In my previous post I talked about the wonderful emotional tool of boundaries and presented my favorite tool of pretending to be in a jar. In this post I would like to talk about one of the reasons it was so hard for me to exercise boundaries: lack of self-worth.
Many of us are raised and or exposed to people who do not have healthy self-worth. Worse, since the media is usually going after the largest audience, they help perpetuate unhealthy self-worth beliefs making unhealthy seem normal. My core problem was basing my self-worth on external things in my life such as my car, salary, or my business.
When I had a nice car I would have a little bit of self-worth, but not a lot because I had no girlfriend. When I had a girlfriend I had some more self-worth but since I didn’t have a good car or good job, it was not much. Later I had the degree, the job, the car, the wife, and even decent money. Did I have a lot of self-worth after going from nothing to nearly everything? No, as I would get each thing (including my wife because I objectified her as well, perhaps a later blog post), I would get a little bit of self-worth that would last for a little while.
Although the self-worth would only last for a little while, since I was investing my self-worth in these various things that is where my ego went. What does that mean? It means if my car got hurt I got hurt. The best thing for my self-worth was the creation of a successful business. This meant a lot of my ego was wrapped up in my business.
So what does this have to do with boundaries? Well if you said something bad about my business or anything I had invested my self-worth in then it would hurt me. For example, an unhappy customer would say bad things about my business. Now of course, my business has nothing to do with me, and the customer is choosing to be upset at the business even though it was not trying to hurt them (because they are lacking boundaries as well). However, my self-worth and ego is wrapped up in the business so when they criticize the business I take it as personal criticism even though they don’t really know my business, what we were trying to do, how much my employees cared, or anything about me at all. In short, any criticism of my business would often create a boundary failure. There were a few times I got so mad that I actually hung up on a customer.
After a lot of self-worth, therapy and discovery of who I actually am independent of things I have acquired it is now much easier for me to maintain boundaries with things like unhappy customers. Ironically, sometimes my employees have more trouble than I do because they are wrapping their self-worth up in their job. I have to remind them the customer is unhappy about an event the business was involved in that did not go the way they expected or needed. If they are hysterical, it is most likely due to other things going on in their life since we make picture frames. Even if the employee is the direct cause of the unhappy customer, it is due to their action, not them as a fellow human. It just means their action can be improved, but it does not mean they are a defective person. However, I can totally understand the “they are unhappy with me because I am a defective person” being the first go to since it was mine for most of my life.