Get on the Boundary Bandwagon
I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life. —Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More
Leaving my marriage and whole-heartedly deciding not to return felt like what I imagine it might feel like to leave a cult. As my mind began to clear, and my habits of reactivity and walking on eggshells began to lessen and loosen, setting boundaries became easier for me.
The months that followed were a blur. I filed for divorce, met with lawyers, went through a painfully long mediation, agreed to a settlement, and got the dissolution decree. During all of that time, my husband and I never spoke or saw one another. I was finally able to set a boundary and keep it. Having set my own boundaries for the first time, I was no longer reacting or responding to someone else. I was suddenly able to act from a clean, clear place. It was amazing.
While I felt stronger in some ways, I also felt like a young colt trying to walk for the first time, which is fitting, since I was indeed birthing a new identity for myself. So, take heart when you set new boundaries, you may at first feel as though you have a new pair of legs. You might feel off balance, but it won’t last forever. Yes, it can be very scary to operate from a place of what you want, especially when you’re a people-pleaser like I used to be.
As children, we learn to respond in a way that brings us the least stress and trouble, and that often means allowing ourselves to be moved by others’ wants and needs. But as adults, we have to learn to get past our ingrained fears and make clear choices. Most of us have an inner dialogue that tells us we’re not enough, and that we’re not lovable.
Refusing to set healthy boundaries is one of the primary ways we express that belief. If we want to live fulfilled lives, however, we must let go of the belief that the needs and opinions of others are more important or valid than our own. We must stop taking it personally when someone disagrees with us. We have to stop believing that if we disagree with someone or ask for what we want, we’ll end up alone and unloved.
Most of us don’t know how to set boundaries. We’re taught to put others ahead of ourselves. (This is especially true for women, but there are plenty of men who have the same issue.) During a workshop, I heard Cheryl Richardson say something that stuck with me: “If I spend my life pleasing people, I spend my life.” At that point I realized I didn’t have any boundaries, I had definitely been spending my life. I was just about emotionally bankrupt when I finally woke up.
As you begin to set boundaries, remember that each time you set a healthy boundary, you say “yes” to more freedom. Setting one boundary can help you develop the courage to set more boundaries. Jump on the boundary bandwagon today!