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Personal Boundaries

Have you got yourself majoring in the minor stuff?

This analogy has caught my attention time and time again over the years. “Majoring in the minor stuff”, often used to explain distracted living or to stop sweating the small things in life; used in business when we want to wear all the hats rather than figuring out who we are and empowering others to fully handle projects/situations.

…but within boundaries? Do we spend adequate time considering this analogy within our boundaries?

In creating a roadmap to achieving goals (see previous blog spot Fear, Bravery, Courage and Strength), and living our best life, would you agree that figuring out oneself is an important stop along the way? I believe boundaries are essential along the trip. So why the detours?

Boundaries … We all feel we have them and to a certain extent we do but it’s often the biggest form of personal challenge, conflict, and debate. Agree?

So, what are boundaries? I like to describe boundaries as a personal comfort zone coupled with an internal compass, based on our intuition (or sometimes ego). Most times it’s about our yes/no relationship with the “outside world”, with persons and situations. It’s about safety and what we are willing and not willing to do or be associated with.

Where did these boundaries come from, how do they evolve and why the struggle? Well, based on my observations and personal life experiences, here are some thoughts…

Safety: We are taught boundaries from a very young age: the hot stove is off limits, don’t talk to strangers, be home by a certain time.

Community: Imposed boundaries such as with laws, policies and in professional relationships.

Ego: We’ve been trained to neglect our boundaries due to fear of reprisal, being embarrassed, dealing with contentious situations or feeling odd/left out.

Self and Growth: Some of us were taught to push our mental and physical boundaries and perceived limitations such as in sports and academics.

We were taught to color inside the lines…

Many of us were taught to disconnect from personal boundaries that may have felt uncomfortable; “go hug your aunt/uncle (you’ve only met once before)”; “say thank you to the man on the street who just called you cute”; “yes, we are obligated to attend XYZ”.

I believe not very often we’ve been guided to recognize the need for personal, healthy boundaries and how to create our own. Also, we haven’t been necessarily taught how to rise above nor how to walk alone when need be.

Exercising boundaries can be scary and met with frustration of others, push back, bitterness, turmoil and defensiveness. In turn, I believe that the personal self by default often chooses to switch to submission and conformity instead. We adapt to fitting in. Why? It’s easier.

Let’s face it, we like fitting in. Majoring in the minor stuff? … because it’s the easiest?

My friend, here’s the thing, this is your life and your “YOU” isn’t minor. Placing emphasis on fitting in, never rocking the boat, not reaching goals, remaining committed to limited thinking patterns and feeling stuck for the sake of what I call, “the fake personal comfort zone” is majoring in the area that in the end causes the most dissatisfaction, debilitation and defeat.

Majoring in minor stuff. We are living in a world of immediate gratification, gossip on the street, entertainment at the click of a button … I like to think that the real stuff is gratitude, intimate relationships, community, personal development, inner space, goals, physical, mental, spiritual/self well being … and with that, boundaries.

So where do we start with boundaries? I’d say, awareness. I’d like to share Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.

Chapter 1:

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost...I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2:

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place but, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3:

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall's a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4:

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5:

I walk down another street.

Self-defeating habits can be overturned with awareness, by accepting responsibility for choices and direction. It’s so easy to continue walking the same path repeatedly, running into the same situations and getting “stuck” in unwelcome places and situations. Then of course comes the blaming of others.

Your compass is important. Simply put, it’s your birth right to use it. Healthy boundaries aid in developing guidelines as to what is acceptable for serving your best interest and to create your visions and goals into reality.

So how do we begin this difficult task of setting boundaries? Well, I believe it begins by starting with a “today mentality”. Begin with imagination. Take 15-30 minutes to imagine what your boundaries feel like (not look like). Once you’re in the feeling momentum, hold onto the feeling and begin visualization.

Clearly, we can’t change people, so don’t incorporate changed behaviors of others; rather visualize that which serves your highest purpose.

Using visualization as a primary tool assists with mindfulness and becoming the awareness behind emotions. It’s grounding and powerful. If in visualization you turn into self-defeat, anger towards others or find yourself in a “can’t change mentality”, acknowledge and re-focus on the feeling – then move back into visualization.

Achieving healthy boundaries with persons might require, pausing or even severing relationships. It might include dialogue, spending time with certain persons in public spaces only or under limited circumstances. It could mean communicating written or verbally what your expectations are for a healthy and positive relationship and encounters. Easier said than done? Yes, but this is your non-dress rehearsal life.

Recognizing that defensiveness may occur, we can have empathy for the person reacting and in fact I feel it’s imperative. In awareness, we remember no one got the 101 or handbook at birth. It’s noteworthy to understand that defensiveness, frustration and even anger of others towards your personal boundaries and internal compass is often one subconsciously saying; “if only you were more like me, I’d appreciate you more and you’d make “my” life easier”.

How people treat you is their karma, how you respond is yours.

Some implementation thoughts and suggestions:

  • Dig deep and understand your reason for specific boundaries (finances, time, personal space, contentious/unhealthy/toxic relationships, risks, goals…);

  • Create rescue code words/gestures with loved ones for when feeling overwhelmed in situations;

  • Develop a three-strike rule;

  • Communicate timelines prior (i.e.: if attending a function and when to leave);

  • Develop a courteous script ahead of time that articulates your view (remember though too, “No” is a complete sentence as well and requires no further justification unless you choose so);

  • Make time for self-care.

You are allowed to be you. You are allowed to grow, change and become. You don’t have to be someone’s crutch. You don’t have to put yourself in places or situations that don’t inspire, empower nor feel good. Listen to your internal compass.

The theatre of our minds will show up for any play or production, as not only the main character but also the script writer, composer and director. YOU get to choose, steer, begin and finalize the scenes of your life.

Sure, it’s a little difficult to first put into action and you’ll likely still fall in a few holes (I have!), but it gets easier. It takes courage, can cause discomfort, and be a little messy. Trust the process. You’ve got this!

Remember, we can be grateful for everyone and every situation! Some people/situations are meant for a season, a reason or a lifetime. I like to believe that we are all always a teacher and a student in life. We can turn a “negative” into a “positive” by finding meaning.

Never take anyone’s personality personally. It’s okay to color outside the lines if that’s who you are! There is so much compassion in boundaries if we allow ourselves to reach that level of mindfulness not only for ourselves, but with others too. I’d say even, it’s fundamental in our coming together and living peacefully.

Lastly: I’d like to mention that there’s a difference between difficult relationships and toxic relationships (- stay tuned ;) a future blog topic!). If you anticipate your decision making and boundaries to cause aggression that could lead to serious risks, please seek support and help.

Also, don't suffer alone. Creating boundaries can be an issue requiring more than just a blog spot, visualization, goals and inspiration. Please seek professional self-help care if needed for your own personal well-being. No one should ever feel ashamed to ask for support. Likewise, too if personal boundaries willingly put yourself in dangerous/harmful situations or place others at risk.

Are there further topics you'd like to dive into? I have a few planned, but I'd love to hear from you! Follow me on IG to be kept in the loop and always feel free to DM me.

Blog Spot Pep Talk with Jen

In this ever-busy world of noise and chatter, lets connect deep to your inner you! Do you know what makes you tick? Do you have personal goals? Are you frustrated easily with yourself and/or others? You know that you have a life purpose but don't know where to start? I don't promise to have solutions for you; but I hope to provide you with next step thoughts and inspiration to live your non-dress rehearsal life!

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