Why is it that so many of us have weak boundaries about what is and isn’t OK with us? Are we aware of what is happening or are we unconscious of our inconsistency? Is it simply a matter of knowing what to do when these boundaries are crossed by others? For instance, how often do you find yourself ‘receiving’ something that you didn’t really want? It could be a physical thing like a hug, or a verbal thing as in a telemarketing call you do not want, or feedback from another about what you are doing.  If no one asked permission of you to do these things before they did them, then the boundary was crossed. When we don’t give our consent, we feel forced to take what others wanted to give us, regardless of whether we want it or not.

When we don’t’ really want to go along with others, and we do anyway, we can fall into the unconscious behavior of acting like a doormat, pushover, or victim. When we say yes to allowing others to do what they want, it’s critical to know our own limits and ask that they be honored. When those limits are exceeded, it is important to recognize and respect that for ourselves. If we don’t, we will no longer want to give the gift of going along with others and will begin to withdraw from those types of experiences.

Few of us have learned how to allow others to do what they want while keeping our own limits. When others are doing what they want with us, they may try to convince us it is for us, but that is not true if they don’t have our consent. When we give our consent, we choose to go along with another person.  We allow them to do what is best FOR THEM without sacrificing what is best for us. It is a conscious decision. The unasked-for hug, the intrusive sales call, or unwanted feedback all fit the bill of places where consent is still needed. This gets twisted for us because many of us learned that others were doing to us FOR OUR OWN good when it really had nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. When we take their actions personally and feel ‘done to’, we have given our power away by not establishing and honoring what is best for us when these situations arise.

We learned this when we were young when we HAD to have others do for us to get our needs met. Very few of us were provided age-appropriate choices and had them honored when we were young – or ever. This has us continue to think that our consent doesn’t matter and so we don’t honor it ourselves. The truth is we are perfectly capable of turning inwardly to use our own inner guidance system for what we say yes and no to and to the limits we set with others. If others have not asked permission, and we have not given our consent, there is no need to allow anyone to do anything with you or for you. This includes being told how you should feel, what you should do, or how you should do it. For example, while many of our friends and colleagues want to offer constructive feedback, they don’t always ask permission. If they do, we still have the right to say no for now, holding back our consent until a time we feel we can hear and integrate the feedback and not disrupt what we are currently doing.

If you do want to go along with what others are doing, be sure to share your own limits if you have any that are important to you. With friends it may be as simple as letting the carpool riders know when you want to get home from the big celebration, and if that can’t be accommodated, driving your own car so you can take care of yourself. At work it may look like letting your supervisor know what you do and don’t want to do before the re-organization is completed instead of waiting with dread for the outcome that you feel no control over. In addition to expressing what is most important to you, it can potentially inform that future design.  Most importantly, you determine what is and isn’t OK for you and let others know what limits you have when they are acting on your behalf.

How will you take back your consent today?