Before boundaries it seemed like there was no time. Or less time. Or not time for me. And not enough time for all the things I’d said I’d do.
Before boundaries I found other people demanding and at times, downright invasive. In their requests and expectations of my capacity, my availability and my time.
Before boundaries there didn’t seem to be any space – in my heart, in my day, in my schedule. And without space there was no room for creativity or intuition or lack of productivity. There were (too many) things to be done and (unspoken) expectations not to be met and a constant low-level anxiety about not getting the things done or meeting the (unspoken) expectations (real or not).
And so without them, it was hard to perform to my full capacity, or in the way I wanted. And my own standards weren’t being met, and I was set up to constantly underperform (real or imagined) and disappoint people. And myself. It felt like a lot of trying to do what everyone else wanted, but doing it badly or not at all, and then feeling mad at them about that. Trying to please others with every ounce of my being and available energy, and not doing such a sh*t hot job at it.
If you want to get good at implementing boundaries you really, truly deeply must know yourself. And for me, for much of my life, there just wasn’t time for this. Nor did I understand that I didn’t know myself – I was so busy trying to work out other people and what they wanted and needed to be happy and satisfied that it didn’t cross my mind for a second to wonder what I needed or wanted. And thus, when someone questioned my motives or my needs or wants it seemed easier to agree that perhaps I was being selfish or needy or (god-forbid) demanding. And so, I’d put those things away, and blame them (silently).
The best boundary pushers in your life are the ones who ‘know you’. Because boundaries teach others how to treat you – so if you’ve always been the person who does all the things, and takes on all the responsibility that belongs to others, and says ‘yes’ to things you don’t want you’ll be surrounded by people who ‘expect’ that of you. Not generally because of anything inherently ‘evil’ about them (sidenote: most people are not sociopaths, but if you’re dealing with a sociopath this is not about that) but because this is what they understand about you, and what you’ve demonstrated by your actions in the past.
Take kids for example. Mine know who the one is who is most likely to crack when on an important phone call and say yes to dessert food before school/iPads before jobs are done/making a TikTok of doing jobs as a way to get on iPads before jobs are done/friends for a sleepover/one child having something that at least one of the other children will consider ‘unfair’ and thus mean I am interrupted again for more requests. I am that one. My husband just gets on his phone and goes outside and takes a call, and generally I am telling everyone to be quiet as he’s on a call, and they don’t go near him. If I dared to take a call in the kitchen, they would all be eating Calippos at 7am, whilst making TikToks about the cat but not feeding him.
My kids ‘know’ me. They know that on a call my deep focus goes to the person on the call. I coach on the phone a lot and say things like “I have a call now”. I have set up solid boundaries with my studio space (a physical boundary with a door which they cannot pass), and time boundaries (I don’t do calls anyone else except in my studio with headphones on and the door closed, during clearly designated work hours) and the ‘rule’ is don’t interrupt when I’m on a call. That’s out of respect to my clients and to myself because like most humans I work best interrupted. But occasionally I break my own boundaries. Not usually with clients, but sometimes I attempt to have phone conversation with one of my friends during my own time, in other locations on the house. Or I take a call from the fridge repair guy or my sister. My kids ‘know’ me. They know that if they bother me enough, I’m likely to crack so they will go away. It doesn’t work every time but it’s worked enough times in the past to make it worth a try. And so, they try. And I don’t crack, and don’t crack, and don’t crack and then one day I am tired and the fridge is broken and I’ve been relaying food from the broken fridge in the kitchen to the working fridge in the garage and I’m on hold with Telstra about the $500 of incorrect charges on my phone bill and BOOM. There are TikToks of kids being made dancing in their pyjamas, with hungry rabbits on their beds, whilst eating Skittles. And I know this will happen because I know me. And I know everything that needs to happen to support me to be calm and clear and firm and there be no confusion. And if I haven’t done all those things, then we all know what happens. And then I become the shriek-y Mum and the day is all kinds of stress.
Because I know about boundaries, and I’ve worked long and hard and deep at implementing them and holding them, mostly this doesn’t happen anymore. But for those of you who know me, you’ll know my fridge broke last week *jump to all your own conclusions here.
And take work for another example. At work they know, from the way you’ve behaved in the past, what to expect from you. And you can be mad at them for expecting what they do, but do you know how you set all that up in the first place? And I’ll be honest – unless you can see the part you played in the creation of the pressure/expectations/stress then you will never be able to unravel it. And the only way to move forward is from outside of it, with enough insight to know where it comes from. I haven’t had an actual ‘job’ for so many years I basically consider myself unemployable. I know that being in charge of my own time, energy and activities is the best way for me to create the magic I’m here to do. But it took me a while to get there. I could also do this in a job, but that’s not my path. I can still, however, screw my boundaries over in the context of work and find myself drowning under an overbooked schedule, ‘demanding’ clients, unfinished projects and no space to get creative and intuitive about what’s next, operate purely reactively and wonder if I’m even doing a good job. If you experience any of these feelings in the context of work or business, then we should talk about boundaries.
Before I really knew about boundaries I was always running out of time, and then scheduled breaks between client sessions would run into each other. I would be there, focussed and open and giving but I would have not had a break or some food or a glass of water or been to the toilet. And by the end of a day like that, when someone in my family needed some of my time, it would be the first time all day I’d say ‘no’ or ‘give me a moment’ or ‘I need to finish this first’. And they would wonder, and me too, if that was really love or being of service – when I could not support myself with boundaries around time and space or manage expectations. And sometimes I didn’t like people much and sometimes (often) I felt extremely impatient and frustrated with myself. And no-one’s expectations got managed, especially mine. Mostly because I had no idea what they were.
Do you really know you? Do you know how you operate at your best? Do you know what trips you up (not the obvious stuff, but the sneaky stuff – the stuff underneath)? And is there enough time and space to figure this out and simply, practically and easily implement boundaries that will support you to hold space for yourself first so you can show up in the way you want to?
If not, we should talk. Boundaries is one of my specialities. Mostly because they had so much to teach me, and one day I decided that learning them might mean everything.
Big loves xx
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