Let’s talk about boundaries.
Do you have them?
I used to not have them. Like, at all. I wanted to be everything to everyone.
The first notable time I set a boundary in my adult life was with my ex-fiancé. Realizing that I had put all my dreams on hold to support his, I started to re-think our whole arrangement. At the time, I had a decent job and was paying for most things while he was in film school. (I even helped fund a short film or two). Deep down, I knew that our whole dynamic was off, but we had been together for 6 years and were planning a wedding. I didn’t want to make any rash decisions.
So I took a baby step.
I told him that I wanted to postpone the wedding so that I could use some of my money to buy a guitar for myself. I had dreams of being a singer-songwriter, and I wasn’t getting any younger. It only made sense that I put a bit of my budget towards funding my dreams too.
Well, as soon as I said that, everything revealed itself. I’ll spare you the details, but needless to say, we broke up soon thereafter and moved on with our lives. I am so very thankful that I didn’t sign up for a lifetime with someone who was so resistant to the idea of me spending my own money on my own dreams.
It’s natural to feel afraid that nothing better will happen. So many of us convince ourselves to settle because we’re afraid to take the risk. I mean, there are no guarantees in life, right? This reminds me of a quote that uplifts me whenever I bring it to mind.
““There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson
What if you fly? Well, in this case, I did. I bought the guitar, wrote a bunch of songs — one of which ended up in a feature film — and played some of the most iconic venues in Toronto. Working on my music, I met my perfect partner, Keegan, to whom I’ve been happily married for 8 years. He’s a composer, totally supportive of my dreams in every way, and we have really awesome sing-alongs. Oh, and we kill at karaoke. (Just sayin’.)
Now, this does not mean that there will never be challenges once you start to walk a path of authenticity. Everything is not always sunshine & rainbows. There will be trials. My love, you will rise to the occasion. You just will. Because your sovereignty is worth everything.
So yes, when you start living your boundaries, some people might push back. But they’re the ones who are benefiting from you staying small — and you’re better off without them. As Bethany Webster says, “Those who benefit from your self-doubt do not have your best interest at heart.” And they will show their true colours when you step into your power.
Boundaries are vital. They prevent us from being swallowed up by those around us. You deserve to live an expansive, expressive life that fulfills you. It’s a gift you must give yourself.
Building your boundary muscles is scary, I know. It takes a lot of courage. But if you don’t do it, you’ve already lost. You have already left the building. And that’s no way to live. Can you feel it?
Women have a complex relationship with boundaries because of the patriarchy. Once upon a time, our survival depended on our ability to keep the bread-winner happy. It’s no wonder we have a hard time with this. Just because, in this part of the world, women started being able to get by without men a few decades ago doesn’t mean that our evolutionary programming changed too. Not yet. It will take some time to unplug those neural pathways that want to keep everything steady.
When you decide to do this work, you’re not only changing your life, but you’re changing the fabric of society. You’re giving girls a role model. You’re showing them how to honour themselves. You are, in fact, BEING the change you wish to see in the world.
Just for a moment, imagine a world in which all women insist on honouring themselves.
(I can’t wait for that day.)
I know you might still be unsure. Again, it doesn’t sound like much fun. Plus, there are all these negative connotations we have about having boundaries. Let’s unpack some of them, shall we?
Myths about boundaries:
- Boundaries are rigid and permanent. The truth is that you are in charge, and you can be as flexible as you’d like. Your boundaries can also shift and change over time.
- If I didn’t have them or enforce them before, I don’t have the right to do it now. I see this so often. We blame ourselves for not having handled things differently in the past, and now we think we’re stuck and have to suck it up. Or that we have to make some sort of giant announcement or confront people and make them understand that things are changing. You can do those things, but you can also just start behaving differently, no explanation required. Every day is a new opportunity to respond differently. You can absolutely choose to something different going forward. At any time.
- Having boundaries means you’re selfish and unkind. Um, no. It means that you recognize that you matter as much as others do. And you can certainly be kind as you enforce your boundaries. That’s all about communication. If you’ve historically had a hard time with boundaries, the language will feel difficult at first. When you first start speaking up for yourself, it can be hard to relax into your truth and speak from the heart. It comes with practice.
- People will think you’re a jerk if you say “no.” Some might think so, but others will respect you more and treat you better. You are becoming a leader in your own life, and people will stop taking you for granted. So if someone thinks you’re a jerk for not letting them push you around, they are the jerk in this scenario. Trust me.
- You’ll stop being yourself because your MO is to always be there for others. So here’s the beautiful thing. You’ll actually blossom into a more authentic version of yourself. You’ll be the true you because you’ll hold your values and interests close. You’ll have more time for what matters most to you, rather than simply staying busy. You might even find a new way to express yourself creatively. Another beautiful thing? You’ll actually do a better job of being there for others when they really need you because you won’t be so depleted from all the people-pleasing you used to do. Your cup will be full, and you’ll be able to give generously, without resentment, from the heart.
Setting boundaries can be hard when it’s new to you. But it’s the kind of hard work that leads to happiness, and it’s oh-so worth it. You deserve that freedom. Start small, and be gentle with yourself. Remember that every step counts.
Check out Breathing Room, my free program to help you take a moment for yourself & make it count.