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On Little Dog Syndrome and Boundaries

The other day I was out and about and decided to pop in to see a prospective client and say hello. Now this client is a fairly new prospect so I don’t know them well and as I walked into the store, I was pleased to see two little dogs running up to greet me. I am a huge dog fan so I was completely taken by surprise when, as I reached down to greet the little furballs, one of them bit me.

It wasn’t a big bite by any means but it was enough to break the skin and although the nip took me by surprise, what was even more shocking was my reaction to the whole thing, which was … nothing. I did nothing.

Okay, that isn’t entirely correct. I DID comment on how cute the little bugger was and had a quick chat with the owner, all while hiding my hand behind my back so she wouldn’t see the blood.

That’s right, I hid my hand so she wouldn’t see that her dog had bit me.

When I got home later that evening, I told my fiance what happened.

“Why didn’t you say anything?!“, he said.

I don’t know. I didn’t want to upset her, I guess.”

“That is weird, Christine. Who cares if she got upset? Her dog bites. What if he does that to a kid?!”

And that’s when it really hit me – he was right. It is weird. Not only is it weird but it speaks (loudly) to something I have struggled with my whole life – speaking up for myself and holding boundaries.

Now obviously, I could have reacted to the little nip in a variety of different ways. I could have yelled, stormed out, kicked the dog, or I could have done the most reasonable thing which would have been to say, “Your dog just gave me a little nip. Not a huge deal, but I did want to let you know since you have him in your business.”

But for some crazy reason, the idea of saying something like that makes me feel like my skin is going to crawl right off my body. And apparently, I would rather hide my bloodied hand behind my back than potentially inconvenience someone by telling them their dog has a case of the ‘bites’.

What. The. Hell.

Although this incident was super minor, it marks how much I still struggle when it comes to speaking up for myself. This is something I have worked hard on for years and whether it was as simple as saying “No, I can’t lend you money.’ or something as big as “No, I don’t want to have sex.“, putting my needs, desires, or feelings above other’s has been something I have always battled.


I know I am not alone in this problem and that women in particular are taught to keep quiet and be nice, no matter what. But I’ve got to say, this really pisses me off!

I think part of my problem is that despite the fact that I have been working on establishing healthy boundaries for years, I have also been determined to do so gracefully. It is quite common for people who have struggled with establishing boundaries their whole life to take things a little too far when they first start and I have been hellbent on NOT becoming one of those people who ‘speaks their truth’ ALL THE TIME.

(Come on, you all had someone pop into mind, didn’t you?!)

Establishing boundaries is scary, especially at first, and sometimes it feels easier to come at it guns a’blazin’ and with teeth bared. Much like the little dog that bit me.

Essentially, people who are new to establishing healthy boundaries are much like dogs with ‘Little Dog Syndrome’. They are scared and insecure and often display an unnecessary level of fiest when trying to establish a perimeter which is not to be crossed.

This is something I wanted to bypass completely. I wanted to go straight from doormat to having confidence and self-assurance without having to experience the annoying lapdog learning curve.

Maybe I was out to lunch thinking I could avoid this stage or maybe my learning process will just take a little longer this way. More likely though, I just need to cut myself some slack. Confidence and self-assuredness are not static and neither is our ability to effectively hold and communicate healthy boundaries. We will have good days and we will have bad days. We will have little dog syndrome days and Doberman days. But one thing I know for sure is, I’m committed to this process. I am committed to taking deep breaths and treating myself with as much respect as I do others. And that includes being gentle with myself when I mess it up.

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Becoming an expert on saying no. Well, working on it …

Okay, okay, I know it has been a while since I have posted a blog. A long while, actually. Truth is, I needed a little break so I decided to give myself the summer off. Between writing a book, working full-time, kids, and the continued chaos around the Coronavirus, I needed to let something go. Cause, you know … boundaries.

So I took July to let myself relax a little, enjoy time with family and friends, and get a few things off my plate that I have been needing to deal with for a while (ie: I FINALLY wrote my chapter).

The 6-week hiatus was just what the doctor ordered but I am feeling refreshed now and ready to get back at it. And I figured what better way to start back up again than to write about some of the other stuff I am committed to letting go of this year.

