This is part two in a three-part series on boundaries. In it I write to myself in the future and talk about an elephant. Part one can be found here, and you’ll have to hold your breath until Sunday (please don’t actually do this) for the finale. In that post, my younger brother will get a shout-out, you can find Nirvana, and I will acknowledge that I have raised just as many questions as I have answered.
I have a request of you: Set aside five undisturbed minutes – today – to do nothing but focus on your breath. Would you do that right now, even before you read on?
When we left off we had just defined boundaries, differentiated them from rules, talked about how they empower everyone, and stated that they require action when violated. Here I talk to myself and then make some bold claims.
Boundaries require a lot more than just action. Strong boundaries require a clear sense of who you are and what you will and will not accept in your relationships with others. In order to have healthy boundaries you need to know how you feel about things and you need to effectively communicate those feelings. If you have that skill-set of self-awareness and communication and someone is making it difficult for you to express yourself, that is a huge sign to take a step back. When someone is unwilling to listen to your boundaries or conveniently has a big distraction when you want to communicate – particularly when listening to you doesn’t benefit them in the near-term – they are handing you a gift. The accompanying card reads something like, “I don’t respect your and possibly anyone’s autonomy,” That is your opportunity and your cue to take swift action. Remove yourself. Exit stage left. Do it. Things don’t get better.
There is another option, of course: Don’t do it. Listen to to words, even though actions don’t match up; accept diversions as legitimate, which by definition they never are. It is only up to you. And yes, dear readers, this is a reminder to myself for the future. I’m not being shy about it. You don’t learn this stuff in school, only in life. Yair in the future: If the girl seems too good to be true, that is because she is. Run. Don’t turn back. And then figure out why you were there to begin with, because that is just as important.
So, how do you know when someone is violating your boundaries? You might assume that you would always see it, but with passive-aggressive behavior you often feel it. That constellation of feelings (they have names, I know – another post) is your signal to take a moment and examine your situation. And you guessed it, that means that there is another key element to having strong boundaries: knowing how you feel. This is also called paying attention or mindfulness. Paying attention is important because no one but you is responsible for fixing any negative feelings that you have. That is your job, and in order to do it right you must know what you are feeling. Related, it requires that you have a set of principles which you can clearly state and walk. Take ownership of them. Say things like “I feel XYZ” and not “I can’t believe you did that!” Then get away from or work on (if it’s you) whatever is causing you to feel badly. That part is critical. Determine what it is that you are dealing with, and then deal with it. I will be writing separately about how to identify true sources of pain.
The elephant in the room is that you MUST like yourself. You must not be reliant on the validation of others for your sense of self-worth (that is codependency). Nobody needs to validate how you feel in order for you to feel it. Nobody needs to “understand” you. If you have to “make” someone appreciate you, they don’t appreciate you and they aren’t your friend. If that happens with a lot of people who seem to be decent folks, look inward, and consider seeing a therapist.
Pay attention here: If you rely on others for validating your feelings or “getting” you, your emotions and your mental state will be controlled by those people. You need to get you. You need to understand you. You need to accept you. No one else does. Make sure that you do, and stay away from people who don’t.
Next up in part three, watch it all come together as I assert a definition of what it means to be yourself, posit that boundaries are worth the hard work, and reveal the not-so-secret secret of the grandiose.
Are you are among the people who took five minutes to focus on your breath? Do you know how you felt before and after? If you are comfortable commenting or emailing, you have a story to tell and I would love to hear it. I use gmail and my username is contactyair.