This is a personal bill of rights from my most recent therapy group. I believe it is from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, but I’m not positive. In any case, I am not trying to claim it as my own or not cite the correct source. I got it as part of a packet of information. And I really like it, so I wanted to share it.
Personal Bill of Rights
- I have the right to ask for what I want.
- I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
- I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
- I have the right to change my mind.
- I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
- I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
- I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
- I have the right to determine my own priorities.
- I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
- I have the right to expect honesty from others.
- I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
- I have the right to be uniquely myself.
- I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”
- I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
- I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
- I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
- I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
- I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
- I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
- I have the right to be in a nonabusive environment.
- I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
- I have the right to change and grow.
- I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
- I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- I have the right to be happy.
At the bottom of this, it suggests hanging this in your home and reading it daily so that you learn to accept that you are entitled to each one of these rights. I believe that each person reading the list will have different ones they either find very obvious or that they haven’t given themselves permission to have before reading this list. I put the ones I read and remind myself of most often in bold.
One of the things we focused on recently in group therapy is that the result or outcome of a person being assertive does not measure the success of the person being assertive. If I am assertive on something that is important to me, THAT is the success. Think about that for a moment. It goes well with #9 on the list because being assertive does not mean that I then become responsible for the other person’s feelings or actions. And I think that is really important for people to learn and remember, especially when feeling hurt, angry, disrespected, or sad. You have the right to your feelings and your values and your standards. And it is OK to make decisions based on your feelings. I’m not saying make instant decisions without any thought. But I am saying that for me it was difficult to remember that I DO have the right to make decisions based on my feelings AND I do not have to give reasons for my decisions or behavior. I have the right to expect that my needs and wants will be respected by those I choose to spend time with in my life. And I absolutely have the right to change and grow.
How many times have you heard people say “he/she changed” as a reason they broke up or stopped being friends? I’ve certainly said it and heard it. But change is always happening. As people, we age and we learn and we discover and we CHANGE. Change is good. Change is ok and all people have the right to change. People also say “he/she wouldn’t change” and give that as a reason for a break up. But to be in a relationship, some things will change while both people still have their own values and standards. And to me, that is how a relationship grows and strengthens.
I don’t give many specific details about my divorce because I don’t feel the need to disrespect my ex or our time together that way. I think he’s a great person in many ways and I want him to be happy in life. But what I will say is that (mostly) he did not believe that things should change without a specific and scientifically proven reason to have to change. He didn’t want me to make changes without giving reasons and that violates one of the rights above for me. I have the right to change and grow. And healing and asking for things to change in our relationship was not wrong. He has the right not to change, and often stated that he shouldn’t have to change. And that is fine, he certainly has the right to his own feelings. But I believe change is necessary. Particularly when someone is healing.
One of the books I read when working hard to figure out if I could remain married or not is Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum. I really liked the book and reading it was an important step for me in my journey to deciding what I could and could not accept in my relationship. I still read my bookmarks often because I think that there are MANY good points about relationships in the book. I think it is a good resource for any relationship, even one that is not running a risk of ending. It has good relationship information and presents it in a way that gives the reader an opportunity to think about their own relationship skills as much as the skills and traits of others. No book can decide for you whether or not to end your marriage, but for me books are always tools to help me understand life. One of my very favorite things the author says is this:
“If I wanted to write a prescription for how to have a doomed relationship that was overwhelmingly too bad to stay in, I’d have both people say I can’t change, I won’t change, I don’t want to change, and I don’t see a reason to change, but if we find each other, it’s beautiful. The point is that you’re entitled to feel you want your partner to change things about himself.” (page 140 of 279 on the kindle version of the book)
Relationships can be challenging, but understanding that each person is entitled to their personal bill of rights is a great start. Honoring yourself and what you really value and believe is a great first step to finding happiness. I have the right to be happy. And gaining a better understanding of who I really am has helped me to find a lot of happiness. And I’m excited for the future.
I have the right to be uniquely myself. And rediscovering who that really is has been fabulous.
I’m having fun being me. Be you!