Onion Bomb: When Setting Boundaries Make You Cry

setting boundaries

I use nicety and being dense (or dumb) as a defence mechanism. While not all the time, it sometimes helps protect my energy  in situations. Specially when working in customer service. That sarcastic Karen? Mansplaining Bob? Whatever they’re trying to passive-aggressively hint at doesn’t land, so they’re left feeling unfulfilled. And that’s kind of fun to see.

But it can also cost me my peace. I feel waves of anger and exhaustion when I can’t fully express my authentic self.

Can we also talk about dimensionality? For a long time I’ve always felt like I’ve been pegged as the nice girl, the sweetheart. And when I deviate from that, it’s offensive to others. It’s as if I’m not allowed to be anything else other than those identities. I can be a total sweetheart and be many other things. This ‘phenomena’ seems to commonly occur  in Canada. I wonder if it’s because of the culture of politeness and the expectations of Asians as a minority model? I also wonder if it’s compounded by the fact that I’m an “onion.” Because the first layer of me is nicety, I choose and pick who can see what’s underneath that. I don’t bare everything all at once. My warmth fools people into feeling like we’ve formed some sort of closeness but that could only be the top layer. The unraveling is yet to come. Maybe being an onion is my trauma response to being an immigrant.

In spaces where I feel safe and seen, I take off this veneer of nicety and revert to my sassy, snarky self. I’m also known to be petty and a subtweeter, and I’ve embraced this character ‘flaw.’

And maybe this is why I also feel some sort of rage when my boundaries keep being overstepped. I grew up as a people pleaser and it took so much growing pains to be comfortable about being who I am.

“Men will be more attracted to you if you lose weight”

“You used to be so hot”

“You should wear this and that”

“You don’t look like someone who could write that, did someone write it for you?”

I have been placed in so many different boxes and labels and it’s only now that I’ve learned to be unapologetic for not conforming to such standards. I was subtly subversive and hadn’t always been so outspoken until now.

I don’t need to be that person who claims “I’m 1/4 Chinese and 1/2 Spanish” to justify why I don’t look “Filipino” to people with narrow definitions of what Filipino is. (It always boggles me when people say this even when their parents and grandparents have never stepped foot in Spain, nor speak the language or practice specifically Spanish or Chinese cultural traditions. It somehow feels like an erasure of being Filipino.) If you’re anything but Filipino then what are you? I think I’ve gone off topic, but maybe you get what I mean. There are so many people trying to box your identity by their narrow and limited idea of who you should be with how you look like or where you come from.

When I set boundaries, say no, or disagree people dismiss me and my feelings. How is that so easy for them? Maybe as we learn to set boundaries for ourselves we should also talk about respecting boundaries.

When I realized that the expectation for me to be meek and affable is also tied to a culture of patriarchy, imperialism, and capitalism, it sometimes feels like the burden is too much to be a woman (and an added layer of being a person of colour) in this world. Even more so for Black and Indigenous people. The rage is justified.


So uhm this is the raw version of my thoughts and all I really want to say right now is… YAWA.

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