thrive. Our thoughts control our emotions, and it’s important that WE take our thoughts where we want to go!

Here are a couple other books about Post-Traumatic Growth that sound promising:

 

Seeing the signs and avoiding a potential predator

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

As a former doormat with terrible boundaries and a fear of saying “no,” I have often found that predators and creepers like to push boundaries with me. I have been bad at saying no because I try to be polite and avoid their yucky comments instead of being bold and stopping them. I’ve been a magnet for predatory people because I was an easy target.

Recently, someone that I believe is going to prove to be bad news has been trying some typical narcissistic games/predatory moves on me. In the past, I might have fallen for some of them, but this time, my red flag detectors are working! I wanted to share my observations of warning signs because what I’m seeing is pretty typical of the way a narcissist will cozy up to a vulnerable person. Although I have come a long way, I still have a lot of weak spots that probably look fun and inviting to toxic people.

First of all, this person tried to find common ground with me based on the fact that we are both estranged from our mothers. He kept complimenting me on my strength. Well, as someone who has struggled with a narcissist mother all my life, this tactic has almost always worked on me. I’ve always been glad to hear from others in the same situation. Sometimes they are sincere, and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes it’s a creeper trying to connect on a more personal and intimate level. At first, I responded to this person eagerly because I love to connect and discuss. But, he barely responded. When he did, he started complimenting me again. Uh oh. He brought up the toxic mother commonality, but didn’t really have anything to say about it. Does he really have a narc mom?

This isn’t a sign on its own, but it is not unusual for a predator/narcissist to play victim and try to relate to a real victim/survivor. We want to trust others who share our stories, but unfortunately, our desire to find others who can relate also opens us to more narcissists. I am aware that this person is married, and has been for a long time. So…I put up my warning boundaries and kept the conversation pretty neutral. I will discuss narcissistic parents, but we don’t need to discuss how smart, strong, or cute I am. Uggh.

Second sign: This person continued to compliment me. Compliments are nice! But when overdone, they get a bit uncomfortable. Why is this person bombing me with praise? And how come every time I divert to a conversation, it comes back to these superficial compliments? Hmmm…. I feel like this person wants something from me…but it’s not a good chat! I don’t want a married man being so friendly with me.

Although I am not pursuing a relationship with this person, it is still common for narcissists and predatory types to “love bomb” a new target with all kinds of admiration. We all like to be praised, and it’s easy to be blinded by praise from someone with not-so-good intentions.

The third sign was the clincher. He started trying to triangulate between myself and another single woman who has a lot in common with me. He started telling me she seemed very jealous of the fact that he talked to me and “liked” my comments on Facebook. Oh no. I am not interested in this person, and he’s not going to get me interested by trying to make me jealous of another woman. I am not competing for him! He persisted in telling me that the woman was very jealous and that she was starting to act crazy. This is quite bizarre, because he and I are not heading anywhere near a relationship. I’m barely talking to him and I’m trying to keep things light and neutral. There isn’t anything for anyone to be jealous of!

It is common for a narcissist to try to make a potential target jealous by pretending they are in high demand. It’s human nature to want what others want, and it makes the predator seem more special and valuable. Subconsciously, it makes us more likely to want them.

Fourth: After talking to this person off and on, he suddenly tells me his divorce will be final THIS week. Surprise! That’s weird. His Facebook status shows married to his wife. No separation, no fighting…just married. There’s a big smiley picture of her! I already know to be wary of men who claim they are going to get divorced some day. They aren’t divorced until they actually are, but predatory types will keep a woman on the hook by promising they are going to file any day now.

Actions speak louder than words. Predators tell us all kinds of stories, but we can only believe what they SHOW us.

Finally, this person told me that the “other” woman had blocked him on Facebook and that he was sorry he’d trusted her. He then told me he hoped I would still be a friend to him because he’s going through a rough time.

Do you see the red flags waving and the flashing lights going off!?

A narcissist will always say the other person is “crazy” when the other person places a boundary and tries to get away. They will also play victim and seek your comfort.

Now, if I’d seen just one of these signs, or even two, I might not want to jump to conclusions, but my conversations with this person are heading straight into uh uh, no no no territory. There are too many weird stories, there is too much triangulation and there is…a wife. Ahem. I will be keeping my distance.

Be careful out there and make sure to be alert when it comes to detecting creepers!

