Setting Boundaries: How You Teach Others to Treat You

As she nervously stepped into my office for her first counseling session, she joked about whether she should lie down on the couch. We both laughed, but I could sense the underlying tension as she settled into the chair and began to share her difficult journey. Throughout her life, she felt continually mistreated and bullied, leading her to believe that she had little control over how people treated her.

In counseling, my role extends beyond listening; it involves challenging existing behaviors and mindsets. One critical concept I share is that everyone teaches others how they can and cannot treat them. This idea often meets resistance because it implies personal responsibility where many feel powerless.

Many clients arrive with a “victim mentality,” a belief deeply ingrained by past hurts and traumas. They feel like pawns on life’s chessboard, moved by forces beyond their control. While it’s true that many have endured unjust suffering, particularly in childhood, this doesn’t destine anyone to a lifetime of victimhood.

The transition to empowerment begins when we reject the lie that we are perpetual victims. Embracing control over our responses and decisions is crucial. We might not influence the actions of others, but we can decide how we react, interpret, and allow these actions to affect us.

Here are practical ways to start teaching others how to treat you:

  1. Establish Boundaries: You have the right to walk away from demeaning interactions. Setting clear boundaries is not about isolation; it’s about respecting yourself.
  2. Reject Negative Labels: Choose not to accept false, harmful narratives about yourself. Recognize them as distortions that do not define who you are.
  3. Identify and Avoid Unhealthy Relationships: Recognize patterns of manipulation or abuse and give yourself permission to distance yourself from toxic influences.
  4. Exercise the Power of No: Feel empowered to decline requests or demands that compromise your well-being or values.
  5. Affirm Your True Identity: Ground your self-perception in the truth of how God sees you—valuable, loved, and worthy of respect.

This journey of self-respect begins with understanding your intrinsic worth as seen through the eyes of a loving God. He valued you enough to give His life, so you might live fully. This divine perspective empowers you to live, breathe, and insist on respectful treatment from others.

By believing and acting upon these truths, you not only teach others how to treat you but also set a standard for what you accept in your relationships. Let your life reflect the dignity bestowed upon you by your Creator. Show the world that you are His beloved, deserving of kindness and respect. Teach this lesson not just through words, but through the very essence of how you live your life.