Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Boundaries is a word I never even thought of until my thirties and I will make sure that is not the case with my kids. I used to feel that if I put up, or exercised my right to boundaries, I was being selfish. That to be a good person (which I was so worried about being) I had to always put others first. In fact even having "needs" of my own was a naughty thought. How mad is that?
Looking back I realised that it was clear my anxiety around being alone was so tightly woven with this need to please everyone, so they wouldn't leave me - of course. Having not dealt with the root causes of my anxiety in my 20's I was in a permanent spin, running around self medicating with alcohol, toxic relationships, exercise and trying to make sure everyone liked me, god for bid someone criticised me, yowsa "another Jack and coke please". I was so hard on myself I cannot believe it looking back. I had such a low level of self love. I can even remember hitting myself in the chest when I got a cold as I had no time for a chest infection, I had work do and I can not and will not let this client down. I was so furious with myself for being weak that I treated myself this way. Can you imagine telling someone your love they are weak for being ill, hitting them repeatedly in the chest then telling them to "man up" and sending them off to work for 3 days straight with no sleep (I was in events). Never in a million years would I do this - to anyone but me. This was a crazy decade of my life, which was just totally unsustainable and as you can imagine, there was no room for thoughts or actions regarding boundaries or even a thought given to what the real me actually needed. I wasn't worth such a thought in my opinion.
I believe mine is a common story and one that screams:
NO SELF WORTH = DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN.
Eventually I did burn out and the decade that followed was another story altogether, a story that was luckily built with intentions and actions inspired by self love and that there must be a better more balanced and sustainable way to live. The most important lesson being boundaries and sticking to them.
Recently I am reading more and more by the brilliant author, researcher and general genius - Brene Brown, I have had my eyes opened to the most awesome, sensible and statistically backed fact: The most compassionate and empathic people are the most highly "boundaried people". Brené Brown talks about the difference between compassion and empathy a lot. She states "Compassion comes from the idea that “we’re all inextricably connected to each other by something rooted in love or goodness.” Empathy is a skill-set that allows you to communicate compassion to other people. Once your boundaries are clear, there will be more room to express empathy for others."
So we need to tune into our inner compass and ask ourselves, what is right and ok for me? Its not ok to feel bullied or pressured into doing things, it's ok to say no it's great to say what you want from someone or some situation. Also another upside from this behaviour is you will show others they can do this too and give those around you confidence to set their own boundaries. its a win win and we all love a win win, especially when it helps fill our tank with love and confidence in ourselves.
It can be really hard to say no when you are starting a new business on your own perhaps, when you can easily feel a bit desperate to get clients and get your message out there. This is the time to pause, breath, reassure yourself and take measured steps forward from a place of knowing what's good and right for you, not from a fear perspective.
It can be tricky to change behaviours you have been practicing for many years so be easy on yourself and go slow, but be consistent. If you have a situation with a person you feel you need to change, think on it. When you imagine changing the situation and adding boundaries you feel you need and communicating that wish to that person, what emotions and feelings come up? do you feel scared? empowered? a weight off your shoulders? Perhaps only terrified as you are conditioned to "crowd please" and you think their reaction will be negative. Honour that feeling and try this technique. Ask yourself "Ok so what is the worst thing that can happen if person X gets angry and sad or attacks me verbally etc when I communicate my need for boundaries to them". Meditate on this and imagine their reaction and say to yourself - "Can I deal with that?" I would say if the answer is yes or that it might upset you in that moment but you will walk away and heal and feel better, then do it. otherwise if it feels too much, dont do it now. Spend more time working on your self love and don't rush, talk to a friend, therapist and tell them later. There is no rush and your wellbeing and your boundaries are your business, so you do things when you are good and ready.
Respect and care for yourself and check out https://brenebrown.com if you haven't already, so wonderful.