When I was a kid I felt like I didn’t get a lot of say in what I wanted in my life. I was taught in church, at home and at school what was required of me to be considered good and therefore likeable… acceptable even.
No one taught me when it was ok to say no. I was supposed to say no in a bunch of predetermined situations (or so I’d been taught) but no one taught me how to figure out when I wanted to say no based on my own wellbeing, intuition and desires and then how to set a clear and kind boundary.
It has been the biggest hinderance in living a life filled with my own power to create what I want, enjoy and want more of. It robbed me of any personal power for so long, and I can trace this all the way back to early childhood.
What I believed instead was that to be loved, liked or even safe meant I had to meet other peoples needs. To do the opposite of set my boundaries.
About 9 years ago we moved into a new community where everyone living on our street had lived here for many years, even as much as 30. We were definitely the NEW family on the street. But it was a dream house backing onto a beautiful park that gets frequented by wildlife. Immediately we started to make it our dream space. One family across the way also had children (everyone else was much older) and because our sons were about the same age it seemed that we would be fast friends. I wanted us to be friends and our sons to be friends as well.
Right away I would notice that when I was out in the front playing with my kids the boy from across the street would pop up and join in. About 20 mins later the mom would pop up and say oh do you mind if he plays with you. “No it’s totally fine” I’d answer because it was, at first. Sometimes she’d stay to chat for a bit. I assumed we’d create this great relationship where or boys would play in each others houses and our families would become friends. That isn’t what developed. What developed was that every single time I took my kids out to play, the little boy would pop us and join in. Occasionally she would check and say is it ok? I would always answer yes, thinking that is what I should answer. I mean that is what you answer when you want to make friends right? You should always be accommodating and friendly. Right?
What ended up happening was that I answered yes enough times that she stopped asking. And if I said maybe they could come to your house she would mutter something about next time. She would send her son out to play by himself a lot(he was quite young, we are talking preschool age to kindergarten age) and more times than not, he would come to our house. If I took my kids to the park he would follow us to the park. If I was up on the ladder painting the house, he would show up in my yard despite the fact I had sent the kids to grandmas so I could get a break and some work done.
It never morphed into an equal give and take, it never morphed into a friendship of dinners at eachother houses or anything of that nature.
What it developed into was me becoming more and more resentful. It became a glaring example of what happens when you don’t set boundaries. I listened to all the social rules in my head “I should be a good neighbour, I should be giving, I should be kind, I should be nice, I really want to be accepted and liked” and ignored my intuition that had been telling me for a long while that this was not a balanced friendship, that actually I didn’t totally like this mom – (her energy felt off even if her words sounded sincere )and I didn’t agree with turning a 3 year old out to play without much supervision, which she did all the time. I didn’t enjoy including another boy in every activity I did with my kids outside of our home. My kids were little, I was tired too, Griffin was having some stuff come up in preschool, no one was getting enough sleep and most days it took most of my energy to get myself and my kids out into the yard to get some play time, and now somehow I was responsible for providing that for the neighbours son.
Finally I set the boundary. I told her I was not ok with her son coming in our house, our yard, to the park without being invited first. I told her there were days I just wanted to spend quiet time with my two kids in our own yard.
She got mad. She yelled at me “then why did you move to a cul-de-sac if you didn’t want to be neighbourly” And she started a feud with our family. She went to other neighbours and told them what I had said. If I took the kids to the front to ride bikes she would yell from her garage to her son, “what ever you do, dont’ go over there! They hate you Ray, they don’t want you anywhere near them.”
I can’t tell you how this broke my heart. Because I didn’t want to be unkind to this boy. It killed me to hear his mom yell this for all the neighbourhood to hear. It was horrible for all of us.
And I came face to face with the reason why I didn’t set a boundary much earlier. I had a core belief that people won’t like me if I set boundaries. Its right from childhood. And it is so painful it would leave me crying and afraid to go out into my own yard.
It took me awhile to understand what was going on. Not until this pattern replayed numerous times and I brought my coaching tools to it and I started doing “the work” on it did it begin to shift.
When I examined the painful belief of “People won’t like me when I set a boundary’ the most powerful turnarounds were these…
People don’t like themselves when I set boundary. BOOM. And it’s true. When you set a boundary people have to come face to face with an aspect of themselves that they don’t like. The boundary plays the role of mirror and they have to face the shadow side of themselves that wants to cross the line. This mother was not being a very active mother. She was not watching her kid or playing outside with them, and now she didnt need to feel guilty or bad about that because I was doing it for her! And better yet I told her it was ok! When I set the boundary this aspect of herself was triggered.
The second part of it is this and its just as important;
People won’t like me if I DON’T set a boundary. I had told her it was ok. I said yes when I no longer wanted to. I ignored my intuition that this lady had very little to reciprocate back. I ignored my intuition that she could become very unsafe to me. Instead I just kept saying yes or nothing at all.
Have you ever had someone tell you that they don’t like something, after not saying anything for years? How do you feel? Mad right? Like why didn’t they just say something? When you dont set boundaries from the get go, the longer you avoid it, the less people like it. People inherently respect boundaries, people don’t like it when you don’t set boundaries and then blow up. They feel tricked, confused. And sometimes angry.
And last but not least, I don’t like ME when I don’t set a boundary. And I don’t. There is the part of me that wonders why everyone else’s needs or wants or preferences are more important than my own. My essential self feels very unsafe and unloved when I don’t honour her and her needs. When I don’t set boundaries I don’t like the thoughts I think, I don’t like the resentment, I don’t like myself.
So now I deeply understand People like me best when I have healthy boundaries and boy, I sure like me best when I do too. And any anger reaction is not because I am unloveable it’s because people come face to face with their own shadow aspects when the boundary line is drawn. The sooner you draw it the less dependant on your energy they become and therefore the less angry when it is withdrawn. This women’s anger was due partially to my INABILITY to be clear what my boundaries were. Boundaries clearly stated and held equal peace for everyone. Its clear. And I would have learned very early on that she didn’t have much to give in the area of friendship.
Learning to set boundaries is an art AND a science. It’s what I teach in my Personal Power coaching practice because it’s not always obvious when a situation is calling for a boundary. You may even think that setting a boundary is the opposite of what you should be doing. There are signs and you can learn to recognize, track and act on them.
I’ll teach you how to figure that out, how to see the beliefs that keep you from setting the boundary and how to set one in a way that aligns with what you TRUELY want and need.
Like Mrs Which says in a Wrinkle in Time, “to become one with the universe you have to become one with yourself.” Its time to become one with yourself (all of you), what you need and align with it. Aligning with the world hoping it will become one with you is the illusion.