5. Don’t sweat the boundaries.
On day 24
, I delved into dealing other people’s reactions and the fear of alienation that comes with it, but another very common concern is about the perception of the amount of ‘work’ involved in showing up and stepping up for you. Here’s the truth about boundaries:
People who as a part of their own value system conduct themselves from a place of love, care, trust, respect, plus who value integrity, will not negatively feel your change of boundaries. Why not, you may ask? Because a person’s only going to feel your healthy boundaries negatively if they were over your line in the first
place. If anything, a person with healthy boundaries will feel more comfortable in your presence and possibly even relieved.
You only need to be extra vigilant with known offenders, i.e. repeat offenders, as well as in the discovery phase of getting to know someone or in situations where for whatever reason, your confidence is rattled. If you’re being conscious in your actions, thinking and choices instead of unconscious, you haven’t got anything to worry about.
If you have a mutual relationship with Aunt Maybelle, you don’t need to do anything. Again, because you are now being boundaried in other areas of your life and feeling happier, all improving your boundaries elsewhere is going to do with Aunt Maybelle, is improve and enhance an already good
If your mother is a known offender, you don’t need to cut her off (unless she’s abusive and/or she is unwilling to work with a healthier you and respect your boundaries), this is where your vigilance, awareness, and mindfulness is needed.
6. Decide in advance what the ‘hot spots’ are with the person.
Then decide in advance how you’re going to handle things so that you are boundaried, not so that you control their emotions and behaviour.
For instance, I know that if my mother calls me up and has a certain tone/attitude/ or uses one of her key phrases, that I need to limit the time to 10-15 minutes max, or say that I’ll call her back and still limit the time then. I also have several ready-made excuses for getting off the phone, and I just repeat them if she’s not listening and then say that I have to go. Not only do I feel so much better and unburdened after initially wondering if I was a “bad daughter” for not sitting through this stuff no matter how toxic, but my mother has gradually come to know my line and has improved some of her self-management too. She’s my mother, but we both have to approach each other as adults, and so in turn, I have also learned not to treat my mother like a child, which at times has been testing…
7. Learn from each time and adapt.
Get into the habit of operating from a position of self-respect. Relax, go about your business, and learn how to read signs without
panicking you into believing that the sky is about to fall down and then responding from a panicked place. Be conscious, aware, and present, and you will be able to read shifts in your feelings and physical responses.
If you feel very tense and leaden-like in the stomach, for instance, it’s signalling a need to have an active response and to be boundaried. It may be about being boundaried with you, or you might also need to assert a boundary with someone. Learn your body responses.
8. Ensure that you’ve identified your ‘hot list’ of people who are most likely to attempt to wear down your last boundary nerve.
On days 12
, I talked about identifying your People Pleasing / Bad Boundaries entourage. It’s these people plus anybody else that behaves similarly or prompts the same familiar feelings, that you need to be vigilant with.
Most likely people that you need to be vigilant with? A family member. Next most likely is a long-term or toxic friend, and then either a current partner, ex, or coworker.
Helpful hint: If you struggle with boundaries with a romantic partner or coworker, cross-reference them against a parent/caregiver or somebody else who was a key part of your childhood.
9. Do not apologise for having to curtail your pleasing and lack of boundaries.
That implies that you are in the wrong and guilty. No, you’re not!
10. Scale back your commitments to your pleaser self and lay the foundations with family and friends by stressing work and other schedule commitments.
The best way to prepare for saying no ‘next time’ is to mention your other commitments, not in an I’m-busier-than-a-world-leader-or-superhero type of way but more from a ‘This is what I do with my time and my life. My time is valuable’
place. You do not need to justify the validity of these commitments, and you don’t need to gain agreement from your friends and family. You might love these folks, but they have no business telling you that your work or other things that you’re doing are not important or certainly less so than what they want.
You decide your priorities. Incidentally, you just try telling them that their priorities are not their priorities and see how much blowback you get. You are not a lackey or The Help.
11. Think of 3-5 things that you regret having done – these are what you will say no to next time regardless of who it is.
12. Manage your guilt and angst about saying no (or preparing to) by asking yourself if the benefits of you agreeing to what you feel guilty/anxious about, outweigh any problems it’s going to bring you.
One friend people pleased her way into agreeing to take care of her neighbour’s dog despite being allergic…
If getting to work or maintaining other commitments is going to be a problem as a result of saying yes to this, you should say no.
If you’re going to feel resentful, upset, frustrated, taken advantage of etc., afterwards, you say no.
If it’s going to cost you your wellbeing and potentially endanger you or have negative consequences beyond the immediate short-term, you decline. The guilt and anxiety will pass in far less time than the problems!
13. We all have an obligation to conduct ourselves with love, care, trust and respect but that doesn’t oblige us to be doormats or to live in a perpetual state of paying people back for every last thing that they do.
Particularly with family and people who we’ve been around for a long time, we fall into the obligations black hole. ‘They did that thing for me back in 1983!’,
or ‘They’re family. I have to always say yes even when I don’t want to’
Here’s the thing: If somebody isn’t doing something because it’s who they are, they have a hidden agenda and are entering you into a contract. It’s not love; it’s not support; it’s not help. It’s business
. Either they’re obliging you into doing stuff with ‘good deeds’ packaged up in a guilt-inducing IOU, or you’re not a good ‘receiver’, and so each time somebody does something, you then feel as if you’re obliged to pay them back with a strip of your boundaries. Either way, it’s whack.
The more things you do out of obligation, real ones or faux ones, is the more resentment you build because you’re not doing things from an authentic place. Do things because you want to. Each time we do something in this world out of obligation, someone else out there has had an underlying obligation laid on them. Yes we are obliged to behave with love, care, trust and respect (not all of us do though) but it’s all the better when we want
to because then we know that we’re doing things for the right reasons and we’re not looking for a reward or payback, and we also won’t oblige us into rewarding or paying back others either. Our relationships are not about coercion. We can be aware of our obligations but be even more aware of our authenticity and desires.