This is a mild story since I wasn’t even contemplating dating this guy, but if you are interested, I have an eBook about big red flags of narcissism in dating relationships. Been there. Done that!

A Woman’s Guide to Detecting Narcissistic Men: Thirty Tips for Recognizing a Potential Predator

Having strong boundaries and dating deal breakers–and sticking to them!

laymitrustgiftglowinghands I was thinking earlier about dating and how some people have very strict guidelines for what they want in a relationship. Sometimes we call them deal breakers….

In my own experience, I have an ideal in mind. I know that there are certain qualities that are essential to me. BUT, in the past, I have almost always let them slide. I have dated too many people who weren’t a good match for me, and I knew it from the start. Maybe there was something they did that I found ethically unacceptable, or a belief they held that I thought was really awful, or any other personality trait. Knowing that something made me uncomfortable, I’d still date someone that I knew wasn’t a good match. Why? I always thought I was being very open-minded and I was great at compromising. How about…I wasn’t being true to the qualities that mattered to me? I’m not talking about a cute butt or nice wavy hair, but about core religious or political values, life goals…things that matter.

I’ve always been super shy, so I was just so glad that someone wanted to date me, that I never stopped to wait for someone who was more my type! On the other hand, I know people who will refuse to start a relationship when they know there is a deal breaker. I just turned fuzzy and waived what should have been deal breakers for me, but people who have stronger self-esteem, more patience, and more respect for themselves seem to be better at making choices that will enhance their lives in the long run.

There’s something to be said for giving everyone a chance, but there’s also something to be said for holding strong to the qualities that are very important to us. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn–very painfully–in life.

I know my tendency to “over compromise” and to be very long-suffering has a lot to do with my having dated more than one abusive man. If one of them did something that would scare away a girl with more sense, I’d just ignore it and keep trying to make the relationship good. Lost cause!

I am learning to be the woman who says “that is not good for me, and it’s not what I’m looking for in a relationship” when it’s obvious that the relationship is not going to go well.

If a person doesn’t see your value, don’t try to force them to. Respect yourself!

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

For going on three years, my narcissistic sociopath ex spouse has trashed me to anyone and everyone he can find–including all of my closest friends, my family, my toddler, all of my acquaintances, and possibly even some potential employers. He is relentless. But, he’s also charming and he’s in their faces pushing boundaries all the time while I’m at home raising kids and living my life. So, he’s the one most people believe. You would think that any sane person would wonder why he goes around giving them unsolicited monologues about how evil I am, but sadly, not many people stop to think about that!

After I kicked the abuser out of my life, he began smearing me within days, and he started with my local social acquaintances to be sure to cut me off from any possible support right at my home base. Then he went for men who had tried to date me, the people I talked to most, my closest friends. When he worked through all the “valuable” people, he just started aiming for anyone who was left. I have lost so many false friends this way.

Recently at a social event, I was talking with someone that I had been friendly with in the past, and my ex abuser happened to enter the room, (specifically to intimidate me, but that is a whole other story!) As soon as the narcopath walked in, the person I was chatting with stepped back and said maybe he shouldn’t be talking to me because my ex abuser had warned him not to. I was shocked that an adult would be so gullible. “Okay,” I said and started to walk away. The guy changed his mind and decided it would be okay to talk to me after all. Gee, lucky me. Since my abuser has so many people giving me the cold shoulder based on his lies and the web of gossip he created, I was sort of glad to have someone to talk to anyway. More than once, the guy made comments about how we shouldn’t look too friendly. At the time, I accepted that.

Then I got home and realized how incredibly rude and childish that person was–at over 50 years old! What an ass he was to treat me like I was lucky he’d talk to me because he was warned by someone who viciously abused me and many other women! I had never done anything to him, and I am wonderful person which is exactly why the abuser was trying to consume my life. Jerk! I now wish that I had just walked away the moment he acted like he was doing me a favor by allowing me to be in his presence. Who needs to be treated so badly? Especially based on lies and a sociopath’s smear campaign? Next time, I will spend my precious time with someone thoughtful and respectful!

Trust your instincts, but don’t miss out on good people!

Your friends are a big influence on you. Choose them wisely!

Your friends are a big influence on you.
Choose them wisely!

I’m reading my latest copy of Reader’s Digest again and found a part of an article that really spoke to me. (As often happens because there is so much to learn from the experiences and wisdom of others!) This was an article called “The Man With Perfect Manners.” It looks very similar to the author Paul Ford’s post online, although it isn’t exactly the same.

