How do you know if you need to set boundaries?
Have you ever felt frustrated or angry because people keep
taking up your time with their requests?
Or maybe you feel like you never get a say in your
relationships? Maybe it feels like people walk all over you?
Have you ever felt like the people in your life don’t see
you or consider your feelings or time constraints?
If so, you likely are in need of some boundaries.
So, how do you set boundaries?
Like any other skill in life, you’ll have to practice…which
means you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. (I’ve been going at this for 5
years and I’m STILL learning and growing.) If you mess up or get walked all
over from time to time, don’t worry. You. Are. Normal! We learn EVERYTHING
through trial and error.
But also like any other skill, each time you work your
boundary-setting muscle, you’ll get stronger and before long, it won’t be hard
at all to set boundaries, anticipate your boundaries, and pivot quickly when
you allow someone to cross your boundaries …or you encounter a new place you
need a boundary. (Do you think I could
say the word “boundaries” any more??? Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Ha ha
Here’s the practical guide to setting boundaries and feeling
more in control of your life and happier in your relationships:
Name your limits
What can you tolerate and accept? What makes you uncomfortable or stressed? If you don’t know…listen to your feelings (I know I’m a broken record at this point, but they are THE KEY to everything you want in life.) Notice when you’re feeling mistreated, misused, annoyed, controlled, out of control, angry, anxious, or stressed out. Those emotions aren’t “bad”…they serve a purpose. They are alarm bells to let you know your boundaries have been crossed!
Don’t be afraid to be direct
There’s one thing I know for sure. While we all have a myriad of talents, mind reading ain’t one of them. If someone is crossing your boundary, especially if they are doing it repeatedly, it’s ok to be very clear (WITH WORDS, YOU GUYS…not social cues) about what is ok with you and what is not ok.
Give yourself permission
Let me say this again…maybe a little louder for the people in the back…healthy relationships MUST include boundaries. Maybe you were raised in a culture or a family without them like I was. You may feel like “always saying yes = love”. You may worry if you deserve to have your needs considered and taken care of. If you want a healthy life and healthy relationships…the answer is to SET BOUNDARIES. You cannot have close, trusting relationships without them. (It’s scientifically proven, you guys. Give yourself permission.)
If you’ve set few or no boundaries in the past, this is going to be a big change. Choose a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you and then increase incrementally to more challenging boundaries. Build on your success.
Consider your circumstances
Many of us got our beliefs about boundaries early in life. You may have picked up that self-care isn’t ok from your mom when she put EVERYONE else first and rarely if ever took time out for herself. Or you may have been the oldest and were expected to be the caretaker for other children. Maybe your parents were alcoholics and you had to be the person that was responsible for everyone else. Or maybe you were raised in a culture that told you what to do all of the time and you never thought that you could have your own voice.
When we pick up these kinds of limiting beliefs early in life, before our prefrontal cortex is online, these beliefs go straight to our subconscious where they are harder to become aware of and harder to access. Your emotions (again…broken record, remember) are going to be the key to helping you access the thoughts knocking around in that primitive space.
If you’ve grown up in an environment where having boundaries is considered “bad”, seek help from a coach, therapist, or even just a support group, church group, or good friends who have good boundaries. Their support will help you overcome the guilt as you step into this new space.
You always start as a beginner
Have you ever desperately wanted to do something new, but you were SUPER afraid that you’d suck at it?
Yup. Me too.
Have you ever worried so much that you’d make mistakes or make a fool of yourself that you let that fear keep you from even showing up and trying?
Again. Guilty as well.
The next thing I’m going to say will feel like a “duh” comment, but I believe more of us need to hear it and let it really sink in. When it really sinks in, it’ll change the game in every aspect of your life.
EVERYONE IS A BEGINNER AT THE BEGINNING.
I know…I know…you’re having a “thanks for stating the obvious, Einstein” kind of a moment right now. (At least, I did when I first heard it). But when you really allow yourself to be ok being a beginner, understanding that it’s not just you, it’s EVERYONE that fumbles in the beginning, it’s easier to give yourself grace to learn.
Learning involves making mistakes
I want you to picture yourself as a small child. (You’re pretty freaking adorable, right?)
Think of all of the things you learned when you were little. You had to learn to roll over, sit up, walk, sleep through the night, sleep alone, feed yourself, dress yourself, talk.
Did you do ANY of these things perfectly the first time or even the hundredth time?
Did you come out of the womb able to hold adult conversations? or regulate your emotions? or articulate your desires? Um, no.
We come out of the womb LEARNING, which ironically looks a whole lot like making mistakes and then course correcting.
We come into the world eager to try out new things, make mistakes, and learn from them. And the world is eager for us to do the same.
Our parents clap for us when we struggle to roll over or take our first Frankenstein steps on our own. We smile and shriek in delight at our first feeble efforts. Why?
Because we understand that this is how we learn, by trying. This is the ONLY way to learn.
And it feels pretty freaking amazing to grow and expand our abilities. It feels like victory to take those first few steps and to continue to become coordinated enough to walk seamlessly and eventually run.
Learning in a shame-free environment is expansive and freeing. It makes us feel like we can do anything.
Shedding the shame
So, what changed between that adorable, chubby faced time in your life and now?
Even though no one meant to, somewhere along the way, your mistakes began to be corrected with shame. Shame was used because it’s a POWERFUL motivator to correct behavior. As humans, we’re wired to connect and be accepted. For our ancestors, being cast out of the tribe meant certain death. So, shame and guilt are literally hardwired into us to alert us when we’re doing something that could ostracize us from our chosen community or close relationships.
But, society is only JUST starting to understand how detrimental shame can be to the learning process. (We’re talking this stuff started being researched only in the past few decades. We have hundreds if not thousands of years of unlearning to do in this area).
