If you’re accustomed to putting yourself last, saying “yes” when you’d rather say “no,” and generally being a people pleaser, the very notion of setting better boundaries might induce panic.
I mean, it sounds like a recipe for conflict, doesn’t it? When you imagine yourself starting to set boundaries, you might see yourself sheepishly communicating your preference without making eye contact and maybe even wincing in anticipation of the backlash you’re expecting to receive. You might imagine carefully-balanced relationship dynamics being thrown completely off-kilter. Will it be too hard? Will my relationships be ruined? Is it even worth it?
Allow me to paint you a picture of what’s possible. Because the truth is that with better boundaries, a brighter future awaits.
A Moment of Reflection…
Recently, I took some time to reflect on the summer that had just passed. It was a really fulfilling one for me. I had my fair share of challenges throughout it, but overall, it was pretty great.
Most notably, I took up the sport of sprint canoe. (You can read all about my first regatta here.) It’s a pretty full-on sport, with practices multiple times a week and long summer Saturdays, and sometimes full weekends, away for races. The whole experience was really fulfilling for me in ways I can only begin to describe.
So, there I was reflecting and feeling all that fulfillment. Then I turned to my husband and I said, “So did you miss me all those evenings and mornings I was out paddling?”
“Of course I did,” he said. “Mainly on Thursdays because I was used to our ritual of sitting on the balcony together in the evenings listening to music. But mainly, I’m so happy that you found something you love so much. It’s really great to see you doing your thing.”
To many, this might seem like a perfectly natural interaction. Nothing notable here. But for me, it was exceptional.
It was a clear sign that when it comes to boundaries, I’ve come a long way, baby.
What Is Lived Is Learned
You see, over the years, I internalized the belief that women always had to be around for their families. In a cis-heteronormative patriarchal world, dads can have hobbies like golf or whatever, but moms? They don’t need their own hobbies. Supporting their kids’ hobbies can be their hobby. I mean, they could read a book or crochet or something. You know, a hobby that could be done in the background. Not one that required resources like time and money. Certainly not one that would take her away from the family for hours at a time.
Of course, my rational adult mind believes that everyone deserves to spend time doing what they love, no matter the various roles they may play in their lives. The feminist in me ferociously believes that people of all genders deserve to explore what lights them up. As Virginia Woolf said, a woman must have a room of her own.
But what is lived is learned, and so although this everyone-is-allowed principle makes sense to me, there’s a part of me that was secretly afraid of what might happen when I followed through on doing my thing.
Would he be annoyed?
Would he feel jealous that my energy was being directed elsewhere?
Would it create conflict?
I came by this fear honestly.
My past taught me that a partner would feel abandoned and betrayed if I dared to do my own thing. My past taught me that conflict would erupt and it would be my fault. My past taught me that it’s better to be grateful for what you’ve got and not shake things up by trying something new or disrupting the status quo.
And yet, here I stand, a woman doing her own thing.
This summer, I paddled under orange sunsets. I went on road trips with new friends. I raced canoes and kayaks and won 3 medals. I golfed more than I’ve golfed in the past 2 decades. I hit my longest drive ever and got an eagle (2 under par on one hole). I sweated in the heat and got drenched in the rain. I swam in lakes and lazed in the ocean.
Before and After…
Before boundaries, I would have stayed home.
Before boundaries, I would have ended up with someone who wanted me to stay small.
Before boundaries, I would have missed out on adventure.
Before boundaries, I would have missed out on my own vitality.
With boundaries I step into my fullness.
With boundaries, I honour my desires.
With boundaries, I follow my path.
With boundaries, I am ME.
So, if you’re struggling to see what’s possible for you beyond the initial work of cultivating boundaries, here’s what lies ahead:
If the thought of setting boundaries scares a part of you, then give yourself permission to spend a little more time dreaming of what you might say “yes” to if your “no” came more easily.
Connect with that vision a little longer, and allow it to inspire your next steps.
If you need some help with that, I’m here for you. Connect with me here for a free chat, and let’s ponder what’s possible for you.