Lately I have tried to assert some boundaries with some of my close friends, family and business associates, in areas like; repeated negative stories, gossip, mis-guided social media posts, and even unacceptable business practices, to name a few. I can say with 100% certainty that each time I have tried to set a boundary with someone, even in areas I felt we had similar values they had landed poorly. To the receiver of said boundary it has without fail, come across as some sort of judgement, so typically they dig in and justify their positions or just simply avoid me on that subject in the future.
My goal in setting these newly formed boundaries was to honour my growth in a particular area of my life (money, time, energy, business, health, wellbeing). In essence to reduce or eliminate a perceived negative interaction and at the same time invite a close friend, family or business associate along the journey of new and expansive realizations. To do so would hopefully bring us closer together, and on top of that I would have “partners in crime” on this new path of growth and awareness.
Yet in reality flexing this newly formed boundary muscle seemed to be uncontrollably smacking people in the face. With the reaction of…whoa dude, why the sudden change of behavior as they back away slowly, not sure what to make of this new version of me. My hope in expressing my newly formed boundaries was to clean up my energy and what I choose to focus on and at the same time transform the quality of my relationships. In truth my boundary setting was achieving the exact opposite by pushing people away, as I appear more like a boundary bully, than a big-hearted partner in growth and awareness.
My first attempts to consciously set boundaries seem to be a disaster, but what is the alternative? I know I am fully committed to lifelong growth and learning, but if I perceive my community is not keeping up; do I discard them and look for a “new” community? Worse yet, do I see them as “toxic” to my growth? Alternatively maybe my current boundaries suck and I need to double down and form new bigger better ones that people will be moved by? Or do I drop the idea of boundaries altogether and go back to people pleasing?
“No one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves.” – Marianne Williamson
I can safely say this, I don’t want to lose any of my important people (so I am not getting rid of any of them) and at the same time I am thoroughly enjoying my new growth and learning journey, so there is no going back to people pleasing. So what is left is to take a deeper look at what boundaries really mean to me and what role they play in my life?
First I have to ask myself, have I really given any deep thought to this idea of boundaries, or is it something I have picked up bits and pieces of over time? Are my personal boundaries a blurry combination of the word du jour on social media, some casual conversations with friends coupled with some great Brene Brown videos that formed my definition of boundaries?
If I am being truly honest my current concept of boundaries is a Frankenstein monster of stitched up bits and pieces of random information, personal fears and a sprinkling of gut feelings. With such a limited understanding of what they are, it is no wonder when I try to assert them, they are often met with negative consequences and not the growth and connection I was hoping for. Sound familiar?
“The boundaries of your life are merely a creation of the self.” – Robin Sharma
So what if boundaries have nothing to do with anyone else and they are simply meant for me and only me?
From the point of view that boundaries are only for me, finding them becomes a deep dive into inner exploration that over time will define many of the important aspects of our lives. In this journey we create our conscious views and values around time, money, health, business, environment, family, friendships, society (to name a few) this then forms our personal boundaries of what we give our time, attention and energy. The boundaries we create become our inner voice, that (hopefully gently) reminds us when we are “out of bounds” and guides us back to what we have determined is vital and important in our lives.
Often our important people bump up against our internal boundaries, this is when we have the urge to be the boundary referee and put them in the penalty box. This urge I would argue has nothing to do with them and everything to do with our unresolved issues around the boundary they are threatening. If we have done the inner work and are clear of where we stand in a particular area of focus, we will not get strongly triggered and will be able to navigate tough situations with compassion and grace. But when we do get triggered (and we will) this will be a signal to pause, get curious and use it as an opportunity to look inward.
Once we do the deep inner work necessary, that is ongoing and ever changing we can become clear how our personal boundaries intersect with all of our important external situations and relationships. Our personal energetic boundaries will become easier to navigate and eventually some of them will get to the point of effortlessness as they become woven into our character.
We have all met people that clearly and congruently live their boundaries, and we on the outside can feel them, often with no words needed. This is not because they are amazing boundary enforcers, it is that they have spent the time to truly tune in to what is important to them at the core of their being. Due to this inner work, it is easy to stay grounded on what is important and navigate tough situations with true compassion and grace.