Boundaries are Badass

"The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable."--Nicole Lyons

I strongly believe that boundaries are necessary in order for us to be truly happy and successful. Boundaries are critical, and "no" is our friend. The thing about boundaries is that often you don’t know you don’t have them. Many of us can get far in our lives, be praised even, for not having boundaries. Especially in our family of origin, our schools, and our culture in general. Even more so as women. We learn that in order to “earn” love, we must sacrifice our desires, comfort, and consent. Many of us don’t learn what we like when we are younger. We are very quickly encouraged to identify what others like, how to make them comfortable, and to use our energy to provide care to other people. We learn that our connection to others is more important than anything else, and we need to whatever it takes to maintain that connection (meaning we bend over backwards to avoid disrupting the connection, to keep from rocking the boat, because we become terrified to lose it). Even if it’s not giving us what we really need. Our thoughts and feelings become blurred with our environment and sometimes it’s hard to tell what we want and what they want…if we ever knew what we wanted in the first place.

Essentially, we lose ourselves.

Sometimes we think we have boundaries, but when the chips are down, we are all too quick to revert back to old patterns. Boundaries change. Circumstances change. We need to be paying attention and staying awake in our lives so we can notice when these shifts occur—and so we are not caught off-guard when we need to use our boundaries. We also need to know where our “soft spots” are—the times when we are willing to let something slide or say yes when we really want to say no, or would if the circumstances were just a little bit different.

I love Brene Brown's definition of boundaries: they are simply stating what is okay and what is not okay. That's it. It doesn't have to be more complicated. But first, we have to learn how to tell what feels right for us.

The work I find myself doing with my clients is supporting them in listening to the “no” sensations their bodies give them. Our bodies hold an incredible amount of wisdom and information. When we are taught to ignore our needs and instincts, we learn to turn off the alert system our body naturally has. Or, if we experience trauma, the alert system can turn itself off. By slowing down, tuning in, and creating a bridge of trust between our body wisdom and our decisions, we can begin to come home to ourselves.

Setting boundaries is:
    •    kind
    •    trusting ourselves and the relationship we are in
    •    respecting others and ourselves
    •    acknowledging that we can’t fix their pain
    •    being honest with them by not taking it on

Setting boundaries is not:
    •    mean, rude, or unkind
    •    screwing someone over
    •    going to “make someone” hurt themselves

Boundaries are “self-ish”—meaning they are oriented around you. They help you stay in your truth and integrity, and stay in your lane. They keep your focus on you, where it should be. They honor the autonomy of others to make decisions for themselves—regardless of what we think is right for them. In honor of the important boundary work we can all be doing to improve our relationships and feel more connected to ourselves (and therefore lead happier lives), I am teaming up with Meghan O’Malley, LPC to offer a boundaries workshop for women. It’s called #nopeAF, because sometimes stepping into our truth and aligning with our power needs some cuss words. The workshop is a half-day of activities to help connect women to their bodies and inner-knowing, practice boundary-setting skills, and create a deeper commitment to clean and clear communication to improve all of their relationships, including the one with themselves. The activities we use are incredibly powerful and moving. I sincerely believe this will be one of the most instantly impactful workshops I’ve done so far. I hope you will join us. And if you attend with a friend, you both get a discount on your registration fee! Cis and trans women are invited and welcomed, and we would love to have you there with us for this transformational afternoon.

Elizabeth GilletteComment