Establishing boundaries with people is a skill that can take a lifetime to acquire if you don't start practicing early. But how do you teach a child to protect themselves from those who are intent on causing harm if you haven't learned to do it yourself?
Growing up in the seventies was different than it is today. Many things happened that I'm still trying to wrap my head around, including years of emotional, physical, and psychological abuse. My parents never knew what was going on with me because telling them felt risky. And so, my secrets remained safe with me — bolted down — until my desire for inner peace became a top priority.
It's been twenty-six years since my story began to unravel, and bit by bit, the past has gotten easier to accept. While the self-confidence I lacked as a child led to co-dependency and two failed marriages, it also forced me to look in the mirror and see the truth. Here's what I found: That when you do not love yourself, you will go to great lengths to prove you're unlovable. When you surround yourself with negativity, darkness seeps into your soul. And when you choose to be a victim, you forfeit peace of mind.
I am a prime example of how children raised in homes without borders are more likely to get bullied — or become a bully — than those who learn to set and respect boundaries. What happened to me can happen to anyone, and it does every day, which explains why pharmaceutical companies are so successful. Think about it: How many people do you know take medication to treat anxiety, depression, or both?
If you look back on early childhood, what do you remember most? One of my least favorite memories happened in kindergarten. There was a little girl named JoAnne who had stringy brown hair that always looked oily. She wore the same green dress with a criss-cross pattern and ruffles around her chest a few times a week. Her backup outfit was a retro striped short-sleeve shirt with brown stretchy pants. According to my girlfriends, she smelled bad, too, but I never noticed it because they told me to stay away from her, and I did. One day, I saw her sitting alone at the piano, hunched over with her head down, pecking at the keys. I was barely six-years-old and already knew not to piss off the wrong people. Poor JoAnne. She deserved better. We all did.
Let's fact it; most kids are afraid to say anything that might cause someone not to "like" them, so they put up with shit that we as adults find unacceptable, but times are changing. We have tools now that our parents never had, and we must use them to teach our kids right from wrong. If we don't, who will?
Civilization is a mess, and if you're wondering how we got here, look inward. It's easy to point fingers and blame others for the bad things that happen in life, but in the end, it is up to each one of us to make things better. A word to the wise: You never have to fix something unless it's broken, so do your best to keep your most cherished possessions safe —starting with early education.