(If you have skipped the post on Standards for Better Living, please go back and read it before reading this one.)
One of the most liberating realizations I had in understand the mechanics of better living was learning about the true reason for boundaries. Prior to embracing better living, I had heard that boundaries are things that are needed to keep other people AWAY. I also had heard the explanation that weak people had weak boundaries…or that really pushy people had really pushy boundaries. Maybe that is what you had learned, too?
Because of better living, I now know the truth: the reason we need boundaries is to protect and uphold our standards! What a difference! The focus is where it needs to be—on you, not on “the other.” And the reason for boundaries is supportive, not defensive.
The illustration that best symbolizes the relationship between boundaries and standards is that of a lighthouse. The lighthouse is solidly constructed and tall. It is illuminated 24 hours a day, and is visible no matter what the weather. The lighthouse is also well fortified, set on the summit of a rocky island, with large rocks buttressing the impact of the waves of the ocean well before they can hit the lighthouse.
Imagine the lighthouse as your standards, and the siting of the lighthouse as your boundaries. YOU are the lighthouse, and the boundaries keep you and your standards visible for all to see. Nice, eh?
So…the boundaries help you define who you are, and you need boundaries to BE who you are.
As you learned in the post on standards, your standards are personal and must be chosen by you. To effectively protect and support your standards for better living, it’s quite likely that your boundaries will address two basic categories: your time and your emotions. Please consider the following questions to help you zero in on the boundaries you will need to claim and fortify:
Do you have enough time? If not, why not? Is it because you say “yes” when you want to say “no?” Is it because you’re everyone’s “got to” person to get things done, or to get support, or to get advice? Even though it tires you, do you find you secretly enjoy this “go to” status? How do the demands that others place on you (which raid your time and emotional strength) support your better living standards?
To counter against your tradition of giving away your time and emotions, a good strategy is to set boundaries bigger than you think you need. For example: rather than thinking that “everyone is counting on me” to chair the committee, remind yourself about how you have a standard of telling the truth, without becoming defensive. “No” is a complete sentence. You can also practice another response (“I won’t be accepting any more committee work”), and have it ready to repeat as often as necessary. It will be uncomfortable, it may surprise others, but it is REALLY worth it!
Benefits of extensive boundaries:
- You show you have respect for yourself
- True friends, excellent colleagues and loving family members will endorse you for extending your boundaries to support your better living standards.
- You’ll attract like-minded people
- You will have the ease to enjoy better living sine you’ll no longer feel drained or violated
- Your standards will have the room to rise when you so choose
Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D.