A safe person may seem hard to identify in our world. We know there are many predatory but charming ‘wolves’ masquerading as kindly ‘sheep’. Often we only know this when something bad happens and we realise in retrospect that we missed the red flags.
This article describes why you may find it hard to identify if people in your life or new people you meet are safe for you. It then suggests a simple way you can test if a person is safe or not.
You may have been taught to please others
If you were brought up always to be polite and well-behaved, you might have been trained to ignore your own instincts. Your well-meaning parents may have pushed you to eat food when you weren’t hungry, to stop crying when you were upset, and to kiss and hug relatives or family friends when you felt uncomfortable. What you learned was that your feelings weren’t important and your boundaries didn’t matter.
You understood that you needed to prioritise the needs of others rather than your own. And that you had to please people in order to gain love and acceptance. The problem is that unhelpful childhood experiences become deeply entrenched ways of being over time, that damage your self-esteem.
The lower your self-esteem, the more you try to people-please and look to others for external validation. These unhelpful ways of interacting with others are reinforced over time until they become part of your identity and accompany you into adulthood.
You don’t know how to set boundaries
As an adult, you may continue to prioritise other people’s needs over your own. You won’t know how to set healthy boundaries and how to recognise safe people. So you allow the predatory wolves (or just the toxic relationships) into your life, which damages your self-esteem even further.
When someone seems to be a safe person on the surface, you may doubt yourself
An unsafe person isn’t only a person who obviously abuses and exploits you. This kind of person can be someone who appears to care about you and to have your best interests at heart. It’s also true that someone who can be a safe person to you at one point in your life but become less safe over time.
When you don’t have good self-esteem, it’s hard to set boundaries. You tend to doubt yourself. You may wonder if your expectations are too high, or if you’re too demanding, or over-sensitive.
When confronted with an unsafe person, you may dismiss yourself as over-reacting. Or even blame yourself for your uncomfortable feelings around this person (such as feeling hurt, vulnerable, confused, ashamed, stupid, rejected, excluded, judged, and so on).
What you think and feel is what really matters
If you have low self-esteem, you may make the mistake of basing your opinion on the opinion of others. Just because someone has a good reputation, or is well-liked, doesn’t mean they are a safe person for you. But it doesn’t matter how safe they are for other people, it only matters how safe they are for you.
An unsafe person can be right inside your circle of trust, an acquaintance, or someone who is in your general social circle. Maybe their lack of safety is limited to their comments on your social media posts and videos. Or the topics they post about, which appear on your feed. Or even just because you have unpleasant associations every time you are reminded of them.
It doesn’t matter whether someone is family or a close friend, or they’re someone you barely interact with. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve known them for years, or they’ve just recently come into your life. Apply this simple test to establish whether or not they’re a safe person for you.
Blue-footed Booby Success Formula: What is a safe person? Begin to trust your gut
- When you think of this person and interact with them: Do you feel safe and warm in your body? Specifically, do you feel safe and warm in your stomach?
Your stomach area responds to all kinds of subtle signals. How your stomach feels(aka your gut instinct) is the number one most important test of whether or not someone is a safe person for you.
Our gut instinct is a powerful gauge and should not be suppressed or overpowered. When you felt uncomfortable as a small child, you may have been forced to ignore feelings of discomfort in the name of good manners. But you need to take your gut very seriously.
If you don’t feel safe and warm in your body when thinking about or interacting with someone, they are not a safe person for you.
- Does this person ask you to keep ‘bad’ secrets? For example, do they share secrets about people who have confided in them, that you really shouldn’t know?
Maybe the secrets leave you feeling burdened or uncomfortable. Or make you think about others differently. Gossip comes disguised in lots of ways, such as being concerned about someone.
Initially, it may seem exciting or make you feel part of the group. But it’s invariably negative and unhelpful. Hearing gossip (or passing it on) isn’t good for you or anyone else. Gossip doesn’t leave any kind of good feelings in your body.
- Does this person listen to you when you’re trying to tell them something important?
If they dismiss you, belittle you, or just don’t listen to you, you will not feel warm and safe in your body. This person is not a safe person for you.
Safe people don’t leave you feeling “icky” in your gut
It’s important to note that you can have all kinds of difficult feelings about people you love. Genuine, caring people who are kind and safe, are also human and imperfect. There will be times when the very best of people stoop to gossip, or don’t stop to pay attention when you want to speak, or when they are “off” for some reason. But these situations will be few and far between. And when you think of that person, you will still have a warm, safe feeling in your gut.
If you ever have an “icky”, uncomfortable and unsafe feeling about someone, it is time to put up your guard and take steps to protect yourself.
It’s never too late
It is always a good time to develop self-esteem, booby. It’s never too late to protect yourself, to advocate for yourself and to start taking actions to show yourself that you truly care about yourself and your safety, first.
If this article resonates with you, please let me know in a comment, and feel free to share it on social media.