It was grade 7. My music-loving soul had nudged me to join the choir. And I LOVED to belt my little heart out.
Until the teacher told me I was too loud…even from the back row.
I remember so clearly the embarrassment. The hot cheeks. The feeling of shrinking.
We’re told in thousands of tiny moments (through body language, cut eye, and snide comments) that we’re…
And all this too much-ness leads to feeling like we don’t belong. Dimming our light and shrinking ourselves to fit in.
After all, “good girls” are never too much. We should be like the childhood book ‘Goldilocks’ and aim to be ‘juuust right’ in the middle. We’ve been taught the “good girl” narrative our whole lives.
Good girls are well-behaved. Quiet. Seen but not heard. They follow the rules. They’re grateful for what they have and don’t ever dare to ask for more. They always put others first. They aren’t demanding and they NEVER challenge the status quo.
We risk alienation, exclusion, and punishment when we try to push back.
In order to meet these socially acceptable standards of the “good girl” we must quietly abandon ourselves in a hundred million tiny ways…and some pretty big ones too.
We silence ourselves. We say, “Yes” when we really want to say, “No”.
We subscribe to the idea that we’re supposed to do it all without ever stepping on any toes while we do it. And oh my good golly gosh, NEVER let ’em see you sweat.
It’s not surprising, then, that our boundaries are tissue paper thin. We tolerate it when they’re crossed because we want to belong. Because we have allowed belonging and approval to become more important than honouring ourselves, our truth, and our values.
And each time we abandon ourselves in order to make others feel comfortable it becomes easier to stay silent. Harder to stand up for ourselves.
“Each time you break your boundaries in order to ensure someone else likes you, you end up liking yourself that much less.” ~ Brianna Wiest
So what are boundaries?
We talked about boundaries recently in our discussion on forgiveness but I think it’s worth repeating.
“Boundaries are finding a way to be generous towards others while continuing to stay in your integrity.” ~ Brené Brown
It’s about staying grounded and true to yourself while also feeling compassion towards others. In fact, it’s easier to be compassionate towards others when you aren’t angry or resentful that they’re crossing your boundaries.
Setting boundaries in your own life is as simple and as complicated as saying, “Here’s what’s okay with me and here’s what’s not okay.” And doing this while extracting all ego and judgement from the equation so there’s no sense that, “I’m better than you so I want you to act this way”. The Brené Brown method of boundary setting is called BIG.
I — integrity
It asks how can you set boundaries in your life that help you stay in your integrity while remaining generous towards others.
An essential part of staying non-judgemental and generous towards others is letting go of the potential we see in people. How we want them to be. How we believe they “could” be. And instead, accepting and finding compassion for who they are right now in this messy (and completely human) moment.
When Brené started to research and understand compassionate people and what makes them tick she predicted that they would have an underlying spiritual belief. A sort of common moral code that kept them grounded in compassion.
But that’s not what she found.
She found that the most compassionate people were the ones who had strong, healthy boundaries. In her words, they had “boundaries of steel”.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brené Brown
Setting and maintaining boundaries (especially if you’re out of practice) isn’t easy. It takes work. It takes courage. And the understanding that you might lose friends along the way.
When we allow others to step over our boundaries (either because we haven’t clearly defined or expressed them or because they’re choosing to ignore them) we end up feeling hurt, scared, angry, resentful, bitter, tired and/or overwhelmed.
It’s important to notice which emotions are triggered and get curious about what they’re here to tell you.
What boundary was crossed?
Did I clearly communicate this boundary?
How did that make me feel?
What can I say or do next time to let the other person know that this is not okay with me?
Try creating a mantra.
Something to remember the next time you’re tempted to say yes when you don’t want to. The next time you want to stay silent. The next time the “good girl” rules ask you to abandon yourself.
– I am loyal to myself first.
– I choose me.
– Choose discomfort over resentment. << that one is Brené’s
– 8 seconds of awkward is better than 10 years of bitterness
– My heart is louder than your approval.
– I didn’t break it, it’s not mine to fix.
– I will not abandon myself.
You can also create a go-to phrase you can say aloud to the other person.
– I can’t take that on.
– My plate is full.
– I don’t have the capacity right now.
– I hear you, and I don’t accept that. << that one is Oprah’s
Or if you need time to come up with an appropriate response just say, “I need time to think/sleep/pray/meditate on it.” And give yourself the time to journal and comfort your ego so you can respond without judgment.
“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace, you start a war within.” ~ Cheryl Richardson
Setting a clear boundary sends a message to yourself and others that you have a strong sense of self-awareness and self-respect. The more clearly you communicate your boundaries without ego, the more you can remain compassionate and generous to others AND to yourself.
Healthy boundaries help us end the cycle of self-abandonment because we begin to respect ourselves enough to honour our needs, desires, and values.
And you can start by honouring the boundaries you set for yourself. Like creating and sticking to a work-from-home schedule. Setting aside x amount of time every day for self-care. Limiting your coffee intake to 1 cup a day. Or skipping the bag of chips this week. Giving yourself 30 min a day to colour or paint simply because it’s fun and feels good.
Honouring the commitments and boundaries you set for yourself will help you build trust in yourself. When you trust yourself it becomes easier to maintain the boundaries you’ve set with other people.
We need to become unfailingly loyal to ourselves. And the consequence of all this is the ability to show up with even MORE compassion for the people in our lives. And who doesn’t want that?