Most likely it’s been me my whole life. Even as a pretty young child, there was care-giving I had to do. Always on alert, always doing what I could, working hard to make sure my people are safe, the household runs decently enough, friends are ok, clients well-cared for… carrying a lot of people and their needs in my head and heart. No doubt the stresses of our time is also weighing heavily on me.
It’s like the fish in water who doesn’t know they’re swimming in water – I didn’t know or couldn’t see what I’ve been swimming in. I have so many wonderful grounding practices, that mostly I do pretty well. I thought I was ok. And, overall, I really AM OK! I share all of this only to lay the background, not for anyone to worry about me – really.
At the same time, it’s catching up with me, so I’m finding I need more space, more time, more quiet, more slowing down, more breathing room in order to return my nervous system to calm. It’s not as calm as I’ve thought it was as often as I’ve thought it was. And, so, enter the need for boundaries. Boundaries do not come easily or naturally to me, but I’ve learned how vital they are to one’s well-being.
Enter the need for boundaries. Boundaries do not come easily or naturally to me, but I’ve learned how vital they are to one’s well-being. I resonate with Brené Brown’s definition of boundaries as “what’s ok and what’s not ok.” When we can be clear about this and communicate it to others, we actually strengthen relationship and clarify roles.
Boundaries allow me to stay connected. They help me to preserve my energy and well-being. Without boundaries, I might need to pull away completely, shut down all together, and go into isolation, making connection impossible.
Boundaries bring me into integrity with what is true for me and allow me to honor what I really have to give. Without boundaries, I can easily over-give, over-extend, and burn myself out… That serves no one. Without boundaries I show up, but I am later exhausted or resentful… That gets in the way of relationship.
Boundaries allow you to trust me. You can count on me to say “yes” when I am available and “no” when I am not. You no longer have to worry or wonder about taking care of me. You can trust that I am taking care of myself. Please know that even if I say “no” or “not now,” I still care. I care enough to not give to you when I am not able to.I hope you understand, and I don’t need you to understand.
This isn’t about you. It’s about integrity, truth, and honoring. When I hold a boundary, I honor both you and me… even if it doesn’t feel that way in the moment.
Of course I want people to like me (don't we all?), but I am no longer willing to let that override my love for myself. For too many years I put others first and abandoned myself on a regular basis. This is not sustainable, healthy, or good for either one of us.
With boundaries, we can develop a strong and healthy relationship. I trust you to have other resources and to find your way even when I am not available. I believe in you which is why I don’t have to turn my world upside down to save you. I honor your wisdom, power, and ability to tap into whatever you need to get you through this moment. I know your well-being does not depend on me.
Please understand, I also know how hard it is when someone isn’t available for me when I really feel a need for connection and support. This makes it hard for me to say no when I feel that need coming from you.
And at the same time, I love, respect, and honor those who are able to say no to me even when I say “I could really use a friend…“ This happened once with one of my oldest and dearest friends. It stung in the moment. It was also painful for her, but she felt the truth of having nothing to give. And, it taught me an invaluable lesson and modeled for me what’s possible.
Somehow, she knew that I would be OK even though I felt like I was falling apart in that moment. She knew that even if I didn’t find anyone else to talk to, I was able to be with myself and make it through the deeply painful and awful time.
Here I am…so, clearly, I did. I will never forget that moment. Not because of the pain I felt or because I was angry with my friend, but because she taught me that it is OK to be honest with yourself and with other people, even people you love deeply. It is ok to say, “I don’t have it in me to give you what you need. I don’t have the bandwidth.” Or, simply “No. I’m not available.”
And so, when I am not available, I trust you. I remember that I am not God or 911 and so I can’t expect myself to be the one to save you.
Will I be there when I can? Absolutely! Will I give of myself generously when I’m filled up? Without a doubt. It’s who I am. And yet, in this moment my own health and vitality depends on me saying yes to me. Not splitting myself in two trying to honor me and others. I must begin here, with this vessel, this heart, this being that needs my devotion and care.
Boundaries are an Act of Radical Self-Care
Boundaries are an act of radical self-care. They take courage and awareness to set. They require us to be quiet enough to hear the inner wisdom that guides us.
Boundaries can feel awkward, clumsy, and imperfect as we begin to express them to others. We may worry how they are received until we learn to let go of that worry and begin to trust instead. If a relationship is based on over-giving, is this a relationship worth continuing? The relationships I want are with people who will understand and respect my right to take care of myself.
I’ve got a long and complicated relationship with boundaries. In the past I didn’t know what they were and had a hard time setting them or knowing what they should be.
Boundaries are particularly important when you are in a care-giving role, personally or professionally. If you’re someone people look to and lean into, they will naturally want your support, advice, wisdom, calm, or listening. We owe it to ourselves (and to them) to be honest about our availability and our limits.
Boundaries are about Respect – for Me and for You
Without respect for yourself, it’s nearly impossible to have or honor boundaries. They help me to trust myself and to know that I have my own back. To know that I will listen when I feel a reaction in my body that tells me yes or no, now, later, or, in fact, never.
Boundaries let you and I know what I can do and what I can’t do. More accurately, what I am willing to do and what I am not willing to do. I have proven over the decades that I am more than capable of pushing through and doing more than is reasonable.
After 58 years on this planet, I am no longer willing to live that way. I love and care about so many people. I am pulled in so many directions. I have so much and so many people and things weighing on my mind at any given moment. I take these things on without even being asked. It’s up to me to free myself.
It’s up to me to respect and love myself enough to take the risk to take a stand. It’s up to me to draw a line in the sand and then to dance with that line moment to moment. It’s up to me to learn how to ask the wise questions of myself, to give myself a pause, in order to hear my inner guidance and wisdom. It’s up to me to take care of myself and not expect you to be able to read my mind.
Boundaries are about Compassion
If we are friends or family, I need to trust you and to trust our relationship - to know we will find our way through even when I say no or not now or I won’t. Boundaries empower everyone. They liberate us. They do not have to be harsh. In fact, honest boundaries allow for compassionate, honest conversation and communication.
In this short (and very worth your time to watch) video about boundaries, Brené Brown shares her shock at learning that the most compassionate people she interviewed were also the most boundaried!
Boundaries allow me to honor my heart, soul, and energy. Boundaries are about respect, trust, and integrity. They do not come easily or naturally, and I may forever be on a quest to learn how to do them better. I’m willing to learn because so much depends upon it.
Because I know that my energy, time, and resources are limited, as are my days, I want to love open-heartedly and live as beautifully as possible. With that in mind, boundaries are going to be critical or it’s going to get ugly.
- What’s your experience with boundaries?
- When and why do you need them?
- Are you comfortable setting them?
- How does it feel when someone holds one with you?
- Have you found a kind and compassionate way to communicate them?
- Do they feel important to you?
- Are you able and willing to flex with them as circumstances change?
Please share with us! We can learn so much from your insights and experiences!