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.