I wrote an article recently on falling in love with as many people as possible. That love is an option in every interaction. It occurred to me after it got published, that maybe there was a missing piece. I 100% stand by my statement of how the fertile breeding ground for loving interactions is when 2 people allow themselves to be vulnerable and seen in friendships or romantic encounters. But to be able to hold that space, I think the ability to say no and having healthy boundaries is a key ingredient.
I work in the personal development space, I have been doing this type of work on myself for over 20 years, there were many steps on this journey that lead me to this conclusion about vulnerability and love. One of the things that struck me was that I have carefully and mindfully cultivated the people I choose to interact with. My friend Jack Canfield teaches this principle as “Drop out of the aint it awful club”. When I went through my training with him, I remember him saying we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. He encourages you to take stock of the people in your life and evaluate whether they add to your energy and general sense of wellbeing or take away from it. We actually did this by making a list of friends, family and co workers and putting a + or – sign by their name. The recommendation is that you spend more time with the plus’s and limit or eliminate the interaction with the minus’s.
I had an interaction with someone recently, who has a habit of having what I would refer to as sloppy agreements. Their actions often do not align with what they say and it struck me as I found myself feeling irritated that, this is somewhat of an isolated event in my life. Because I know that integrity is so important to me, I choose for the most part to not engage with people who act this way. Not because they’re bad people, but because it doesn’t really work for me.
Neale Donald Walsh speaks about this in his book Conversations with God.
“If another person will simply not receive the gifts you find joy in giving–or worse yet, receives them and takes advantage of them, then treats you without respect or kindness–you may wish to continue giving to that person, but in another way.
Such as, for instance, giving them their freedom to pursue a close-knit relationship with another.
There are nearly 7 billion people in the world, and you are not required to continue endless giving to a person who does not value, appreciate, or honor your gift. Of course, you are not offering your gifts in order to be honored. You are offering your gifts in order to experience and express a part of yourself that speaks of who you are.
If who you are is not valued, but ignored or abused, then you actually hurt, rather than help, the person to whom you are giving your gift–for you have taught them that the way to continue receiving the best from others is to return their worst. And this is not something that you want to teach anybody. It is actually unkind to teach someone this. But do not worry. As I said, the world is filled with people, and my life experience has shown me that the vast, vast majority of human beings receive gifts with gratitude, and act as wonderful mirrors for those who offer them.”
Boundaries are about honoring yourself first. Knowing what does and doesn’t work for you and having the courage to choose you. Because whenever you choose yourself, you stand in the greatest power and opportunity to give of your divine nature and innate gifts. It is not selfish in fact it is the antithesis of selfish.
So what is a boundary and where do you start? Think about what brings you joy, peace and fills you up energetically, and then consider what types of interactions and behaviors either bring those feelings to you or stand in the way of you stepping into those feelings.
What is being triggered in you? If something is making you feel angry or resentful consider how having stronger boundaries could limit those types of interactions in your life. Be direct, but not reactive. If something is pushing up against you and triggers negative emotions ask yourself; What is the emotion I am feeling? What am I afraid of? Once you have worked out what’s pushing your buttons, you can make a choice to respond differently or communicate clearly what does or doesn’t work for you.
What holds us back? The biggest pitfalls we all face when setting boundaries are fear, guilt and self doubt. We might fear rejection from the other person if we tell them our boundaries. We might feel guilty that a ‘good’ son, daughter, wife, husband etc. should say yes. Even if it makes us feel drained and taken advantage of. Boundaries are a sign of strength and self respect. And as Dr Zeuss famously said “Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind”
Old Habits: We all form patterns throughout life in the many different relationships that we share. Patterns have energy and often we find ourselves attracting the same pattern over and over again (boring). We need to consider and be aware of what patterns and habits we have created for ourselves, how they were created and then ask ourselves is this what we want to continue creating? If the answer is NO, we need to choose a different response to create a different result. Often the breaking of a pattern in 1 area of your life and creating a different result can impact on that pattern showing up in other areas. Hooray!!
Permission: When you give yourself permission to make your own happiness a priority, in the knowledge that as a happy and more fulfilled individual ultimately you will have more to give to others. It is easier to make setting boundaries a priority.
Be Brave: Start actioning, sharing and communicating your boundaries, where necessary in a clear, respectful and loving way. You will create the most success with these new practices if you check in and make sure that you are always coming from a place of love. If someone has seriously pissed you off and you’re struggling to come from a place of love with them. Try asking yourself, what’s the most loving thing I could do for me in this situation?
Give yourself a break: When we start to do anything new it can be clumsy at first. Picture a baby learning to walk, start small 1 step at a time. If as you step into setting clearer boundaries, it isn’t perfect, eloquent or received with total grace. Give yourself a pat on the back because you are learning and growing and treating yourself with the love and respect you deserve. And know that the more fully you step into honoring yourself, the easier and more natural and fluid it will become.
I 100% believe in vulnerability and creating the opportunity to stand in love, and attract love into all areas of your life. And I also believe in boundaries and knowing what does and doesn’t work for me.