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Day 16. How To Communicate Your Boundaries from the Zone of Self-Esteem

Embracing healthy boundaries means putting them into action, but in trying to feel your way through this new or adapted territory, there may be confusion about whether you are being boundaried or whether you are acting for other reasons. It helps to have ‘landmarks’, signposts that help you to understand and recognise where you are, that keep you grounded in who you are and want to be as well as the type of interaction and relationship that you want to have.  

When I teach people how to reduce people pleasing so that they can become more of who they really are and enjoy more loving relationships, I explain that you have to get clear on whether you’re in the zone of self-esteem or the zone of people pleasing. Your feelings and actions and thinking off the back of these, tell you which zone you’re in. You’ll find a download in the resources section about people pleasing vs self-esteem.

The same concept applies to boundaries in general – are you coming from a place of love, care, trust, respect, independence, authenticity, assertiveness, being an adult, being conscious, aware and present, etc, or are you coming from a place of fear, guilt, shame, blame, obligation, living in the past, being in a child role, passive aggression, etc?

There are five key ingredients of assertive, self-esteem led communication, which translate into The Landmarks of Boundaried Communication. These have all been talked about in various ways over this 30-day project and are summarised below:

Compassion – Boundaries require vulnerability, empathy and kindness. This makes for the two-fold approach. It’s recognising your humanness as well as that of others instead of blaming you for other people’s behaviour. It’s listening to you and at times, being willing to hear others out without shutting down and going into your inner monologue. And it means being self-aware and willing to pull out the insights that you stand to gain, so that you can move forward without resentment and be more boundaried.

Ownership – You’ve got to be in an adult role. Any time you do things from a place of being in a child role, you are not taking responsibility for you. You’ve got pay attention to you instead of denying your feelings or continuing to engage without boundaries and trying to get them to change so that you can feel better. It’s ensuring that whatever you express or state about someone is based on knowledge, not projecting the past, and that you’re also using “I” statements.

Congruency – What you say, do and think needs to match consistently. Saying one thing and doing another is the fastest way to ensure that not only do you end up feeling bad but that you’re also going to potentially wind others up as well. Consistency makes for congruency, ensuring that you avoid mixed messages. This protects your credibility because folks won’t think that you’re crying wolf. It also means being mindful of your body language – complying but engaging in resistant/obstructionist (passive-aggressive) behaviour just adds to your problems. No more inwardly disagreeing, baulking and smarting while appearing to be outwardly compliant, or expecting others to be and do what you yourself are not willing to do. Be what you seek.

Grace – Expressing your feelings, beliefs and ideas as well as expressing the truth (or your truth) with respect. Seeing boundaries as a way to grow a relationship, not as a means of ruling others. Using the two-fold approach ensures that you stay in your own lane and that you don’t inadvertently (or intentionally) engage in attention-seeking. Grace is also not expecting others to be and do what you are not prepared to and definitely not trying to influence and control other people’s feelings and behaviour whether it’s directly or through the more back door means like people pleasing. It’s also about giving you and others grace through compassion. Allow you the grace to learn and move on. Sure, recognise shady behaviour and the like, but also don’t assume that life’s challenges or what others fail to be and do mean the absolute worst. 

Clarity – Hinting just isn’t going to cut it. When you let people know about what does and doesn’t work for you, you’ve got to let them know how you feel and how their behaviour affects you (you’d be surprised at how many omit this information). You’ve got to own your words instead of being woolly. Many who intend to have boundaries use disclaimer words and phrases like “just”, “actually”, “I don’t mean to be rude but”, “I know I’m only…”, and keep saying “sorry”. These effectively belittle your intent and the statement but also significantly affect comprehension on both sides. There can be a temptation to say what you think is ‘enough’ that the person ‘should’ be able to decipher the rest (this is indirect) or to mistake venting or being upset for talking. Clarity requires vulnerability and taking responsibility for your feelings – this includes asking questions.

And fear not: the remainder of your 30-day project arms you with the tools for expressing and living your boundaries with your self-esteem in tow. You will have space to exhale and enjoy your relationships, knowing that you are considering others and considering you too, but also safe in the knowledge that when something doesn’t feel right, you will allow you to recognise it and have an active response.

JOURNALING: Looking at the five landmarks, can you see which ones have been absent in your own interactions and relationships? What are the things that in hindsight, you recognise were getting in the way of you feeling good about you being boundaried or were blocking communicating your line and your limit? What were the reasons for each one, and what do you recognise now?

For example, I used to be very much at extremes – either hinting and so being passive, or exploding – which meant that either way, I wasn’t respecting me, but I was crossing the line of others. I thought that people were going to get mad at me, abandon me, or something, but truth be told, I also hinted because I didn’t want to ‘go there’ and be vulnerable to the extent that I would have to verbalise my concern or desire, or verbalise what bothered me. I wanted them to guess it because, well, they ‘should’ know. Hinting caused me to store up resentment, and then I’d blow up periodically. I reasoned that I had a right to blow up because I’d been gentle and kind with them and given them more than enough chances plus, couldn’t they see how much I did to please them? I learned in the end that if I hint or blow up, I am not really expressing my truth with respect, but I’m also not giving people a chance to own their stuff or to respond.

TASK: Add summary notes from here onto your one-sheeter or into your encyclopaedia of boundaries (haha – your notebook/journal). If you know the signs of when you’re going to do any of these things, note them.

E.g. I always know that I have hinted or am contemplating when I ruminate and have conversations in my head that don’t make the light of day. What’s the point in me getting medieval in my head and then smiling through gritted teeth or not stepping up to what I really need to say?

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