Before I worked as a domestic violence advocate I don’t know that the concept of “b”oundaries ever crossed my mind. At the shelter, boundaries were the Queen Bee, a constant part of conversation as we discussed working with clients, self-care and all around well-being. It’s incredible and perplexing that the first time I understood what a boundary was and comprehended the vital importance of upholding them, was not until I was an adult.
To think back to my younger self and how relatively non-existent my emotional, time, and sometimes even physical boundaries were, is frankly, nauseating. I remember feeling like such a push over, a serial people pleaser, intense empath and die-hard “peace keeper”. Just simply having the realization that boundaries were “a thing”, was the catalyst for a huge internal shift. It finally occurred to me:
– I don’t have to accept and forgive all behavior
– I don’t have to take on and feel all emotions
– I don’t have to please everyone.
– In certain situations, “peace” and forgiveness is not the best answer especially when there is a history of someone misusing forgiveness as an opening for future bad behavior and manipulate me into believing that what they did in the past is no longer a valid piece of my frustration when they do something hurtful in the future…because “I forgave them”, as if I should have forgiveness amnesia or something.
I finally realized that all along I had a choice and that up until this point I had been unconsciously choosing to protect everyone else’s feelings and energy rather than my own. I was more worried about being nice, or liked, or not making others feel uncomfortable and it took a huge toll. My “peacekeeping” made everyone else feel better but I still felt crappy. I’ve come to understand that peace needs to be a two-way street. And now that I know, I simply can’t blindly do it anymore. This being said, truthfully…boundaries are still really f***ing hard for me. There are still situations where upholding boundaries consistently is frustrating and exhausting, especially when involving a person who has no intention of respecting them. Or when for whatever reason, I really wanted someone’s approval, or a situation is was so emotionally charged that it’s hard to disconnect. Sometimes boundaries feel completely foreign and against my natural tendencies. Sometimes they feel really, really, inconvenient, and sometimes the boundary I have to set make other people uncomfortable and I Hate making people uncomfortable.
But then there comes another choice, discomfort in exchange for my emotional wellbeing, and when I frame it that way, is there really a choice? My inner empath and peace keeper bemoans and wishes I would get back to the way she used to do it, smooth everything over, just say yes, and be the “nice person”. While at times I want to think she is right, I know bending my boundaries for these reasons will only put me right back in the same place at another point and that’s far more difficult for me to stomach than sticking to the boundary to begin with. I know, because I’ve lived it over, and over again. I’ve come to the point where I can say with certainty that healthy boundaries won’t kill me, or anyone else, regardless of how uncomfortable we all are.
Sometimes the boundary I needs to be set is with my own beliefs. Even once I had this realization it too me years to put it into practice. It took a lot of internal work to separate myself from the core belief that in order to truly care about someone, I had to feel what they were going through, deeply. After lots of self-reflection, coaching and feeling so worn out from literally being “sick” from worrying, I understood that I can genuinely show up as a coach, an advocate, or as a friend without taking on all of the emotional weight that isn’t mine to carry. In fact, it makes me better at my job and a better friend if I don’t and this REALLY matters to me. I want to be able to help people get through hard times, help them embrace who they really are, to dream up and work towards the life they want for themselves, AND I want to be able to watch as they create it for very long time to come. I want to be a great partner and fiance, friend, daughter, sister, and coach but I can’t do all of this sustainably if I’m totally burned out. I’ve realized I simply can’t be my best self, and be there for the people I love and care about without boundaries.
I’ve recently been wrapping my mind around the idea that genuine boundaries are truly and deeply kind when coming from a place of respect for yourself or someone else. But it’s easy to forget this, and in fact anyone who pushes back against your boundaries will likely try to convince you that your boundary is cruel and victimizing (which is an interesting subject in and of itself, but for another time). However, your intention is what matters, not their interpretation. You cannot control how other’s feel or perceive things, and in fact it’s not your business. What matters is that you foster a deep respect for your own wellbeing and while it may be uncomfortable while those around you adjust to these new boundaries, you will find that many will shift in amazing and awesome ways (you may find they weren’t intending to violate a boundary, they just didn’t know), others… will throw fits. BUT, when they see you are un-wavering, they will either make the shift or they may even decide to find their way out of your life. This will surely be disappointing and painful but I can tell you, it is worth it in the long run.
Deciding which boundaries to hold is a personal, and intimate decision. When you set a boundary you also choose kindness and respect. Setting a boundary goes hand in hand with a willingness to be uncomfortable in order to protect your own energy and wellbeing and it is a beautiful commitment to yourself AND to the relationships you care about. Upholding your boundaries is choice to be your best self, to honor who your are, and to choose to not take responsibility for other’s feelings. Most importantly boundaries are a choice to not allow someone else’s displeasure to coax you off your path. The choices are our own to make and you get to decide.
It’s so worth it.
If all of this feels really hard and daunting, that’s because it is or can be, but it gets easier and you only have to take one small step at a time. If you need guidance and support, I hope you will reach out, I would be honored.
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Hello, I’m Caitlin Bosshart! Life coach for the multi-passionate at heart and wedding coach for couples planning non-traditional weddings! I believe that no one should settle for less than a life that lights them up, ignites their passions and allows them to be, their most vibrant authentic selves.
To learn more about how we can work together, visit: CaitlinBosshart.com
Or you can watch this short video about my philosophy as a coach: Caitlin Bosshart Life Coaching for the Heart and Inner Hive
To schedule a free discovery session for multi-passionate coaching or wedding coaching, email me at LifeCoaching@caitlinbosshart.com !