Even though the article and post are about etiquette, it was a different aspect of the article that made me think. To quote: “Politeness leaves doors open. I’ve met so many people whom, if I had trusted my first impressions, I would never have wanted to meet again. Yet many of them are now great friends.”

As I’ve mentioned before, I am divorced from a sociopath. Before I realized what he was, I saw many warning signs, but ignored them because they didn’t seem reasonable in light of the words he was telling me when he was flattering me. I know wish I had paid attention. There is truly safety and wisdom in trusting your instincts! But here this article gave me reason to reconsider relying on first impressions. I guess it’s safe to say if you sense a predator, trust those instincts, but if you simply don’t feel a connection, stay open-minded? Maybe that is a good line to draw between the two extremes.

Anyway, predators aside, Ford offers good advice. I have some good friends that I initially did not like. One of them, I’ve been friends with for 25 years now, and another was my closest friend through high school and for many years. I know people who’ve met their spouse and been unimpressed, yet met them again later and fell in love. (In fact, the author of the article has the same story.) He points out that we shouldn’t discount someone just because they are having an off day.

One reason I take this personally is because I was a downer for a long time after escaping my ex-abuser. Even my friends got sick of me. When I’m not depressed and in shock, I’m a fun/funny and interesting person, (or at least some people would say!) I’d hate it if I met a potential friend or date who is a great choice for me, but they avoided me because the better version of me wasn’t showing that day. And, I’d be sorry to miss out on a great friend just because I met them on one of their bad days. There are so many experiences in life, that it’s hard to set a specific rule that works for all situations. Do I trust my instincts or do I give a second chance? There are good reasons for both choices, but I really want to be careful about weeding out the safe people and more astute about weeding out the dangerous people in the future. It’s something to think about…

Learning to look out for myself

Life doesn't happen to me. I make life happen. I'm learning to look out for myself at lifeasyoumakeit.com When I first started writing this blog, I decided I was going to review the self-help books that were helping me. I realized that I was too passive, too fearful, lacked boundaries and just wasn’t getting as much out of life as I should. So, I started reading and learning about a whole bunch of topics that were helping me become the person I wanted to be–happy, fulfilled, successful, productive and a good mom. I picked the title “Life As You Make It,” because I wanted to focus on how we can all MAKE our lives the way WE want them to be instead of just letting life happen to us, because, as I go through life, I’m realizing how true that is, and how many opportunities I’ve missed by being passive.

I have learned so much, not just from reading the books, but by processing my thoughts, considering my life patterns and writing about what I learn. It’s therapeutic, it opens my mind to change, and it makes me feel like I’m really finding my path in life.

The old me was afraid to speak up about my wants and needs, but the new me looks out for myself.I came at this blog as a survivor of a bad childhood and an incredibly abusive relationship. My mousy ways made me a magnet for predatory people. But, they also kept me from meeting good healthy people, finding and advancing in the right career, and looking out for my own best interests in every day life. I don’t mean looking out for myself in a selfish way, but in an assertive way, where I speak up for my rights and voice my needs and wants. The very qualities that were attracting abusers were also keeping me from being fulfilled.

I’ve just been writing about things that inspire me, good books I read, chapters that are exciting, research that makes me think and tips that help me. There isn’t one single topic because it’s about getting the best from life in all areas that matter to me. And I’ve finally realized what I am doing:

I am learning to look out for myself!

 Through life, I have not done a good job of looking out for myself or standing up for myself. I didn’t know the life skills that come naturally to some people. I’ve just drifted around settling for relationships or jobs that didn’t make me feel good and didn’t make my life better. I was not looking out for myself at all! I would be extra considerate of others, but never myself. That is now changing!

I don’t want to be vulnerable to predators anymore.

I don’t want to be the woman who is looked over for promotions anymore.

I don’t want to be the person who is afraid to speak up anymore.

I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out on the good stuff anymore.

And I am ready to take charge and re-invent my life the way I want it to be!

I am excited about learning from others, learning from my own mistakes, and sharing my journey with others. It’s a great feeling to know that I am in charge of my life and to know that, even when bad things happen to me, I am gaining the knowledge to bounce back and take care of myself better than ever before. Especially for other abuse survivors, I want you to know, it does get better. I didn’t enjoy the trials I experienced, but I realize now that they happened to give me the epiphany I needed to snap out of my passive lifestyle, and change my life for the better. I am a doormat no more, and I want others to know that you can recover and thrive. It all starts with the decision to learn.

