It took me forty five years to introduce boundaries into my life. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t make me popular, particularly with my children who could no longer intrude on my space without being called on it. My friends and family noticed the change as my compulsion to only speak my truth became apparent, but what does it mean to have boundaries in your life and what are boundaries?
The simple act of saying; no thank you, that doesn’t work for me. Can you not speak to me that way. Can you please respect my decision, my private space, my wishes. I don’t agree with you or I don’t want to go.
Being able to say any, or all of the above in a straightforward manner, without explanation is having boundaries. It’s the right of every single person alive, so why do we feel like it’s wrong? Why do we feel bad, justify, validate and over explain ourselves for standing up for ourself or not being able to comply with the wishes of others?
The answer? We’re afraid of what people think and we don’t like disappointing. For people pleasers, formally me the thought of not agreeing with, or seeking approval from everyone they meet is incomprehensible. For those regularly taken advance of, standing up for yourself can seem like an impossible dream and those who hate to disappoint, saying no without giving a hundred excuses or reasons is horrifying.
Without boundaries we do things we don’t want to do, or we let people get away with behaviour that is unacceptable. Then we become resentful towards them and pissed off at ourself for not speaking up and saying no.
Having boundaries means you’re straightforward in your responses. – You agree or disagree with someone based only on your beliefs, not because you want to be popular. – You help someone or do a favour, only if you can do so without compromising yourself, not because you want them to like you. – You commit to going somewhere, only if you’re free and actually want to go. – You no longer accept disrespectful behaviour towards you, as your ability to ‘let it slide’ diminishes.
My youngest sons first experience with my new boundaries happened one morning while having breakfast together. As a profoundly deaf person who depends on hearing aids, I often miss what’s being said, much to the annoyance of those closest to me. On this particular morning, Sammie asked a question and I answered with, ‘sorry what did you say?’ As usual he said, as my other sons often do, ‘don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter.’
Before setting boundaries, my response was usually something like, ‘oh come on, tell me what you said.’ He’d say, ‘no it doesn’t matter,’ with noticeable irritation and I would feel quite upset and conscious of my disability.
With my shiny new boundaries in place, I explained to him, in a very clam manner that his response was passive, aggressive and completely unacceptable. I didn’t choose to be deaf and his treatment of me was unfair and rude, something I would no longer tolerate. The look of confusion on his gorgeous face was almost comical, but when I explained how it made me feel and how others would feel if he treated them thus, he immediately apologised.
Six months later, we have a different vibe. A couple of times he started to say, ‘it doesn’t matter,’ only to catch himself and explain more clearly what he meant, as I silently beamed on the inside. It works!!!
Setting boundaries for me means I’m not as nice as I used to be. I’m nicer. More straightforward in my responses, more authentic and more compassionate. I always speak my truth, but I do so with kindness. I think before I act, mostly and never commit without being absolutely sure of two things. – I can definitely make it. – I definitely want to go. I rarely explain my reasons if I can’t and if I’m not included in something or invited somewhere, I don’t take it personally, allowing others to have their own boundaries.
The next times someone asks you to do something and it’s really putting you under pressure. Say no, sorry I can’t help this time. – Ask yourself if you’re genuinely helping or if you want them to like you more. If you feel anxious about saying no, let it go. Don’t text a hundred times to apologise or over explain.
If you commit to something and spend the evening, afternoon or lunchtime, kicking yourself for agreeing or resenting everyone there, because you didn’t really want to go. Take note. Write it down and next time you’re asked to attend something, think about it before you commit
If someone talks to you in an unacceptable manner, calmly ask them not to speak to you so. Without heightened emotion that leads to emotional stress, ammunition for the aggressor calmly state your case and walk away. I promise you it works.
Like everything on the journey of self realisation, it takes practice. The desire to set boundaries is the hardest part. We’re so used to not having them that we’ve become yes people, pleasing everyone except ourselves.
Stage One – Have the desire to set boundaries. Stage Two – Set them.
It really is that simply.
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