"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." ― Brené Brown
This subject is a tough one for me, because well into adulthood I didn’t have any boundaries. Or when I tried to set boundaries I was constantly told that I was selfish and made to feel less than for having my own needs and feelings.
I distinctly remember being told by a very dear friend long ago that my boundaries must be in China! I knew she was right, yet it still hurt. She told me this after years of watching me be verbally and emotionally abused by my then husband. Each time I came to her crying she would listen and try, once again, to help me understand that the relationship was dysfunctional, based in part on my own lack of boundaries. But I was stuck. Stuck in fear and stuck in guilt. Sure signs that I lacked boundaries. Because each time my husband treated me in a way that was disrespectful and abusive I became an emotional wreck, riddled with stress and anxiety. More signs.
Boundaries are a confusing subject. Let’s face it, we mostly learn about boundaries by how they are being modeled for us at home. Very often our parents either don’t have healthy boundaries, or they are inconsistent which sends mixed messages.
In order to set healthy boundaries we need to be in touch with our needs and know that they matter. We also need to be in touch with our feelings and know that they are valid. But many of us struggle with self-worth and tend to judge our feelings as being right or wrong. Perhaps as a society we are not very compassionate because we ignore our own needs and feelings to please others and we feel resentful. Maybe, just maybe, if we put our own needs first (which most deem to be selfish) we could be more authentic, kinder and less judgmental. Setting boundaries also requires practice and consistency. And courage. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to tell someone the truth. We fear we will hurt someone else’s feelings.
"We can say what we need to say. We can gently, but assertively, speak our mind. We do not need to be judgmental, tactless, blaming, or cruel when we speak our truths." ― Melody Beattie
Self-care wasn’t even on my radar back then. It was more like self-preservation. One day I stumbled into the bookstore in search of some message that would propel me to finally take a stand for myself. I came across a book called Boundaries Where You End And I Begin: How To Recognize And Set Healthy Boundaries by Anne Katherine. This book put me on a trajectory that changed my life. I think this quote from the book sums up the idea of boundaries perfectly: “Healthy boundaries protect without isolating, contain without imprisoning, and preserve identity while permitting external connections. Good boundaries make good neighbors.” That last line sounds familiar. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Is this one of the themes that Robert Frost alluded to in his poem Mending Walls?
It’s impossible to create self-care practices unless we’ve got boundaries. Because each time we begin to spend time doing the things that make us healthy individuals someone will need something or something will come up that will demand our time and attention. But when we can clearly and unapologetically communicate our boundaries and expectations everyone around us feels respected. It is in this way that boundaries increase compassion. Boundaries honor us first and then our loved ones.
If you find it difficult to practice The Four Seeds of Self-Care I urge you to take a look at your boundaries. Grab a journal and dedicate some time exploring whether your boundaries are serving you and if they need adjusting. You might discover that you are unsure about your right to set boundaries and that you have wavered, creating confusion in those you love. It’s possible that those that you are closest to don’t have boundaries of their own, and therefore don’t get the concept of “this is where you end and I begin.” You might determine that an open and honest conversation is in order for you to lovingly enact new boundaries. Setting boundaries is a muscle you have to exercise, just like many self-care practices. We must set boundaries in many different areas of our life including personal and work relationships, emotional, sexual, financial, intellectual and with our time. The upside of setting boundaries is that everyone gets an opportunity to GROW and be more generous and authentic by truly giving what they WANT to give! That’s a win-win!
ReConnectEd To Life came to life by setting boundaries. Rachel and I consistently met and worked on our self-care practices each and every week. This meant we had to say no to other commitments and people in order to say yes to ourselves. As we honored our own needs something magnificent was born!
So, go ahead, give yourself permission to draw those lines, to lovingly enforce them and watch the magic that is inside of you burst forth!
With Love and Gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel