If you’re someone who’s struggled with setting (and maintaining) boundaries, then the idea that you might be able to share your needs without anxiety, disappointment or disagreement feels impossible.
At least, that’s how it was for me.
For most of my life, I was a people-pleaser. The thought of sharing my needs with another seemed completely foreign. The idea of saying no or establishing a boundary felt like a complete imposition.
I never wanted to put anyone out or rock the boat when it came to my intimate relationships and instead I took pride in the fact that I could meet others needs better than anyone else.
I avoided conflict.
I avoided difficult conversations.
I avoided anything that might seem like I was anything but the perfect companion in any situation (you know the kind that NEVER causes trouble).
In fact, for almost the entirety of my 18 year marriage to my ex-husband I never expressed my needs.
I was that committed to never being a bother.
So, when my marriage began to fall apart, the idea that I might have to say “no” in order to protect myself or stand up for what I wanted felt completely strange and almost impossible.
Even during my divorce mediation, I found it easier to simply give him what he wanted instead of honoring myself and what was mine. And more than being afraid of anything he might say or do at that point, it was really that I had no idea that I was even entitled to say no!
Can you imagine?
If you’re nodding along saying “Yes Nancy, I can,” then let me simply say I see you.
Getting comfortable with setting boundaries and sharing my needs didn’t happen overnight.
But it’s the most important thing I could do to truly claim a life that I love.
So, what exactly does it mean to become zen with setting boundaries?
When it comes to setting boundaries, it turns out that the quality and energy of your boundaries truly do matter.
Unfortunately, for many of us, we experience boundaries as something negative or hurtful.
Perhaps your father angrily barked at you to never call him again at work during the day. Or maybe you watched your mother bend over backwards to take care of everyone else, working herself to the point of getting sick. Or maybe your friends told you that you couldn’t join them for lunch because you talked too much.
When we experience boundaries as something painful, it can be hard to set them – no matter what the circumstance.
I want you to consider for a moment whether the boundaries you’ve set (or tried to set) in the past have a certain amount of static or negative energy around them.
Do your boundaries come from a place of anger, being fed up or even fear?
If yes, then it’s likely true that you’ve pushed beyond or stepped over your own limits and aren’t really sure how to reign things in.
In truth, boundaries don’t have to be negative or about excluding others.
Boundaries can actually be used to enhance your relationships and also create parameters so that resentments and hurts don’t build up.
When you’re able to freely share your own wants and needs, your life stops being a series of hiding and pleasing or ultimatums and threats. It instead begins to flow and you trust that your needs can truly be met, in just about every circumstance.
And when it comes to getting zen about your boundaries, it truly means understanding that boundaries really begin and end with you.
Suffering is caused by wanting something or someone else to be different from what is. So, part of taking responsibility for your own boundaries is realizing that you can’t count on anyone else changing to suit your needs.
You have to look honestly at every situation as it is, and then choose the action that keeps your boundaries intact.
This means you have to not only set each boundary, but you have to continue to maintain it.
Now, this doesn’t mean you become cold-hearted, disrespectful, or never take others’ wishes into account.
It simply means that you stop infantilizing the people in your life and take your own needs and desires into account first and foremost.
Think about how much of your time and energy has been spent rationalizing, justifying, and bargaining with yourself in order to avoid setting boundaries – in the process, abandoning yourself and giving up on your needs.
Being zen about boundaries means that you give up your old ways and truly recognize that your freedom lies just beyond the first boundary you set!
So, my dear, if you’ve been running from boundaries, I invite you to come back and consider that when you learn to confidently set and follow-through with your boundaries, you’ll never look back.
P.S. On December 17th, I’ll be sharing my new FREE live video workshop, Zen & the Art of Boundary Maintenance: Holiday Edition. All you have to do to claim your seat and enjoy a stress-free holiday this year is pre-order my new book Setting Boundaries will Set You Free: The Ultimate Guide to Telling the Truth, Creating Connection and Finding Freedom. It’s that easy! This workshop will give you the tools you need to make yourself a priority without feeling defensive or getting upset! I promise, this will be the best gift you give yourself all season.