You know you’re not in alignment with the truth of who you really are when something feels bad. I don’t mean uncomfortable or on your growing edge. I mean contracted. I mean pit-of-your-stomach something-is-not-right here intuition.
I spent a lot of time in my life talking myself out of my guts and into my head. There were a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts. There were hardly any boundaries because if I set any I might disappoint someone. Heaven forbid!
Yes, I was a rebellious teen (understatement) and a rebellious 20something but I was also a secret people pleaser. I’d bend over backward for someone who wanted more than I could reasonably give.
It was only once I’d physically and emotionally burned myself out — because I didn’t have any boundaries — that I realized I desperately needed some.
It’s been a big part of my journey.
Now, I sure do love me some boundaries.
My husband might say I love them too much. I am not ashamed.
And I’m not alone! I talk to folks nearly every day who struggle with setting and maintaining boundaries.
So, let me share a couple of tips and strategies on setting boundaries (what’s worked well for me), and a bigger framework that I think gets totally missed when we talk about them.
But first, what comes up for you when you think about boundaries?
This is hugely important. If you think about limit, lack, withhold, confine, cut off, or have other similar negative associations, it’s going to be difficult to create healthy boundaries in your life.
You’ll resist them, tell yourself how important it is to be all go-with-the-flow (whose flow? probably not yours), and suffer because you don’t have any of the necessary internal structures to ensure personal balance and fortify your well-being.
I love opportunities to redefine and upgrade internal programming. So, here you go. (Cue journal writing homework…)
AWARENESS // Look at that association to boundaries I mentioned earlier and notice what you really believe about them. Not what you want to believe, but what you actually believe.
– Where does this come from?
– Were boundaries nonexistent growing up?
– Or were they everywhere and strangling?
– Just notice the story and where it comes from.
UPGRADE THE FILE // Think about how you’d like boundaries to feel for you. Liberating, safe, free, nurturing, nourishing, supportive, clear. That’d be rad, right? It’s possible. You’re the only thinker in your head…so you’re in charge. Make your list. Then take some alone time to get clear on how you want to be in healthy relationship with others…
– Which emotional and behavioral practices would help you show up full and balanced
– What would reinforce that last list of how you’d like boundaries to feel? You can always think about the ways that don’t work for you and then see what that’s telling you about what would work for you. Like balanced blood sugar/hormones, it’s really rare to have it without some effort. So it’s ok that you need to think about and dance with the ways you protect your magic.
AS SELF LOVE // The truth is that we teach others how to treat us. When we enter relationships without a container for how we see/hold/hear/honor our own feelings and needs it’s WAY hard to show someone else how to do that for us/with us. Boundaries are a radical act of self-love. Thing is, you have to do it for you first. Otherwise, you’re just waiting for someone else to create a healthy container for you to thrive inside. You might be waiting a loooong time. Let go of the old story around boundaries and embrace the new one (see point #2).
THE BEST PART // When you create a boundary around something it allows you to be fully expressed within it. Read that again. Aaaaaand, one more time. Boundaries around generosity make it more fulfilling. Create containers. One of my favorite On Being podcasts is with Matt Sanford, an adaptive yoga teacher, “There’s a reason why, when my son who’s six is crying, he needs a hug. It’s not just that he needs my love. He needs a boundary around his experience. He needs to know that the pain is contained and can be housed and it won’t be limiting his whole being. He gets a hug and he drops into his body.”
Boundaries that create a sense of protection coming from pain vs a sense of protection coming from being aligned with your vision and wanting to design your life with INTENTION are two very different things. Feel into it. Accept where you are with love and gentleness. Make small moves from that place.
Love yourself enough to know when to create a limit. A limit can be more freedom than you’ve ever known.
Saint Oprah says, “No is a complete sentence.”
My very wise friend, Sandy Sitron, said to me recently, “When we create boundaries we create room for more joy, more freedom, more ease.”
Where do you need some more structure in how you love and respect yourself?