My five-month old puppy is teaching me about mindfulness! In particular, he is teaching me that it is my responsibility to teach others how to treat me.
On our first day of puppy classes, the trainer explained that it is essential to establish yourself as the alpha in your relationship with your dog. Otherwise, the dog is confused and acts inappropriately, and in the end, you are left with an unhappy dog and unhappy owner. You have to teach the dog how to treat you. And right there at the puppy class, a light bulb went off!
I began to think about human relationships and how so often we leave it to others to decide how to treat us. We struggle with setting boundaries and get upset only when we’ve been holding it in for far too long. Why do we do this? Perhaps fear of confrontation, abandonment or a host of other reasons. And while it is worthwhile to examine the sources of our inability to set boundaries, what is most significant to me is what we can do about it right now.
I think we first have to acknowledge that it’s our responsibility to teach people how to treat us. We can’t expect others to set our own boundaries. We then have to figure out what our boundaries are. And we validate them, respect them, and honor them. Then we have to roll up our sleeves and get down to work and actually protect these boundaries.
But protecting our boundaries doesn’t mean that we have to get out our sword and shield and get on a mountaintop to scream our truth—though this might me necessary at one time or another. We can be firm and loving, unmovable and quiet. It comes from within, a deep knowingness of what is true for us, and simply honoring that.
I’ve found that since I have begun teaching others how to treat me, the boundaries and more clear and there’s a deeper sense of ease and calm. We all know where we stand. I’ve gotten more respect from my kids, and even our puppy is calmer.
Loving and respecting others begins with loving and respecting ourselves. No one will do that work for you; it’s up to you to honor yourself and do the hard work of teaching others how to treat you.