However, there was one thing that always stopped me dead in my tracks and led me back into the spiral of self beat-up: other people whose words, actions, and beliefs triggered me back into diet mentality.
I would hear my size 4 best friend call herself fat and I immediately thought, “Gosh, she must think I’m fat which means I look terrible which means that I’ve let myself go and failed at life.” This kind of downward-spiral thinking isn’t even an exaggeration; it’s exactly what would go on in my head the second I heard, felt, or sensed diet culture in my space.
I’ve also had experiences where men I dated would talk about how much they love working out and how they want a woman who “takes care of herself” (…as if self-care is limited to restrictive diets and daily exhaustive exercise… NEWS FLASH: it’s not, but that’s a topic for another time). But when I’d hear this, I’d instantly think “Oh no, he’s probably right because I don’t diet anymore which means I probably don’t take care of myself and I’m therefore unattractive to him.”
***Note: any person who judges his attraction to you based on your diet or exercise habits is not worthy of YOU, but again, that’s a topic for another time).***
What I didn’t realize back then is that all these comments are simply other people’s PROJECTIONS. A projection is when someone directs a comment at you because they themselves feel unworthy in that area (i.e. if someone tells you to diet, it’s because they’re not happy with their own body, not because they really “care about your health”).
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where NOT dieting and accepting yourself as you are is so freakin’ rare that others see it as weird, “unhealthy”, and even threatening when you do. My friend doesn’t believe that I’m a terrible, lazy person just because I’m in a bigger body than her and the man I dated isn’t actually attracted to women who diet and exercise (although they may think that they think that, but that’s not the full truth).
The truth is, they are both projecting their own insecurities out loud and I allowed it to trigger me.
And please hear me when I say this: although your feelings are 100% valid, you CHOOSE to feel the way you do. Even though it may seem like it’s someone else’s fault that you feel shitty, the truth is, no one can make you feel anything you don’t choose to feel. This is good news because it means you can CHOOSE to feel differently.
But anyways, here’s the most effective way to deal with people that are potentially triggering:
SET A BOUNDARY.
What are boundaries?
A boundary is an imaginary line that separates you from the other person. More specifically, it separates your needs, feelings, requests, and responsibilities from those of others. Boundaries communicate (both verbally and non-verbally) how others can treat you and what is acceptable in your space.
Why set boundaries?
Boundaries allow you to powerfully take responsibility for your needs, feelings, requests, and responsibilities without putting down those of others. For example, if you have a friend that is often criticizing her body or talking about dieting, it’s not your responsibility to convince her that she’s beautiful and doesn’t need to diet. You can definitely try to, but if it’s not being received and she keeps doing something that triggers or bothers you, it’s important to establish a boundary with her in order to protect your sacred space.
Key takeaway: boundaries are necessary and needed, BUT it’s up to you to clearly communicate what your boundaries are. You can’t expect other people to read your mind and tip-toe around you; they need to know EXACTLY what your boundary is and, if the boundary is crossed, what the consequences will be.
And please know that you can communicate anything you want as long as you say it with LOVE and RESPECT.
Here’s how to effectively communicate your boundaries to others with love and respect:
1. ASK FOR PERMISSION. Unsolicited feedback falls on deaf ears. If you come out and say “Yo can you stop talking bad to yourself?! It’s really freakin’ annoying!” they won’t receive it well. I start by saying “Hey best friend, can I request something of you?” or “Can I tell you something honestly?” Wait for them to say yes before continuing. ***Asking for permission is a good communication rule for ANY situation***
2. Communicate how YOU feel. Setting a boundary is something that’s done for you, by you. Therefore, this is not the time to preach self-love or tell them they should quit dieting (usually because it’s unsolicited, but also because it turns the attention away from your concerns which defeats the purpose). This is where those cliche “I-statements” come into play. Start every phrase with “I feel…” instead of “You make me feel…”
3. Make a powerful request. Here are the exact words I use with my close ones:
“My request of you moving forward is that you do not insult yourself around me. It’s okay if you slip up sometimes, but I would appreciate it if you try your best to not do that around me.”
Stand in your power and communicate your request in 1-2 sentences. And don’t say, “I’m sorry, but…” You don’t have to apologize for having personal needs (watch on YouTube: How To Stop Apologizing in daily life).
Something to note about making requests: Requests are very similar to boundaries. In fact, requests ARE boundaries, the only difference is how they are enforced. A request can be denied whereas a boundary cannot (at least not without consequences). For example, if I request of my boyfriend that he stop buying ‘Think Thin’ protein bars for the house because they trigger me, he can either comply or he can respond with “I like them so I’m going to keep buying them.” In that case, it’s up to you to choose how you feel about him denying your request. A boundary, however, is more enforced. It’s making the request to my boyfriend to stop buying diet products and making it clear to him that I don’t want them in the house. Think: request = up to the other person and boundary = non-negotiable for you.
4. Do NOT threaten. A boundary is not a threat because a threat is directed towards the other person in a malicious way. Think of a boundary as something that is for you only. Every decision you make involving the boundary and your relationship with that person is based on what’s going to protect you and your sacred space. Threatening someone does not protect your space as much as it violates someone else’s. Also, if someone doesn’t respect your boundary, the consequence doesn’t have to be something big like cutting the person out of your life (although at a certain point it’s necessary to remove toxic people out of your life). It can be simply spending less time with that person, refusing to talk about diets with them, or making an agreement that you don’t want ‘Think Thin’ bars in the house, but your partner is free to keep them at work or in the car.
5. Respect your own boundary by keeping them accountable. It is your responsibility to make sure others honor your boundary. Your close ones are humans too, so don’t expect them to be perfect and instead practice patience, send gentle reminders, have vulnerable conversations, and follow-through on consequences as needed. Pay attention to how people treat your boundary and the effort they put in to fulfill it. If someone is stepping over your boundary over and over again, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to keep that person in your life.
Remember: choose yourself… over and over and over again.
I hope that this post empowers you to set healthy boundaries with others and helps you communicate your boundary to others with love and respect.
Leave a comment!