Why men treat some women differently than others

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

I’ve blogged about some of these things before, but a conversation I had with a friend the other day got me thinking some more. My friend mentioned that a man she knows, that she thought she was just friends with, started asking her very personal sexual questions and making sexually harassing comments to her. When she confided in another woman he knew, that other woman found it hard to believe because he had never treated her that way. My friend is not an especially flirty person, and is definitely not the type to lead people on, but she has been treated like a doormat pretty regularly because she is nicer to people than they are to her. So I got to thinking…why did that man treat my friend so disrespectfully while he is always respectful with the other woman they both know?

I have had similar problems in my life. Once when I was pregnant, a much older man who had children my age, told me that he wanted to make love to a pregnant woman his daughter’s age, and continued making gross comments to me. I did not initiate that type of conversation, but for some reason, he thought it was okay to turn the casual conversation that way and say creepy things to me. He would never dream of treating many other women that way. I did not want or deserve his nasty comments. I was appalled.

I’ve asked over time why this has happened to me, and why it has happened to my friend who is also very “mousy” like I have been. Part of it is, predators know how to target specific people who have been victimized before, and part of it is because people learn how to treat us the way we treat ourselves, but there’s more to it. I did not treat myself like a woman who wants to be sexually harassed, and neither did my friend, that’s for sure! But, these creepers saw in us women with poor boundaries, women who seemed unsure about themselves, women who were not very assertive and women who wouldn’t stand up to them. We were easy targets for cowards who wouldn’t dare say the same things to strong, loud women.

When I told one of my other friends about the older man’s yucky comments to me, she noted that men do not speak to her that way. And it’s not because I’m any prettier or younger; it’s because her body language and her personality show that she is NOT going to put up with hearing that crap! So much of this is related to boundaries. A woman with strong boundaries doesn’t let people blur the lines or test and push at the boundaries. She says “NO!” when the creeper even tries to be inappropriate. Me? (And my friend.) We are both very polite and try to joke or squirm our ways out of uncomfortable conversations.

Let me say now, that it is okay to put a stop to those conversations and be “rude” to someone who is sexually harassing us!

These skills aren’t based on being shy or outgoing, introverted or extroverted, or anything else. We can learn and enforce good boundaries no matter what our personality types…and that is what I am doing!

10 Stupid Things Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives–book review


Click here to purchase Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives

A lot of women make poor choices to keep a man around or to avoid being alone. (Been there, done that!) Being alone is scary, and when you don’t have a lot of money, it’s hard to make it on your own sometimes. A lot of women get trapped by these types of fears and waste their time in bad relationships. I bought this book when I was in an abusive marriage and I was trapped by these thoughts. I was scared to go out on my own, to live on my own, to be alone. I thought I couldn’t make enough money to pay my bills without a partner. I thought I’d be sad and lonely without someone to come home to. I thought being miserable was a less scary choice than being alone. WRONG! This no-nonsense book helped knock some sense in to me. Yes, it was still lonely and scary to leave and be by myself, but it got much easier. In fact, now I like being single.

The chapter titles in this book are:

1. Stupid Attachment
2. Stupid Courtship
3. Stupid Devotion
4. Stupid Passion
5. Stupid Cohabitation
6. Stupid Expectations
7. Stupid Conception
8. Stupid Subjugation
9. Stupid Helplessness
10. Stupid Forgiving

Dr. Laura gives sensible and practical advice explaining why we all of the above choices are not healthy for us, (or our children.) Each chapter is broken down into smaller sections of a couple paragraphs to a couple pages each, so it’s easy to read a little at a time without getting lost. Here are some of the main ideas: You don’t need a man to define you, you don’t have to lower your standards to keep one around, you should not let one back in your life after he abuses you, you should not let one hurt your kids or prevent you from being a good mother. The point is you can be strong on your own and keep your dignity instead of degrading yourself for a pseudo relationship. Dr. Laura encourages you to be strong and have good boundaries and self-respect…and hold out for good relationships. She also brings up important questions about why we would end up in bad relationships in the first place–what needs are we trying to fill? I think this is a good book for those of us who have settled for less than we wanted or deserved in the past!

How I’m learning how NOT to be a predator magnet!