So, if you can remember being shamed for breaking something, saying the wrong thing, forgetting to turn in your homework, or just not showering enough…you’re right there with the rest of us awkward humans. We’ve all made mistakes. And we’ve all been accidentally shamed for those mistakes because it’s all humanity has known.
Not mistakes; learning opportunities
You were built to learn through doing, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. What if we reframed the idea of making mistakes or even failure?
What if from now on, we called the times when we fall down learning opportunities?
Would that change how you view your journey into the unknown?
Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”
What if from now on, you determined that there was no shame in the process of learning. What if you considered all of the experiences opportunities to either “win or learn”?
You could accomplish just about ANYTHING you put your mind to!
Who am I, anyway?
3 years ago, I underwent a faith crisis and eventually a faith transition.
Up until this point, my faith had been the defining characteristic of my life. It informed every other part of who I was. It told me who I was as a woman, what was expected of me as a wife and mother. My faith also dictated how I viewed the world and the people in it. All of my decisions and views were wrapped in my faith.
So, you can imagine, when I left that part of me behind, I felt lost.
Who was the person inside of me?
What did she want in life?
What did she like?
What were her values?
What were her dreams?
Slipping into the new you is like slipping into a pair of new shoes
When you don’t know who you are or what you want, you can feel lost. It can be hard to know which direction to go next.
During this time of self discovery, I found comfort in giving myself freedom to “try on” new things. I told myself it was like shoe shopping.
When you go to a shoe store, you don’t worry about which pair you’ll try on. You know what size of shoe you need. You might have a clear vision of what kind of shoe you are looking for. But you might not know the specifics yet. You come to the store open to options.
You give yourself freedom to browse without judgement. To look at all of the pairs of shoes. To consider options you might not have thought about before.
You are allowed to try things on and discard things that don’t work.
Just because you tried on a pair of shoes doesn’t mean you have to purchase them. And even if you purchase them, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later.
Give yourself permission to browse
Finding the authentic you is just like shoe shopping.
Listen to the yearnings inside of you. Pay attention to what they say.
Give yourself permission to research options without judgment. Be open to what is out there and listen to what calls to you.
Allow yourself the freedom to try things on and see how they fit.
If it makes you feel good, keep it. If it doesn’t, discard it.
Before long, you’ll know exactly which pair of shoes feel best…or you may find you have a closet full of different pairs for different situations…and that’s ok too. You do you, Boo!
What is vulnerability?
First up…let’s be honest. Vulnerability is starting this blog. Putting ideas out there. Letting myself be seen.
Because holy freaking cow, people…this junk is hard, but it’s necessary. I’ve been through too much, come too far, to keep the goodness I’ve learned both from my training in college and from the school of hard knocks and real life all to myself.
I know I’m not the only unfortunate soul out there who has experienced the hard stuff. I know because over the past decade of transforming my life into something I am really proud of, I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to other people tell their stories. And over and over again, I hear echoes of my own story.
We might not all live the same life, but we often feel the same things. We are interconnected more than we know and we grow and learn faster when we share with each other.
So…here I am. Imperfect and still learning and excited to share all I’m learning with you.
Brene Brown says that “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Sitting from the comfort of this desk chair (well, it’s not THAT comfortable, but you know what I mean)…vulnerability sounds like the truth of pouring my heart onto these digital pages and telling you, a stranger, my story, my struggles, my personal experience… and hoping it’ll be received with the spirit it was intended. And sitting here with my heart open and pounding as I bang away on these keys, it feels like sweaty-handed courage.
In short, vulnerability is what happens when we take ourselves outside of our comfort zones or do something that forces us to let go of a little control.
Why is vulnerability important?
My guess is that if you’re reading this, you are looking for some sort of growth or change. You want to improve your life, create something better, and become a higher version of yourself.
Well, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that any change you wish to create is absolutely possible. Whether you wish to create deep, meaningful relationships or create a business that makes a difference and a big income, you are the master architect of your life.
The bad news is that ALL change comes from a place of vulnerability. That means that if the thought of showing up and letting yourself risk being seen, heard, or even the risk of making mistakes makes you feel a little like losing your lunch…this is going to take some tough work…and maybe one of those little airplane paper bag thingies.
However, like all things, with practice, vulnerability gets easier.
How do I start?
First: start with small steps. You aren’t going to go from where you are to fully vulnerable overnight. Share a thought with someone you trust. Put a piece of art into the world. And be proud of your bravery when you do.
Second: Let go of pleasing the peanut gallery. We can freeze up when we’re worried that we’re not pleasing everyone. I have news for you, you’re already not pleasing everyone and YOU ARE SURVIVING! People are going to think what they think. You cannot cater to all of them. Instead, focus on a trusted few individuals who have your best interest at heart and who are doing brave things of their own. When you need feedback, turn to them. Ask for their opinions. Let them fill you up. Tune everyone else out.
Third: Don’t worry about being perfect. Spoiler alert: you, my friend, are HUMAN. That means you’re going to make mistakes. The good news about this is that as imperfect humans, we tend to connect best with humans who don’t try to pretend to be perfect. As you go through life as the beautifully imperfect you, you’ll magnetize others who recognize your awesomeness. Before long, you’ll be surrounded with people who all “get” the real you which is going to make it even easier to show up as the authentic, vulnerable you.
Fourth: Deep breaths. If being vulnerable is new, it’s going to be uncomfortable at times. That’s normal. When you feel shaky, nervous, or even a little sick to your stomach, take a few moments to focus on your breathing, listen to your body, and let the emotions crest and pass before you return your attention to the task at hand.
Are you ready to begin this journey with me? This is the beginning of something wonderful…