To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.
~ Joan Didion
Ya gotta set some boundaries to live a good life. (And if you’re a coach/healer/spriritual/service professional, I’m talking to YOU!)
Setting boundaries gives you the ability to say yes to what you want and no to what you don’t want, despite the risk of displeasing others. What a concept, huh? (The irony is the more you try to please others, the less you do. Nobody likes a fake or a doormat.) You’ll automatically upgrade your relationships and improve your life overall.
Weak boundaries disempower you and disrespect those around you. They show up in a number of ways:
* The inability to say no.
* The fear of displeasing someone.
* The tendency to rescue others.
* The expectation of being rescued.
* Not expressing your true feelings.
* Not getting paid what you should.
* Attracting people who take advantage of you.
* Allowing outside opinions to determine your self-worth.
* Feeling like a victim.
* Feeling obligated, indebted.
* Trying to change someone else.
So where do weak boundaries come from?
When we were children, pleasing parents and teachers and friends was necessary to our survival. We needed to learn how to bond, how to read reactions, how to compromise. These are not skills to give up. This is where we learn the empathy and compassion that makes relationship possible.
Problems arise when, as adults, we’re unconsciously ruled by these needs to please, bond, or compromise. We’re operating out of fear more than love. When we’re acting from unconscious impulses we give up our ability to choose responsibly, and we become victims and victimizers.
We all have areas in our lives where our boundaries are nice and strong, and other areas where our boundaries get weaker. (The higher the stakes, the stronger the likelihood is that fear will come in and weaken our boundaries.) The easiest way to check the strength of your boundaries is to ask yourself: “How free do I feel here to say what I feel and to ask for what I want?”
The bottom line is people treat you how you allow them to treat you. If you put up with abuse, you’re abusing yourself. Setting new boundaries is like working with muscles that haven’t been used; they feel awkward and weak at first. You may have some false starts as you learn to play a new game. Keep flexing.
You’ll be tested. If you’re the type who did everything for everybody in the past, those people you taught to rely on you may resent having the rules changed without their consent. You trained them to expect one thing; now you can retrain them to expect something else. Practice consistency.
If you’ve been taken care of all your life and the rules are changed on you… ouch! You get to grow up fast. You’ll feel better on the other side, knowing you can take care of yourself.
Eventually, as your boundaries get stronger, the negative charge around these changes goes away. What used to be a fight becomes the way things are naturally. It’s effortless.
Take a look at your current life.
Where are your boundaries strongest?
Where are they weakest? Why?
What small step can you take to be more honest and authentic in that area of your life?
When setting boundaries in any area of your life, you’ll increase your self confidence. You’ll attract better relationships. You’ll enjoy more respect and success, and your life will rock.
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