If you feel you’re getting the short end of the stick, doing more than you said you would, or your personal space is being invaded, you may think you need better boundaries. Think again.
I’m not against boundaries. They’re a necessary step in development, so you don’t spend all your time in other people’s business where you don’t belong, or with other people all up in your business where they don’t belong.
I learned appropriate boundaries late in life. I was so enmeshed in other people’s needs and desires that I rarely said no when asked for something. When I did say no, I felt guilty. A few decades ago, my therapist took me through simple exercises to experience where I ended and the rest of the world began. Pretty rudimentary stuff that every child should know, but somehow I’d missed that essential step.
Boundaries are important. They define and delineate. They separate countries, cities and neighbors. We build them with walls, fences, intentions and actions. We maintain them and defend them, sometimes with our lives. In certain situations boundaries are exactly the right thing. But not always.
When clients tell me they want better boundaries, it’s usually because someone, somehow, did them wrong. They feel like a victim. They don’t want that to happen again, so they want to build a big fat wall to keep the problems out. But there are a couple of problems with the big fat wall:
- It doesn’t fix the past. So it doesn’t address what’s making you feel like a victim.
- The big fat wall might not work in all situations.
- It can be exhausting to keep propping up the wall.
- The wall doesn’t just keep others out, it keeps you boxed in.
When I ask clients to describe someone they admire for having good boundaries, they say serious, strong, disciplined. The words I have yet to hear in these descriptions are fun, joyful, energized, loving, or spontaneous.
When I help clients get to the root of how this other person did them wrong, we can almost always find that the problem began when my clients first wronged themselves. She agreed to do something that didn’t feel quite right, but she didn’t honor that feeling. He accepted less money for his work than he wanted, and resents it now. She takes care of everyone else first, hoping someone will take care of her in return. She wants her mom to stop calling every morning at 7:00am, but picks up the phone whenever it rings. They say they want one thing, but behave differently. Their words and actions are muddled and confused.
So what’s better than boundaries?
Clarity. It comes from knowing who you are, and being true to yourself.
Clarity requires that you slow down. Discover your deepest desires. Pay attention to that feeling you get that suggests something’s not quite right. Take time to imagine what would feel right.
Clarity demands that you love yourself. You take care of yourself and treat yourself well. You fill your cup first. The more you love yourself, the clearer you get. When you treat yourself lovingly, it’s easy to love others. Boundaries can dissolve with the clarity that love brings.
Getting clear requires more awareness upfront, but requires a lot less work later on. Rather than continuing to define and defend your boundaries, you get to live spontaneously, in the way you want to live, as you evolve. And you’ll be amazed to discover that when you are clear, the world responds to your clarity in kind.
With Clarity your choices originate from love, and truth, and living in the moment.
Boundaries are rigid. Clarity is dynamic. Here’s how this might look in the real world?
Boundary = Nobody should phone you before 7:00am. You want others to respect that boundary. Clarity = You answer the phone whenever you want. You turn the ringer off when I don’t want to be disturbed. If you’re in the middle of something else, you don’t let the phone interrupt.
Boundary = Your rate is $150.00 an hour. Period. Asking you to work for less crosses your boundary. Clarity = Your rate is $150.00 an hour. Sometimes you’re inspired to support someone by working for less. In those cases you do it joyfully. Sometimes you offer your skills for free. Other times you charge more than your usual rate. People can ask you for whatever they want. You’ll respond with what’s right for you.
Life is always bursting through boundaries. So when you try to defend your boundaries you may find you’re fighting with life.
Your true nature is limitless. When you’re clear about that, there’s no need for boundaries.
Is there an area in your life where you feel you need boundaries? What might clarity do for you instead?
I’d love to hear your ideas on this in the Comments below.