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Day 30. The Takeaway

Practising healthier boundaries means that you increase self-care because you’re thinking about how you treat and regard you. You add more discipline and mindfulness to your life, and as a result, you can listen to you and give you what you need rather than bumbling around unconsciously. Self-care takes care of the energy to support boundaries. Drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day to flush through toxins. Try meditation (a lot of my members, readers and listeners use the Headspace app on iPhone and Android), eat three meals a day if you can (problems feel at their worst and are often poorly responded to when you’re hangry), keep journaling so that you are checking in with you regularly, exercise or get out into nature. Get on top of your sleep, don’t overload you with things to do, engage socially, and use affirmations when your head gets busy as they derail disruptive and destructive thoughts. Some of my favourites are, “I am safe. I am secure”, “I trust my higher self. I listen with love to my inner voice. I release all that is unlike the action of love” and “That’s not mine, that’s theirs, and I’m sending it right back”, which is brilliant when somebody (or you) tries to blame you for other people’s stuff. Make sure that you’re doing things that you enjoy and that the bulk of your time is spent living your life. Self-care is knowing the difference between what you want and what someone else wants, what you need, and what they do.  Find meditation hard? I lie flat for ten minutes a day. Try lying on a yoga mat or blanket (or the floor if that floats your boat). I originally started doing this because I’d been through a stressful period and my lower back was playing me up, so I lay down to release the tension out of my back. You need to take a few deep breaths and really try to release in to the floor. When you first lie down, you realise how much stress you’re holding. Anyway, at first I found that I was quite fidgety and could manage about 3-4 minutes, but then I realised it was ten minutes of chill time. Thoughts pass through, and I just observe them, but I don’t stress myself about trying to have a ‘blank’ headspace, which is what a lot of people get stressy about with meditation. I yawn a lot when lying down, and this is energy moving around. This is good. A good wiggle of the toes and hands seems to help more yawning to release off energy. Ten minutes flies by now, and I always have more clarity when I get up. Self-trust will unfold and cement when you set boundaries. You will keep sending a message that you are somebody who can be relied upon. You will also have a deeper sense of who you are, including your values, because you are being what you seek and embodying and modelling how you want to live and be treated. Remember, you can only show that you are trustworthy by honouring your values and in turn, your boundaries. People trust those who they share similar core values with. If you ever find that you are feeling distrusting of somebody (or they are of you even though you know that you’re not doing anything dodgy), it is an all-important cue that you do not share core values where it counts.  Boundaries are about harmonising the common welfare of the relationship. What a relationship should never be about is power and perceptions of superiority and inferiority. Any relationship that includes these also includes contempt. Remember that you’re about love, care, trust and respect. Remember that boundaries are two-fold. When it comes to unhealthy relationships, we accept treatment from others that is only slightly less than how we are already treating ourselves. It pushes us way over our stress threshold, and if we want to feel better, we have to stop looking for them to ‘fix up’ and step up for us instead. You must set the standard and you will find that when you do, you will no longer be willing to accept less than what you can already do for yourself. Also remember that in being two-fold, you can own your own and let others own theirs. You are clear about what their boundary is but you’re also clear about yours. If you are in an abusive relationship or certainly a very unhealthy one, it robs you of your strength to leave. Building boundaries will help you to build up your confidence enough to go. Focus on being more emotionally and mentally boundaried where you differentiate between you and him/her. You have a foundation and building blocks to build a healthier life upon but don’t be afraid to seek additional support. If you have found that the work you’ve done has unlocked issues and pain that you had pushed down and you want to explore these with a professional, please don’t hold you back from getting any additional support that you can whether it’s therapy, counselling, alternative therapies or support groups. Embracing healthy boundaries isn’t about turning you into a ‘No Person’ or about ruling others; the goal of expressing yourself is to have a position. Instead of being passive or even round-the-houses passive-aggressive, by speaking up, you have an active response and feel better about you. Remember, what you do and don’t do, your words and the unsaid becomes the representation of your values and your limits of acceptability. Yes, there are things you will say that communicate your boundaries, but nothing says boundaries like choices and decisions that reflect them. By learning to say and show no authentically, your yes is becoming more sincere plus you know that not only are you willing to make the tricky decisions even if it hurts in the short-term (having your own back) but that you know by extension of having boundaries that you will keep a safe distance from someone who crosses yours, especially if they try to do so on the regular. Have levels to your ‘drama’. Learn to pick and choose your battles. I use a scale of 1-5, although some prefer 1-10. This is not about avoiding confrontation— it is about having levels to your responses. 