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

So after I started recognizing all the qualities that were drawing abusive people, narcissists and con-artists towards me, I knew something needed to change! I was shy, a wallflower, non-assertive, lonely, and lacking self-esteem, but I think my two biggest issues were I had zero to no boundaries and I was kind of desperate. In fact, I didn’t start dating abusive men until my late 20′s. Before that, I’d dated all nice guys. What changed? I honestly think it was the biological clock issue. The guy I dated through most of my 20s was not the kind of person I wanted to marry. But, as I got closer to 30, I started panicking! Instead of waiting for a man who really fit my values and gave me time to get to know him, I fell for the charm and insistence of a man who turned out to be a narcissist. He wanted me to move in with him and get engaged pretty fast, and I went with it. I should have had some boundaries and given myself time to really know that person. I used to have a lot of strict dating rules, but I let go of them over the years. I have to admit, when I was more strict, (especially about sex early in the relationship,) I did not end up with jerks. Hmmm….

So this is where I need to learn about boundaries as well as learn to say “no” without guilt or explanation. How sad that it never occurred to me before that I could say “no” to people without feeling like I had done something wrong! I also realized it was okay to be a bit choosy. I don’t have to date whatever guy asks me out. I can say “no” and wait for someone who is a better match. (Duh!)

I started reading about boundaries, co-dependency, good relationships, self-esteem, success and more. Here are some of the things I learned could help me avoid being targeted by bullies and predators:

“No” is a complete sentence.

I don’t always have to defend myself or my choices. If you get caught up defending your valid life choices, the bully is going to back you in a corner demanding you explain yourself. Nope. I don’t need to explain a thing! Bullies want a reaction and they want you to keep talking. Sometimes, moving on without a word is the smartest response. Furthermore, engaging and defending yourself makes you seem weaker because you care too much about what others say rather than remaining confident in your own truth. The more you say, they more a bully can find to pick on.

I need to STOP telling people too much too soon. Bullies will take your insecurities and run with them! And the more you tell people, the more they have to work with when they want to mock, stalk or prey on you. People with poor boundaries violate their own privacy by giving away too much information which shows predators that they are easy targets.

I need to practice self-control. Instead of letting myself get caught up in romance, I need to limit myself and give myself time to think instead of rushing in. The romantic predator is hoping to overwhelm you and push you into a relationship to get you hooked before you know what is going on.

I need to beware of making hasty decisions–especially if someone is pushing me–and stop being afraid to ask questions.

I need to recognize my needs and desires and speak up for them. Predators want an easy target. If you start being a “pain” and asking for equal rights, they are probably going to move to someone less difficult to control. Plus, if I don’t know what I want, how am I going to meet the right people?

I need to stop being mousy and start being bold.

Those guidelines work with an emotional predator, but from a crime perspective, we are less likely to be targeted if we move with purpose and look around us to let the predators know we’ve seen them. This article has some really interesting information. For instance, studies show that the way we walk is hugely important to how predators choose us. It shows our confidence levels. To quote the article, “What distinguished the likely victims from the rest of the pedestrians was their posture, body language, pace, length of their stride, and overall awareness of their environment. Criminals judge a person’s level of self confidence by the style of their walk, such as a walk that lacks interactional synchrony, wholeness, organized movements, and a flowing motion. This signified to the perpetrators that the pedestrian lacks self confidence. On the other hand, those who walked fast and fluidly were less likely to be victimized.”

But this is the part that really surprised me: “Even though it is thought that women who dress provocatively are the most likely to be rape, studies show that women with passive, submissive personalities are more likely to get raped. These women tend to wear clothes that are concealing such as high neckline, long pants and long sleeves. This may sound ironic but, predatory men can identify submissive women by their style of dress.” Wow. If we dress like we are timid, even if we think we are covering up and protecting ourselves, it’s a signal to a rapist that we are actually more easy to prey upon!

I think all of these things come down to inner strength and confidence. If we have it, we project it. We trust ourselves, we value our own privacy and personal boundaries, we walk without fear, and we dress with confidence. Just small changes in the way we view our selves can show predators that maybe we aren’t such great targets after all.

I have been thinking a lot about how to protect myself emotionally, but the information about the importance of the way we walk has me thinking. Protecting yourself from predators isn’t just about setting guidelines in your mind. It’s about every part of you and the image you project physically and emotionally. Live like you matter. That’s something I never used to do.

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