Boundaries huh? What big work. This week, once again, the big work of the boundary has dominated. And not specifically because anything has happened, just because boundaries is one of those topics that goes around and around. As a necessary ‘evil’. Something that must be noticed and reviewed and adjusted and sorted, so that the world works.
Last year, one of my beautiful and most favourite clients wrote me an email after doing the Module on boundaries in The Inside Out Love Story. It said this:
“I’m sure I’m having a rookie moment but just knowing I had no boundaries has been like taking a huge dose of anti-depressants. I’m bullet proof….but slightly dead on the inside. I feel like someone pressed reset. I’m happy about it, but only if a newfound personality blossoms. That’s me, so grateful.”
That’s how big boundaries work is. Of course, what she wrote was before the settling in. Just after the first realisation, when you realise the very thing you needed wasn’t even something you knew was missing. It wasn’t even on your radar or something you knew you needed to work on. Boundaries are like that. We’re so good at convincing ourselves that a lack of boundaries is necessary, nice, important, just how life is, what’s expected and every other reason we can think of. And so, we merrily (not so merrily) sail on with life feeling resentful, angry, exhausted, invaded, pressured and confused.
I presented on “Practical Boundaries” for some of the staff at a local high school this week. Self-awareness work as part of their PD program is beyond cool if you ask me. I wanted it to create implementable actions. The thing with boundaries though is that almost always the action required is a difficult conversation, and most of us have been avoiding these. Probably because they feel difficult or confronting. What they really are though are vulnerable conversations. And vulnerability can at first (almost always) feel difficult or confronting, even though later it (almost always) feels liberating and influences change.
So here’s the run-down on practical boundaries (trying to make something energetic more strategic. Something magical more scientific).
You need to understand why boundaries are important and how you behave when they are not in place. Boundaries provide the safety net – a space within which you hold space for yourself and are safe and OK no matter what is happening around you. They teach people how to treat you, even though most of the time they are implicit (unspoken) and energetic. If you KNOW your own boundaries and they are firm and real and true people don’t feck with them. Or you. And if they do, you still feel OK. And if you don’t have bold boundaries you will have to find other ways to protect yourself – usually ‘fuck off energy’ or big walls, avoiding people and/or situations that make you feel challenged, doing whatever you can to get the pressure off (procrastinating, distracting, avoiding, disappearing). And none of this changes anything. Except you may feel lonely, resentful and exhausted a lot. Find it hard to say no. Or say yes to the things you don’t enjoy. Turn into someone you barely recognise.
You need to be clear in what context you struggle with boundaries. This can give you a clue to what lies beneath the struggle (and when you can find out what’s underneath you have all the power to change). You may struggle at work (with speaking up, working extra time or on tasks outside of your role, being bullied, putting up with behaviour you don’t like, people interrupting you or not respecting your time). You may struggle in relationships, at home, with kids, intimate relationships, with extended family. You could struggle in friendships – and be the person who feels taken advantage off, always the giver, resentful. A lack of boundaries can indicate a strong desire to be loved or liked (this is normal to desire this, but not at the cost of yourself) or a lack of worthiness and a desire to prove value, worth, capacity. All of this really is trying to get something from outside of yourself that needs to be sorted from within. Which is not and has never been easy for most of us. But is possible. Especially once you realise the simplicity and beauty of boundaries.
And you need to know what boundaries you can implement. And how to do it with love. Boundaries are EXTREME LOVE by the way. They are a pure act of love. For self and others. It can be hard (especially if we like to do guilt) to fathom that they can be good for others and an act of love. But truly, when people know how to treat you, they can treat you in the way that fosters true connection, and true connection feels good. Like love.
There are physical boundaries – doors and signs that say “do not disturb” – and time and space boundaries – being on time, honouring the start and end time of appointments and commitments, letting people know when you’re available and how long it might take you to reply – and there are emotional boundaries – how to show up and communicate what is OK and what is not OK with you. And no matter what type of boundary you implement you must explicitly (clearly spoken) communicate what it is and what it means to the people around you so they can understand. And you might have to do this a number of times. Never assume people just ‘know’ and also never assume they remember because you said it once. Especially if it’s a big change. They might (if they are kids, they definitely will) want to test you out and see for sure if it’s a real thing. And you are the one who has to honour the boundaries again and again and again. And one day they just are. And so are you. Right where you belong, safe and held in the centre of your being.
Big loves xx
PS: If you feel you need some help with finding your boundaries here’s how you can talk to me about it. Click here and pop in your details. I’ll call you. No pressure. Just an honest look at where you are.
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