Boundaries Are Actually Good For You
Have you ever stopped to notice the impact of should on you?
“You should workout more.”
“I was thinking you should just do it.”
“You know you should start saving.”
Notice anything as you were reading those? Even if it was only slight, did you feel a reaction?
Careful not to get hung-up on whether you agree with the statement or not, that’s not what we’re looking for. You want to be paying attention to your physical response or reaction to the statement. Let’s try it again and see what happens this time:
“You should be more responsible.”
Notice anything that time? Some version of resistance maybe? Of course that’s what it was!
Anytime you hear the projection of someone else’s opinion onto yourself (i.e. you should) there is an immediate sense of being judged, which automatically triggers a feeling of resistance and likely shows up as you feeling defensive. Even if it’s only fleeting and slight, it’s still there in some capacity.
Now try noticing what happens when you think (or say) to yourself “I should…” (Work out more, eat better, get more sleep, call my mom, be nicer, be healthier, spend less, save more, be more present, have more willpower, stop with the Facebook already, etc.….)
It doesn’t matter what you were shoulding on yourself about – I bet you felt some level of resistance, judgment, or resentment. And rather than feeling defensive when someone judges you, when you’re shoulding on yourself you end up feeling more resigned, defeated, and disempowered.
Basically whenever should shows up in a conversation, self-imposed or otherwise, you feel judged which equates to feeling defensive and resigned. Fair enough?
Now let’s think about how much time you spend shoulding on yourself in a day, or being shoulded on by others… That’s a lot of time in a person’s life to spend feeling defensive and resigned.
So what does all of this have to do with learning to say “No” powerfully and avoiding the guilt hangover? Well guilt typically stems from having a blurry line between your personal boundaries and your moral boundaries. Since boundaries are a fairly murky and ambiguous concept for most of us, I thought we should shine a little light in this dark world.
Moral Boundaries vs. Personal Boundaries
What’s the difference??
Moral Boundaries: are imposed upon us, informed by the world around us.
Personal Boundaries: are determined by the individual or oneself, often stemming from our sense of personal values and principles.
Why is this an important distinction?
In a world where conforming and fitting-in is still part of our cultural conditioning, we often don’t take the time to figure out what our own personal limits or boundaries are.
This leads to an unfortunate collapse between the two, and we end up mistaking the moral boundaries for our personal boundaries. When that happens, it’s almost a guarantee that guilt will show up.
Stop the Disease-To-Please in 5 Minutes or less!
The secret to stopping the people-pleasing habit in zero minutes is to simply separate your boundaries (limits, needs, etc) from that of the world around you.
Just because someone else thinks it’s a good idea or that you should do something doesn’t mean you have to! You get to decide if something is right for you rather than living life on auto-pilot.
Confused? Let’s look at a common example:
Arbitrarily, let’s say you were raised in a family where you learned that helping other people and being nice was the most important thing and the sign of a good person.
You learn through observation and experience that helping and being nice is good, and anything ‘not-that’ is bad.
Not really a big deal… Until you start having more demands placed on you and your time. Then you have to make decisions about where and how to spend your time. If you haven’t determined where the balance is between helping and being nice vs. other demands of your time (family, work, self care, friends, life, etc.) you will struggle with what to say yes to and what to say no to.
In an effort to avoid feeling like a bad person or like you’re doing the wrong thing (because not helping is not nice, and not nice is bad) you will often see the only option is saying yes to helping and being nice.
This is one of the reasons you end up taking care of things for everyone else and then feeling taken advantage of, resentful, and overwhelmed.
You’re putting helping and being nice above yourself and the way you want and need to spend your valuable time.
This is why determining your Personal Boundaries separate from any Moral Boundaries you experience is key to being able to say “No” without guilt.
When you say “Yes” out of a sense of obligation to honoring the moral boundaries in your life, you are saying “No” to yourself. You are putting other people’s requests ahead of yourself. You are making other people’s thoughts and feelings more important than your own.
From this place, there is no room for real compromise or negotiation. From this place all that exists is a win-lose mentality, or maybe even a lose-lose mentality. You either say “Yes” to them which means you say “No” to yourself (they win, you lose) OR you say “No” to them and say “Yes” to yourself (they lose and you also lose because you feel guilty and like a bad person.) Not a lot of power in that!!
If ‘helping and being nice’ are examples of moral boundaries, what are some examples of personal boundaries? Quality family time, personal wellbeing, following a budget, healthy diet, adequate sleep, emotional wellbeing, connection, autonomy, monogamy, fun/ recreation, personal-growth, travel, continued learning, down-time, being a contribution, making a difference, success, achievement, challenge, balance, love, integrity, passion, empowerment, self-expression, etc. etc. etc.
You might notice that a lot of these personal boundaries are influenced by your personal values and principles. Once you can see what they are, you can start the practice of honoring them instead of being run by what you should do and the moral boundaries you inherited.
In honoring your personal boundaries there is room for negotiating and compromise because you can see what it is your negotiating and compromising for. There is power in that!
Let’s look at an example of all of this in action:
Your boss comes to you in the late afternoon and says: “Our team is really behind in making our deadline, can you stay late tonight and help?” You know you have a prior commitment with a friend and staying late will mean you break that date.
In honoring the personal boundaries of: integrity, connection, balance, and fun, you may be more inclined to say: “Unfortunately I already have a prior commitment and can’t tonight.” From here, because the resentment wouldn’t be present you may see room to negotiate or compromise and add: “However I can come in early tomorrow” or “I can stay late tomorrow night.” In which case you’d be honoring making a difference and being a contribution as well!
On the flip side, it’s possible that you may want to honor the personal boundaries of connection, being a contribution, making a difference, integrity, and achievement, in which case you might say: “Let me see if I can rearrange my plans this evening so I can stay and help.”
In both of these honoring the personal boundary examples, YOU are at choice. YOU are the one in control of your life and your actions. YOU feel empowered and powerful. From here you can make tremendous strides forward in creating win-win solutions and letting go of guilt!
Until next time ,
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