During no time of the year do body boundaries become more difficult to maintain than the holidays. Just like Santa, so too do your rights to privacy and dignity suddenly become a magical fantasy. It turns out that you have the right to boundaries all-year round, not just the months when we’re not wearing cable knit sweaters.
My boundaries around how people can talk to me about my body or how I eat (an extension of my bodily autonomy) are very clear. Zero tolerance. I rarely have to sound off on someone, but when someone attempts to make their fatphobia my business I am always 100% clear on the fact that their problem with my body is their problem, not mine and I have the right to defend myself in a way that asserts that my feelings matter.
I’d like to share with you four body boundary tips for a better holiday:
1. Make a plan & stick to it,
One of the mistakes I’ve made again and again is knowing that an upcoming gathering is making me feel kinda barfy and pretending that it will just go away or accepting that this is how I HAVE to feel.
If you’re heading into a family shitshow or a party that’s going to be filled with people who make incessant comments about how everyone eats or looks in their burgundy plaid jumpsuits, you are not alone! I want to remind you that you always have the right to opt out if you need or want to, but if you’re committed to doing something you’re not wild about then you need to make a clear plan in advance.
Don’t wait until the day of.
Three or four days before the event, set aside 20 minutes to an hour to strategize about how you’re going to take care of yourself before, during and after. Figure out exactly how long you’re going to stay there. Do things typically begin to devolve with your family at around hour two? Then you need to plan to be out of there by the 1.5 hour mark. I shared this on Instagram last week, actually: Before anxiety-inducing holiday get-togethers prepare a simple one-sentence script for what you’ll say to inappropriate food and body comments.
Something short like, “I’m not discussing my weight or how I eat today” is more than enough. Finally, have a clear exit plan — what are you going to say when you leave? When are you going to leave? And what mode of transportation is going to get your precious self out of there? Stick. To. The. Plan.
2. Anxiety is a sign you’ve got a boundary threat; turn it into a roadmap for what you need.
Your anxiety matters! Your anxiety is a sacred sign from your body that you’re anticipating a threat to a boundary or your sense of emotional or physical safety. If you feel that way, please know that you aren’t making it up. The good news is that you can use anxiety as a way of beginning an inquiry around what you need. When that gross gut-feeling comes up, rather than trying to ignore it ask yourself “What is this anxiety telling me about what I’m afraid of? What concrete things do I need to do in order to take care of myself?”
3. Take a vent break & call 1-669-BAD-TIME.
As I’ve said before, venting is powerful. This week I got an email from these babes who started “For A Bad Time Call,” a toll-free phone line for women to call and vent. Save this number in your phone right now. If Cousin Stankface goes off on some diet tirade you know who to call.
4. You have the right to assert your boundary regardless of how it makes others feel.
I know. I know! This goes against literally everything you’ve been taught about how to make friends, keep family happy, and be nice to other people all the time no matter what.
Paradoxically, more boundaries tend to lead to better and more meaningful friendships. If you have people who are close to you who aren’t interested in knowing about or respecting your boundaries, guess what? That’s a problem. If you’ve tried to set boundaries and found no success, Maya Angelou would say that’s a precious Christmas gift because they’re essentially telling you “It is not a good idea for you to spend a lot of time with me or trust me with your vulnerability.” The gift of knowledge, girl! You’re welcome.
Point being: yes, you actually have the right to articulate what you need and be unconcerned about how others feel about it. If someone is being insensitive, rude or invasive about what you look like or how you eat then you have the right to assert that you aren’t accepting their garbage mouth.
Now go forth and be boundaried.