“If you live your life to please everyone else, you will continue to feel frustrated and powerless. This is because what others want may not be good for you. You are not being mean when you say NO to unreasonable demands or when you express your ideas, feelings, and opinions, even if they differ from those of others.”
― Beverly Engel
I have learned so much about boundaries in the course of my life…so far. Most of what I learned came from experience; the way I felt when someone or a group or situation made me uncomfortable; or worse, I felt taken advantage of. The hardest part of learning about boundaries is that we must take responsibility for ourselves, which includes realizing that we probably did not say “no” when we might have preferred to do so.
What is the origin of this? Perhaps we learned by example and observation of others, that our preferences were not as important as what someone else needed or wanted (from us). We may even have been recognized or rewarded in some way when we gave up on our desires or preferences for someone else’s.
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”
― Brené Brown
The pandemic has provided ample time for reflection, and opportunities to begin again. The beauty of leading our lives is that we can always begin again. Among other amazing opportunities to live fully, leading our lives is about recognizing and taking responsibility for ourselves. Knowing where our boundaries are (and where they are not) is a part of this process.
I continue to learn more about my boundaries, and when the unconscious voice inside tells me to “let something or someone go on by” and deep inside I’m feeling that I am giving up something important, I know I must take action and choose differently. Continuing to go unheeded, the voice gets quiet and a habit is formed. We may even hear a voice from the past that says something along the lines of, “oh, it’s ok. You can let this go for now. It’s the nice thing to do.” These unconscious habits rarely serve us.
As these habits go unheeded or unchecked, we can lose something important in and of ourselves. After months of very little structure (and enjoying most of it), I found myself falling into habits which were not necessarily good for me. Conversations with trusted allies provided a way forward…or back to those parts of my past which were worth bringing forward.
I used to be quite structured in my work. It served me well, because I like to be organized. In fact organizing and having things in their proper places is calming for me. Clutter and piles and having no real structure in my work – when I used to have plenty – was more stressful than I realized.
What is also important, is knowing that our boundaries exist within ourselves. These are not pronouncements that we must make…for we would be abdicating our individual responsibility for ourselves by projecting that responsibility onto the other. Our personal boundaries are just that…personal, within, the guideposts and guardrails that provide comfort to our very existence. That is not to say that, if a situation calls for it, you do not become verbal about what is ok and what is not. Speaking up for ourselves is essential.
You get what you tolerate.
– Henry Cloud
Having personal boundaries is freeing. We do not have to move with the direction of the current situational wind, if it makes us uncomfortable. However, if we are not aware of what does make us comfortable, the inevitable winds will blow us off course…and away from ourselves.
Regarding leadership, Brene Brown has said that being clear is kind and being unclear is unkind. Leading our lives is leadership. It is leadership of the most important and deeply personal kind. It is not abdicating our responsibility, blaming others when our boundaries have been crossed (you know…the ones we don’t know we have until they are crossed?) or projecting our internal unhealed pain onto others. Our personal boundaries are about compassion. Compassion for ourselves, which then becomes the ground for our offering of compassion to others.
Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.
– Brene Brown
Boundaries = Compassion.
Compassion is Kind.
Kindness is Love.
Love is leading your life…clearly, responsibly and fully.
May today be the first day of the rest of your life.