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Establishing Boundaries

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My friend and I sat parked in her car in my driveway after yoga talking about boundaries. I had recently re-listened to a Marie Forleo podcast where she interviewed Terri Cole, who published a book last year called Boundary Boss.

When I listened to it last year, I was irritated. Terri’s guidance seemed harsh. Flexible by nature, I see boundaries as more porous, with some natural give and take. I resisted her advice and let it go for a year.

Fast forward to now. I felt compelled to listen to it again during a long walk along the Humber. This time it landed differently. What changed?

Addressing Fears around Boundaries

Terri explained that establishing boundaries requires us to address the fear behind why we don’t set them. I never imagined boundaries as fear-inducing; I thought they were about being “nice” or “not nice.”

Common boundary fears include:

  • Getting rejected. If I don’t keep giving/doing X, she won’t want me around anymore.
  • Not being liked. She won’t like me unless I behave like Y.
  • We don’t deserve it. It’s easy to accommodate to others’ schedules. I don’t know why people make such a big deal about it.

Notice the binary thinking we talked about in Feeling Stuck, reflected in these fears and my own. In fact, my initial thoughts on building boundaries were binary. My judge saboteur condemned Terri Cole for presenting boundaries in black and white when, in fact, I had projected my own feelings on to her.

And my anger? Julia Cameron advises in The Artist’s Way, “… anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go (p.61).” My anger around boundaries a year ago was an indication I needed to explore this topic further. I share that with you because I see anger differently now. It’s a teaching tool. It illuminates what the mind, body, heart, or spirit have obscured.

Identifying our Boundaries

It’s our job to establish our own boundaries instead of asking others to “respect” ours. After all, if we haven’t defined it, how can someone else know when they’ve violated it?

Ask yourself how you feel after helping other(s). When you reflect later, do you feel good or resentful? Feeling resentful is a clue that you haven’t made a clear boundary.

Building Boundaries

Learning to say no is the simplest (notice I didn’t say “easiest”) way to create boundaries. I remember the words of Judith Orloff in The Empath’s Survival Guide, “No is a complete sentence.”

Consider that you don’t have to convince others of your “right” to have boundaries. People who love you naturally care about how you feel. Because they love you, you don’t need to prove anything. You get your needs met because you are loved.

As you create boundaries, you may feel the urge to do boundary setting all the time. Terri doesn’t recommend this strategy as it “discharges the anxiety about changing the relationship dance.” In other words, it doesn’t serve your growth. It only magnifies your discomfort. What you need now is positive reinforcement so use it judiciously to build small, early successes.

Header Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash, Photo by André Bandarra on Unsplash

In the end, consider how over-giving, the foundation of boundary violations, depletes us of energy. Its final stop is victimhood, which we talked about in The Hero’s Journey. No one wants to rest there. As you set boundaries, you’ll feel more authentic and grounded.

 

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