5 is big boundary busts, major conflict. If you treat everything at the same level, it’s a disproportionate response, and you will lose credibility. It’s also just bloody stressful! Using levels means that you become very attuned to your feelings and that you check in with you before you act so that you are conscious, aware and present. Keep track of what you’re saying/showing yes and no to. Even if you’re just jotting a few sentences each day, track your progress and notice the positive differences or the insights you stand to gain from where things don’t work out. Practice boundaries with strangers and other non-threatening people. This will help to build up your confidence. Imagine that you have an anger closet in your mind – it only has room for a certain amount of issues. You bust your boundaries, and you add whoever is involved to the pool of people you hold resentment about plus it dumps more stuff in your closet. Not only do you need to declutter, refold, and reorganise what is in your closet, but you need to feel your feelings and address your anger through healthier boundaries so that you can move on. When you don’t, all you do is cart a whole load of baggage around with you. You can’t hold on to all of this stuff, so you’ve either got to resolve it with you and/or resolve it with the other party.  Try putting on a piece of clothing for everything that you’re holding on to, and you will soon see how weighed down you are! Seriously, try it! Then take off an item at a time, naming the issue that you were holding on to and saying, “I am ready to let go. I choose to let go. I forgive you. I love you. And I’m sorry.” Also, try the Releasing Exercise in the resources (I hope you’ve tried this already!). Recognise the baggage that you bring into a situation. In any situation where you feel angry, sad, and afraid, be mindful of the baggage that you bring into the situation that is influencing your reaction and responses, and also recognise that any other party who is involved also brings in their own baggage. This ensures that you’re not projecting and that you’re owning your own and letting others own theirs (as opposed to over-empathising or seeing you as the sole cause of the issue). One of the barriers, not just to healthy boundaries but resolving issues or even just seeing them for what they are is that us humans tend to take things too personally. We decide that the others behave as they do because we caused it or we didn’t ‘earn’ a better response. Nope! Us humans respond to everything based on habit. When those habits aren’t serving us, it’s because our emotional baggage is driving us.  Don’t do the villain and victim thang. Don’t villainise you for having boundaries and at the same time, there’s no need to approach things from a place of feeling victimised, either. NO needs no flannel. As the saying goes, NO is a complete sentence. There’s a soft no vs hard no. Soft is when you give explanation (ideally without getting all fluffy and justifying) and no is when you need to be straight no chaser because you’ve either already previously said no in various ways (and the person has continued on anyway) or because you already know based on prior experience that if they’re not getting a straight-up, direct no, that they perceive it to be an almost-yes and that you’re up for negotiation.  A hard no is a closed no, and it should make it very difficult for the person to push you any further on it… unless they have an issue with respecting boundaries. We tend to use a soft no to feel as if we’ve given the ‘no’ justice and sometimes to relieve discomfort. A soft no is fine when it works but softly cannot continue once it becomes clear that what you said no to keeps boomeranging back to you. “Let me get back to you.” Six magic words that stop you from defaulting to yes due to trying to tell people what they want to hear and avoiding tension. Use this if your brain gets a bit fuzzy when you feel as if something is being asked or expected of you, but don’t use it to mess people around. Set a time limit with you for making up your mind and get back to people in good time so that you’re not leaving it to the wire because if you do that, you are more likely to agree/comply because you feel bad for not speaking up sooner. Do, however, avoid using “Let me get back to you” to stall on what you already know. It may feel as if you’re delaying conflict but actually, you’re more likely to build the situation up in your mind. We greatly exaggerate the potential for conflict and criticism, using times that have met or exceeded our predictions as evidence while forgetting the many times that it hasn’t or the context of why that conflict, criticism and even rejection and disappointment resulted. When you consistently create healthy boundaries, you get to enjoy your life rather than compromising