7 minute read
Don’t be fooled. We’re all scared of boundaries. All of us. Because, in a nutshell, boundaries are associated with two aspects of the human condition that none of us like to face: disappointing others and not being liked. We’re told on a regular basis in an array of colorful language how imperative it is to be of service to others.
Where it gets all Twilight Zone on us is when you begin to lose your sense of self. It happens so smoothly that being boundaryless just sneaks up on you as normalcy. You are not meant to feel guilt, shame, and confusion on a regular basis. Sure, they all rear their heads throughout your life, but they’re not supposed to rule our lives on a regular basis.
I don’t know about you, but guilt and shame are not directions on any compass I’ve ever seen. So how can you press pause before falling into the trap of a boundaryless existence?
Back again with self-awareness. It’s the base of all.
Once you practice being more self-aware you can clearly understand the clues that your body is giving you multiple times a day. Do the work now; don’t regret (as much) later. Clarity will come. Slowly, maybe. But it will come. I know you’re busy. I know. Think of this work as a proactive helper. It’s your life preserver. Your raft. Your oars. How you just got on a boat I have no idea. But you’re there and before you float up shit creek without a paddle, do the work. Understand your triggers; know your values; listen to your gut. Because in the end, they all join forces when you’re faced with critical thinking and problem solving, so why not tweak them to their finest ahead of time?
The other option is to keep ignoring your body when its screaming “NO WAY!” while your mouth is on auto-pilot saying, “Sure, sounds good,” or “No problem.” That in and of itself is a major problem. We shoo our body cues away. Because breaking out into a cold sweat or having a massive headache or jaws locking up or bellies with instant fifty pound weights dropped in them are now considered “there’s a pill for that”. These are clear signs that just grabbing your booties by the straps just ain’t gonna cut it anymore. It’s a vicious cycle that often times becomes part of who we are.
We either pride ourselves on just “sucking it up” or praise ourselves on just not being able to set boundaries. “I just can’t do it.” I’ve heard people say this with a smile, in a way that is almost complimentary to them. It’s a safety zone. If we realize we can’t do it then we’re off the hook. Sorry, but, neh. For some reason we have chosen to have no boundaries over being disliked. Layman’s terms here: We’d rather let people walk all over us instead of walking away from us.
Your boss asks you to take on one more last minute project, that’s due by Monday (and, of course, it’s Friday).
Your daughter drops the grandkids off unannounced just “one more time, promise,” and then smacks a kiss on your forehead like she did when she was sixteen (while walking out with the car keys).
Your husband comes home a half hour late again without a phone call or text.
Your friend shares all of her problems and never asks you squat diddly about your own.
You walk in and see your wife going through your email or phone or email on your phone. (Double whammy there!)
But you’re not off the hook there… you are also the boundary crosser when…
You give up on your dreams because you’re a busy __________ (fill in any role that you do: Wife, Husband, Daughter, Mom, Dad, Boss, Coach). Point is, it doesn’t matter what your role is – giving up what you are passionate about is a big fat “No”. Remember – 15 minutes is all it takes to get back in the swing of things.
You take zero, zilch, nada responsibility for your actions. It’s always someone else’s fault.
You take over and help out … over and over and over and over without asking. “The helping hand strikes again.”
We are all responsible for our own happiness.
Take that in a second.
Okay, so you’re obviously not alone if you need a little help. First thing’s first: wait until all heightened emotions have ceased. Breathing fire or sobbing in tongues is not the best way to handle any confrontation. Second, digging on boundaries is like being a kid in the candy store for me – so you’re in luck. Below, you’ll find some tips for setting healthy boundaries, snagged from an article about Setting and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries. To say I was ecstatic with this find is the understatement of the year. The one thing that never ends in life is learning how to set clear boundaries so that you can live freely and authentically to who you are. Start here.
(Modified from the book, Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine)
• When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting.
• You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for clearly and respectfully communicating your boundary. If it upset the other person, be confident knowing it is not your problem. Some people, especially those accustomed to controlling, abusing, or manipulating you, might test you. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing.
• At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway and tell yourself you have a right to protect yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.
• When you feel anger or resentment or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.
• Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.
• Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic people from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.
Sometimes you’re right on the money and others times you’re way off. But the more you hone in on how you feel the better you will be at differentiating your gut feeling with your murky mind. It’s practice practice practice.
I am still in the process of feeling my way through setting boundaries with people in all areas of my life. I don’t know if the feeling of fear will ever fully subside when facing boundaries, but I do know that the depth of self-worth and integrity laying on the other side is not up for discussion. Once you cross over, you can’t go back. It just feels too damn good. Find out for yourself.
There is inevitable gunk that will come up internally when you feel the resistance of setting boundaries. Depending on your personality, upbringing, and past experiences, it may be harder for you at first. You may be faced with people testing you or manipulating you. There is no shame in reaching out to a close confidant or trusted professional when you start doing the hard work. Chances are they’ll give incredible insight and perspective that may help you ease into being a boundary maker for life.
Boundaries (2018, Director & Writer: Shana Feste) In theaters: June 22nd
Laura and her son Henry are forced to drive her estranged, pot-dealing, carefree father Jack across country after being kicked out of a nursing home.