If I ever questioned what my work is at this point in my life, I certainly am not questioning it right now. Boundaries. I set the intention to be joyful and to grow and almost immediately I was hit square in the face with situations that required boundaries. Boundaries that I have been reluctant to establish or to hold. One after another, they came at me with increasing intensity in a short period of time to the point that I could no longer pretend that the issue was anything other than boundaries.
Boundaries with my family – establishing how I will allow them to treat me moving forward. Seeing them in a light of love and acceptance, no longer with expectations that they be anything other than who they are.
Boundaries with ex-friends – accepting them for where they are and offering understanding for the pain they live while at the same time releasing myself from any obligation to save them. Loving myself enough to sever the last ties which connect me to them and gives them even the slightest control over my life.
Boundaries in my professional life – seeing clearly where I have taught people how to treat me and owning that, but moving forward with a clear boundary of how I will be treated in the future. Realizing that some people are in our lives to show us how we don’t want to be treated and having gratitude for the clarity these interactions bring.
A dear friend recently shared with me a great visual to represent healthy boundaries. She said I should think of boundaries like my house. Who do I let in?
I picture a front yard with a beautiful white fence. The fence has a small gate with an arbor of yellow roses. There are some people in my life that I will only communicate with at this gate. We can chat there until they show me that I can safely invite them for tea on my porch. Some people will eventually be invited to sit at my kitchen table but very few are ever allowed into my bedroom.
I love this visual. It helps me see boundaries clearly and gives me permission to keep some parts of me to myself. Relationships don’t have to be “all or nothing”. Some people in our lives are “across the fence” neighbors and that is perfectly acceptable.
Recently, I let someone directly into my kitchen without even a pause at my gate. My guard was down, I trusted that this person “knew me” and in that spirit I offered honest criticism. My comments were met with defensiveness and a twisting of facts that painted me as the bad guy. I was labeled rude and disrespectful and told that I look down on others. For days, I went back over emails and texts trying desperately to understand where this was coming from. I read texts searching for the tone that sounded harsh. I couldn’t see it.
As in past relationships, I questioned myself and looked to find fault in what I had done in order to support the other person’s position. I doubted myself even though the evidence in front of me said otherwise.
I wanted to be liked. When bashed with personal criticisms that had nothing to do with the issues, I crumbled. There were no boundaries to protect me because I had not created any. At the time, I didn’t know what that would look or feel like.
Boundaries are not designed to isolate us. They are there to create a safe place for us to interact with others. Relationships are not an “all or nothing” situation, if we establish the appropriate boundaries with people. In the absence of boundaries, we tend to exit relationships that are not respectful of who we are. Finding a middle ground is difficult but often worthwhile.
My gift is my ability to love and be open. My truth is that I am joyful. I am loving. I am positive. I am giving. I am trusting and I am trustworthy. I am respectful. I am kind. I am a good friend and I am a loyal partner.
Setting healthy boundaries means I will not allow anyone to treat me with less than the respect and the care that I deserve. Until I’m shown that someone is capable of respecting my heart, I will not allow them into my yard. I will meet them at the gate and we can chat there. 🙂