My first major boundary was tentatively set against my older sister. I wasn’t sure I wanted to set the boundary, but I’d noticed that while we were best friends, and our phone conversations always felt positive, every time I got off the phone with her, I felt bad about myself. I’d go into the conversation as a strong woman, and come out as a weak child. I wasn’t sure what was happening and why, so I just started avoiding her calls until I could figure it out. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well. She had no idea why I was avoiding her, so she was hurt. The time away from her, however, helped me to see that as I changed and grew apart from her thinking, she was constantly trying to convince me I was wrong and coaxing me back into her thinking. That was why I’d felt bad about myself. I respected her opinion on things greatly, and after talking to her, I would feel ashamed of my new thinking and therefore a childlike feeling would come over me.
Once I realized this, I knew I needed to be strong and stand up for what I really felt. I explained what I was going through and when she tried to sway me, I said no, and stood by my thoughts. She was not okay with this, and her husband even got involved. I tried to get them to see where I was coming from, and to just let me be, but they were too close to me to feel comfortable with my thinking being so different than theirs. In the end, they were unable to agree to disagree. The fear and anger led to very hurtful things being said, and I decided I needed to set a hard boundary. I cut off all communication with them, and kept it cut off even when they tried to mend the relationship, because I knew that there could be no resolution unless I agreed to come back to their thinking, which I was not willing to do.
I was hurt for a long time over it, and even more hurt when other family members blamed me for ruining the family with my boundary. But in my heart, it felt amazing! I thrived without them, as I was able to grow freely, without having to justify my thinking to them, which allowed me to love myself more.
Now days, I don’t have any anger towards them, and even enjoy seeing them at holidays, but I keep my hard line drawn in the sand. They are no longer allowed power over my thinking. And breaking the relationship has given me the strength to stand up to their opinions if they do have them. My desire for their approval is gone, and so their power in my life is gone.
After I felt the amazing freedom a boundary could offer, I was more apt to set boundaries in other toxic relationships in my life. Being committed to the truth in myself means I believe genuine love is one where a person can be loved for anything and everything that they truly are. Being loved for a projection of oneself is not only very unfulfilling, but a deep insult to the soul. If I have to lie to you about who I am in order to get you to love me, you don’t love me. That doesn’t mean I’m angry with you, or that you’re a bad person in my mind, it just means we can’t be close, and I can’t be vulnerable.
Setting boundaries is a hard (but necessary) element in the coming alive process. Since we define “nice” as making other people feel good and “mean” as making other people feel bad, we hesitate to set boundaries against other people so as not to seem mean. People don’t like boundaries. It makes them feel rejected and unloved, so if you set a boundary against them, they are upset. Because of this, we tend not to set boundaries unless we are angry or hurt by a person making them mean or bad in our own minds, thereby deserving of a boundary. Even then, we may feel social pressure to be the bigger person, or to work it out.
Boundaries aren’t just for really bad relationships. Sometimes a relationship is just not a healthy relationship to be in. What if it’s a happy go lucky relationship, or a loving relationship, but because of the limitations within ourselves or the other party, it prevents us from coming alive? Knowing when to set boundaries can be difficult because it’s not a logical decision, it’s emotional. (Hint: the face you just saw in your mind is worth looking into.) You don’t need any other justification for a boundary other than the fact that you feel like you need one, but here are some descriptions of people you might want to consider setting boundaries against:
1. People who can’t agree to disagree… and you don’t agree.
When you’re dealing with the truth inside of you, it’s not always going to line up with ideals and right thinking, and people who not only refuse to hear you, but try to argue you out of your thinking as well, are people you need to set a boundary against. Note: These are the people who do this on a constant basis. Some people just need time to work it out in their own minds, or need you to describe it more clearly to them before they can hear you. With those people, you will have to decide what the relationship is worth to you. If it’s a casual friend, you may not want to go through that with them. Whereas if it’s your spouse or mother, you may be more invested in the relationship, and more willing to walk through the process with them.
2. People Holding Funhouse Mirrors
There are some people whose presence in and of itself will make you feel like a different person than who you really are. This may be from your history together, or just a conflict of cultures or personalities. This can happen with parents very easily. Alone we may feel like a powerful business woman, and then when we get around our parents we are reduced to children. Or we may feel proud or satisfied with our personal choices, but when we are around a certain person we feel ashamed of them. This may be okay on a sporadic basis, but if you live next door to them, or you see them everyday, you may need to make some changes. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, or even anyone’s problem, but not being truthful about the relationship dynamic will hold you back from being able to bloom.
The goal is to see yourself as accurately as possible. Think of it like looking at your reflection in the mirror. You want a mirror that reflects back what you really look like, but as we go through life we are faced with all sorts of funhouse mirrors being held by others. If the funhouse mirror that someone else is holding is held up in front of you enough, you will begin to believe that reflection is what you really look like. Getting that mirror out of your life is a healthy decision, and can simply be because you need to see yourself clearly.
3. People With a Crab Mentality
I love the story about the crabs in a bucket. If you stick one crab in a bucket, he’ll crawl right out. But you you stick a bunch of crabs in a bucket, they’ll never leave, because when one starts to climb out, the other crabs will pull him back down. This is how humans are. When we are surrounded by people who are negative about where we are going, it will be almost impossible to leave. They will sap your belief and tell you you’re crazy or bad for heading in the direction you’re heading. Run away from them as fast as you can! They are the enemy!! Find people who believe in where you want to go, in how you want to think, and who you want to be. There have been times when the only like mindedness I could find was in a book, but I lived on those books. They helped me to see that I wasn’t crazy, and they affirmed my thinking. It was the only way for me to be strong enough to get out of those buckets. Grab a lifeline and keep going. Crabs will be crabs. Leave them behind.
4. People You Don’t Like
It’s okay not to like people. I’ll say it again. It’s okay not to like people. Even if they’re in your own family. We have a familial obligation built into us that says we have to continue to subject ourselves to people in our families, even if we have nothing in common and don’t like them. Why? You are not going to like everyone. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or you’re bad, it just means you’re not compatible. Not liking someone doesn’t mean you have to walk around talking shit about them. But you can just choose not to be around them. You can happily say, “I just don’t like them,” when someone asks why you don’t want to be around them. It doesn’t even have to be for a really deep reason. You can just not like them.
Coming alive is about realizing you’re worth it. And you are. Your heart is worth standing up for. It’s worth protecting. People won’t understand you. They may even call you mean. But it’s just because you’re not pleasing and placating them and their rules anymore. And putting yourself into a bad situation so that others will think you’re nice, is you saying you’re okay with changing who you really are so that they’ll love and accept you. But that is not love, my dear, for they don’t love you, they love the projection you’ve made up for them. Give yourself permission to be happy and free, and set boundaries against those who keep you in the cage.