you for the minority of the times when things meet or exceed your predictions for negativity. It is not worth being unboundaried 100% of the time for the 5% of occasions where your predictions are accurate. Before you make a decision not to do what you know that you need to, rigorously fact and sanity-check the basis and get grounded. Prep assertively for tricky conversations. Plan for success, not failure by ensuring that you don’t predict doom. Focus instead on communicating what you want to get across… which brings me neatly to… Sticking to three key points works a treat. Get to the nitty-gritty and use the rule of threes – three concerns, three examples, three key points that you want to make. This works for both verbal and written communication and spares you (and them) from everything but the kitchen sink. You ensure that you have the landmarks of boundaried communication – compassion, congruency, ownership, clarity and grace. Broken Record is a must for intrusives and crazy-makers. Anyone who tries to impose themselves upon you or who tries to run rings around you with side arguments and trying to get you to make sense out of nonsense absolutely needs Broken Record. Changing your mind is allowed. Just because you did something unworkable for you one hundred times, it does not mean that you’re obliged to continue. Equally, there are going to be times where it is only with the benefit of hindsight or space and time to truly consider your feelings, where you’re going to recognise that actually, you’re not OK with something, or that you don’t want to do it. This is OK. Yes, it’s not always convenient for you to change your mind, but it is better to deal with short-term discomfort rather than long-term consequences. In these situations, let the person know as soon as you can, apologise and move on. Example: I had a situation where I put something in my schedule that in retrospect, I realised that I was overscheduled. “I’m really sorry, but I’m not going to be able to make the deadline. I hold my hands up and recognise that I’ve taken on too much. In my eagerness to get rolling with your project and also not wanting to disappoint, I agreed to a date that in hindsight, is too soon. I absolutely do want to go ahead with the project, just not at this time as I know that I will not be able to give my full attention to the project.”  Due to my childhood, I will always have a level of fear of confrontation, but each time I am boundaried, and I face that fear, I put more distance between myself and those experiences. I felt awful about letting these people down, but it would have meant far greater issues if I’d proceeded. They thanked me for my honesty and said that it was really great to work with somebody who knows their own mind and their energy. Let me repeat, changing your mind is allowed. Do not comply with anything dangerous out of fear of inconvenience or looking rude. Sometimes you say yes to something in the wrong frame of mind or without all of the information you need. Then you get clearer. If you feel very uncomfortable or even in danger, do not continue out of politeness, I beg you! Saying and showing no to others is saying yes to you. There is more than enough yes and no to go around. It’s not in short supply. No one has used up their quota, and no one has the right to expect that everyone must say and show yes to them at all times. But if you do encounter somebody like this, beware! Ask yourself, If I say or show yes to this, where, if at all, am I saying no to myself? If a negative message is being inferred, say no or revise your yes. Get clear on your motivations. You can single-handedly change your choices when you get very honest with you about your motivations. Just ask yourself what you’re afraid will happen if you do or don’t do something or what you’re hoping to be rewarded with. When you remove the hidden agenda, you know that you are being boundaried because when you don’t know your motivations, you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing or feeling what you’re feeling, and you cannot really seek to make any real change or have a stake in the interaction. If you feel afraid as you contemplate asserting your boundaries or are (and you’re not in actual danger), it’s a sign that you’re stretching yourself out of an uncomfortable comfort zone. It’s letting you know that being boundaried is unfamiliar territory in this type of situation or with that person. Feel the fear and be boundaried anyway. There’s a much younger version of you that thanks you every time you represent. They finally get to be acknowledged and taken care of by you. Do you proud. Boundaries are for life, not just for emergency situations. Being boundaried is about how you’re living in the day to day, not only for when you’re tackling tricky situations. Take care of your emotional, mental, physical and stuff-of-life boundaries, and you will have increased self-esteem. Think of what you do on a day-to-day basis as being like chipping into your self-esteem piggy bank. What you do some or all of the time matters more than what you do occasionally or rarely. If you’re boundaried for you and in your relationships most of the time, it will pay serious dividends. Believe. You always deserve love, care, trust and respect. I wish you well on your onward journey. Just remember, you really do matter. Never forget this.

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