It is not uncommon for women in their 30’s to finally get to a point where they start saying ‘no’ to some of the stuff they have tolerated, pretended to like, or agreed to for far too long. I feel as though I got to that party a little later than some (#slowlearner) but hey, I’m here now and making up for lost time! From clothing choices to apologies, here is my list of things that are getting the heave ho this year …

#1 – Clothing items that do not make me feel good. I know I am not alone when I say that I have a pile of clothes in my closet that I never wear but pull out every so often and try on in hopes that this time they will be flattering. You know, the clothes that we keep because one day we will have lost enough weight to get into them again, they will all of a sudden fit us properly, or maybe we were just really bloated last time we tried them on?! I also know that I am not alone when I say that these closet fashion shows always leaves me feeling terrible about myself and stewing in a pit of shame and self-loathing for several days afterwards.

Well, I am done. My new rule is, if it does not fit me or flatter me, it is getting the boot.

See ya, suckers! Go find someone else’s closet to clog up.

#2 – Stilettos. Now, I considered putting these into the above category but decided against it because stilettos/high heels do not make me feel bad about myself at all. In fact, I feel hot AF when I’m wearing them … as long as I don’t have to walk. They are ridiculously uncomfortable. Actually, they HURT. And as much as they really polish off an outfit and make my legs look fantastic, it is inevitable that I will have to walk at some point (Shaune refuses to piggyback me) and it just isn’t worth the pain.

Gilda Radner once said, “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”, and I’ve got to say, this is an excellent rule of thumb. If it itches, chafes, doesn’t breathe, contains wires, bends the arch of my foot into inhumane angles, or makes it hard to eat … I am probably going to look for another wardrobe choice.

Besides, I can still look great in a pair of cute flats and a bralette.

#3 – Commitments and events that I don’t want to attend. Now speaking of dressing up and looking cute, that is something I usually reserve for an outing or social gathering of some sort. I LOVE a good party or night on the town with friends … except for the times that I would rather stay home. One of the hardest parts of this ‘learning how to say no’ thing has been getting comfortable with politely declining invites out to social gatherings when I do not want to go. For some reason, I find it excruciating. As in, I would rather eagerly accept the invite, tell you that I can’t wait to attend, and then call you that day of and pretend to be sick so I don’t have to go.

Seriously, what is with that?! Why is it that I feel more comfortable lying to someone I care about than just politely saying ‘No.’ #peoplepleaser

I hang my head in shame and apologize to those of you who are reading this and thinking “So she wasn’t sick that day?!”

I am working on it. As someone who fears disappointing people more than anything else in the world, this has been challenging but … I am committed to being brave and turning you down like an adult. #recoveringpeoplepleaser

P.S.

Bear with me

#3a – Excuses, explanations, and unnecessary apologies. Maybe it is my Canadian nature but I am terrible for unnecessarily apologizing. I am embarrassed to admit this but I have even apologized for apologizing before. Yeesh. Same goes for excusing and explaining every decision I make. From unwanted sexual advances to menu choices and everything in between, I always feel the need to either explain my decisions or ask for forgiveness.

What the heck?!

We don’t owe anyone anything. Well … within reason. Obviously, there are times when an apology or an explanation is warranted. And we need to use our manners,

But generally speaking, I don’t need to explain or apologize for my every move. So I’m not going to.

And I’m not even sorry about it.

4 – Toxic people. Ooooh boy, this is a big one. And to be honest, one of the most difficult. I have always craved a strong sense of community and belonging. In fact, up until recently, all I ever wanted was for people to approve of me. So when it came to drawing some lines in the sand or distancing myself from people, I struggled. I found I would make excuses such as ‘Well, they have been in my life forever.’ or ‘That’s just the way they are.

And while it is true that long term relationships are meaningful and no one is perfect, putting up with toxicity or abuse is a very different thing.

Life is short and I want to surround myself with people who cheer me on, build me up, and hold me accountable. Perfection is not necessary but I do require the people in my life to not be giant jerks, no matter how long they’ve been around.

Oh yea, and they have to be okay with the fact that sometimes I will turn down an invite out. I am really turning into a homebody.

So there you have it. It is good to be back!

I would love to hear, what are some of the things you are letting go of this year?

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