One of the most frequent issues I mentor my clients on is in the area of setting boundaries. In my recent post “How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty” I shared my 5 steps to setting a boundary: see it, study it, say it, share it, and seek support.
Setting boundaries help us have healthier and happier relationships with others and it helps us solidify our identity and define our personal territory. Today we are going to focus on the first step:
SEE IT: Recognize Where You Lack Boundaries
With boundaries, as in any healing journey, self-awareness is the first step to transformation. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and it is what keeps us stuck.
I had to learn a lot about the concept of boundaries before I could even realize that I didn’t have any. Many of us have been there:
- We say when we really want to say no.
- We tolerated abusive behavior
- We go against my own desires and goals, settling for someone else’s sake.
Simply put, we dull our own shine because of a disease to please. We lose ourselves in someone else’s idea of whom they believed we should be. Sometimes it isn’t until we hit rock bottom that we decide to draw a line and say “enough!”
Justification is just a fancy word for denial. We simply cannot change what we don’t admit. And sometimes, even when we are painfully aware of what causes us misery, we just can’t bring ourselves to change.
One of my dear friends, Les Brown, who is a bestselling author, master motivational speaker and the mentor who inspired me to become a public speaker, often tells a story of a dog and an nail to illustrate how we settle for pain just to avoid change:
“There was a man who had to pass many dogs who would bark at him as he walked home. One day, one dog in particular caught his attention – and his curiosity -, because instead of barking, he was sitting on the porch whimpering as if he were in pain, though it wasn’t obvious why. The next day, all the dogs bark, except this same dog, who was now moaning… and the man just didn’t get why. The week went by and the dog was still groaning on the porch and he couldn’t figure out what the deal was.
The man decided to find out what was happening, so he knocked on the door:
“Yes, how may I help you?” said the man who opened the door.
“Good morning, Sir, is this your dog?” he asked
“Yes, that’s my dog.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong with him’?”
“Well, he’s the only dog on my walk home who doesn’t bark and instead whines, whimpers, moans, and groans. Why is that?”
“Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail,” the dog owner replied.
“What?! Your dog is sitting on a nail? Why doesn’t he get off?” He asked in an alarming tone.
“Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”
I’ve been that dog sitting on a nail a lot of times. Have you?
We sometimes tolerate painful situations because they are familiar to us and it would be very uncomfortable, and sometimes temporarily excruciating, to move toward freedom. Let’s explore how we can become aware of the nails we are sitting on:
3 Ways To Identify Areas Where Boundaries Are Needed
In my mentoring sessions with moms, I sometimes ask them to write a “boundary wish-list,” which is a list of everything you hold dear, defining what you wish to protect about it. For example, if time with your kids is important to you, start thinking about how you could protect the time you want to spend together. Make the items as specific as possible by considering every possible scenario in all areas of your life: career, home, relationships, health, finances, spirituality, and any other areas that matter to you.
Another way to get clear on what your limits are is to write down your standards: what you will no longer tolerate in life, what you stand for, what you expect. For example, a mom I mentored a few years ago felt demoralized by her husband’s desire to look at a certain type of publication (that I won’t specify to repel showing up on those searches). She decided to step away from that relationship and now she enjoys an amazing marriage with a man who holds her same Christian values and considers those practices to be infidelity.
A third way I am going to offer to discover your limits and boundaries is to ask yourself these questions about your day to day interactions with others:
- What causes you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, disregarded, disrespected, unheard, frustrated, resentful, or pressured to do something that wasn’t “part of the plan”?
- What are some things that make you want to cry?
- What drains your energy or personal power?
- What gives you tension, anxiety, or forms a “knot in your stomach or throat”?
- What are some areas in your life where you could use more space?
I encourage you to spend some time with yourself and learn what boundaries need strengthening in every area of your life. It’s time to get off that proverbial nail and discover what we can change, so we can find hope, healing, and happiness.
Using the 3 methods above, do you SEE any areas where moms need boundaries?
PS. This is the second post in my “Boundaries In Motherhood” series. Stay tuned!