Boundaries are the rules we establish for how we interact with ourselves and others. Failure to set boundaries can stand in the way of having the safe and healthy relationships you desire.
Maintaining healthy boundaries, however, is easier said than done. I understand. I, too, have struggled to keep my boundaries. I am a giver, and sometimes I give to others at the expense of myself. It has had an impact on my physical health and relationships, as well as bringing up complex feelings and fears that I was unaware I had. Fears and feeling such as:
Fear of being exposed
Fear of being judged
Fear of making a bad decision
The fear of success
Concern about how I will be perceived
Fear of not measuring up
The fear of either not giving enough or giving too much
These fears have crept into various aspects of my life, making me self-conscious and, as a result, influencing how I think, feel, and act. They’ve been strong enough at times to make me doubt my abilities, eroding my self-esteem and outlook on life. I began to tell myself negative stories and began to smile less.
Can you relate?
If that’s the case, I’ve got a special exercise for you—something that helped me shift my thinking, reframe the stories I was telling myself about myself, and propel me into new actions.
I began to ask myself a series of questions: Who exactly am I? What am I doing? How am I doing? As I began to ask these questions, they prompted me to consider how I identified myself… Was there a “me” apart from my roles as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and aunt? The more I described myself, the more I realized I was “lost” somewhere inside. So, it got me thinking: how will I know what and where my boundaries are if I don’t know who I am—that is, where I begin and where I end? How will I know when others are infringing on my rights? What will I do and when will I assert my boundaries? How will I know what my needs and desires are? And how do I make those desires and needs known?
As I started asking and answering these questions, I realized something was missing: the personal, the “ME.” I begin to investigate: What would I gain if I accepted my flaws? What am I going to lose?
I started thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of being stuck in my head. This, I decided, was not serving me well. Something must be done!
When fear is preventing you from making a decision, when you are nervous, or simply looking for an excuse to say no, these questions can help. They compel you to examine yourself and your choices, to be honest with yourself, and to challenge yourself to move away from fear-based reactions and toward empowered responses. The process can assist you by putting you in the driver’s seat of your own life.
Keep an eye out for my next blog post in February, in which I’ll talk about taking the wheel.