Boundaries are one of those things that coaches can’t stop going on about.
But there’s a reason. Learning to set and sustain healthy boundaries with others is key to living a full, authentic life.
As Marc Manson says (to paraphrase):
Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while NOT taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others.
People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavours: those who take too much responsibility for the emotions/actions of others, and those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions/actions.
Neither of those options seems like a great way to live a happy and healthy life. And trust- boundaries are more than about your emotional well-being. We all know that when we’re emotionally unwell, our physical and spiritual bodies are also getting shit on.
As I’ve said before, setting boundaries isn’t a one-time thing that you do over brunch with your bestie. They require maintenance and re-visiting. Our relationships change and flux as our lives transform. And a huge part of boundary making lies in forgiveness.
So ya, just go ahead and forgive everyone right now. Voila- you’re perfect.
Just kidding. Forgiveness is tough shit. It is a practice, a ritual (I love rituals!).
So here’s my process to get the forgiveness ball rolling, even for those really dark relationships.
- Get real about what your relationship is. Like really real. Grab some paper and dig in. Write a letter to the person with whom you need better boundaries. Write to them about your grievances- the small to the large. Spend some time here, feel those emotions (anger, guilt, shame, frustration might be a good place to start), and get them down on paper. Get it all out. Now crumple it up and burn it (or destroy it in a way that creates release for you- I prefer the BURN).
- Mourn the relationship that never was. So your relationship with your mother was never the Lorelai-Rory relationship of dreams (REAL TALK: they had no boundaries AT ALL). Write out all the ways you wish your relationship had been or was. What you would have done together, how you would feel, how you spoke with one another. All of it. The ideal relationship. Let this entry marinate for a few days in your journal.
- After a few days have passed, go back through your ideal relationship and identify the ways that you can stand in your power. At this point, we need to realize that relationships are two-way streets. We all make active choices in the way we relate to other beings. Right now, we know that the way we are acting in this current relationship is not good. It feels bad. It needs to change. The important piece here is that you cannot control what the other person does- you can only control your own actions and reactions. You have to tell people how you expect to be treated, so figure out how that is and ask for it. Ask yourself- what is my real ideal relationship? what are the things I need to let go of (i.e the things I cannot control)? how can I be different in this relationship so that I feel good?
- Ask for it. This might feel tough, but it’s the only real way to make change. You cannot will someone to treat you differently via The Force (yet). You must use your words. This is where you really stand in your power. And you must use them again and again. It gets easier.
- Self care, babe. People do not change over night- Heck they might not ever change. But you asking to be treated in a way that makes you feel good is a remarkable feat. So celebrate. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You spoke your truth, and that is amazing.
- Develop a forgiveness ritual. Remember, there will be tough spots. When you’re with the person in question, they might still sometimes disrespect your boundaries (AKA be a jerk). People are only human, and to make change in an act of courage that not everyone is capable of. We need to make peace with this, but we also need to stand firm. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel a bit shitty or exhausted. Take time for yourself and feel into those emotions. Don’t ignore them, acknowledge them and let them go (Burn them up? YES!). A great ritual for letting go is to light a candle, speak your emotions aloud, breathe into them for a few minutes, and then affirm forgiveness (I am willing to forgive, I forgive… wherever you’re at). Blow out the candle, visualizing forgiveness.
What do you struggle with when you’re developing new boundaries? Do you have a boundary action plan? Let me know in the comments!