Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, Marawa, 2012
How effective are the boundaries in your life? You know them; they’re the non-negotiable rules that you’ve set up in your life to help manage relationships. They exist to ensure that the relationships you choose to be involved in are mutually respectful, supportive, caring and aligned with your personal values. Your boundaries should be readily apparent to you and if they’re not, there’s a chance that you either don’t have them clearly defined or you don’t hold the people in your life accountable to them.
An example of a common boundary and one that is extremely important in my life is telling the truth. It sounds simple enough but can have profound implications in your life if you consistently apply it. For me, this is a part of integrity and integrity is essential to leading an authentic life, which is a priority in my life. It’s an example of a boundary that can also have a major impact on your life. When someone violates this, the actions you may choose to follow through with can end relationships or even change the course of your life.
That’s what makes this tough. Discovering what you are willing to allow in your life can be challenging and will almost certainly upset the apple cart. That can be scary and is often why someone doesn’t do this work – and it is work. A lot of stuff will come up when you look at the relationships in your life. You will be forced to look at the quality of your life as it is. You will also have to face where you place your own self-worth – for how we allow others to treat us is a major indicator of how we see ourselves.
So, where do you start? Look back at recent situations where you were left feeling angry, fearful, uncomfortable or in any way out of alignment with your own personal ethical code. Maybe it is allowing someone to take credit for work you’ve done, being taken for granted when you do something, not being able to say ‘No’ when someone asks you for help…you get the idea. We will all draw the line at a different place, but it’s important to know where that line is for you. Once you know that, you can start to set limits with people in your life.
Once you have set those limits, you’ll probably need to remind some of some people in your life. Do it in a way that is assertive, but kind. Remember, for those who have been in your life for a long time and an established routine of behavior is already in place, you’re changing the rules. That’s a good thing if it supports you; just be compassionate as it may not be easy for the person on the other side.
As you start to assert yourself, you’ll find that you may backslide or even find that the boundaries you established initially aren’t quite right and need to be adjusted. All of that is okay and a natural part of the process. Just continue to be clear with people, and when it feels uncomfortable (and it will), just remember that you aren’t being mean or rude, but fair and honest.
You may find that some relationships in your life may not be serving you and need to be ended. Others will be strengthened as you move to a deeper, more honest and authentic place.