Many of us are uncomfortable setting boundaries and may be uncomfortable saying things like:
- “It’s not OK that you’re late constantly.”
- “It was really thoughtless of you to borrow that book of mine for your project and return it all beat up.”
- “I don’t want work calls at home unless it’s a real emergency.”
- “I don’t have half an hour every day to listen to you go on about the same old thing. Either fix it or stop talking to me about it.”
- “You know I don’t mind working overtime, but I do expect to be paid for it. I’ve left you a memo detailing my extra hours.”
- “Your work reflects my standards. I want every letter proofread before it leaves this office.”
- “I’m sure you think differently about this, but I’m sure you want your staff to hear all the alternatives.”*
If you’ve never faced someone who habitually drains your time, goodwill, patience, kindness, and helpfulness; you may think that these examples are harsh boundary setting techniques. Some of the words might even sound angry.
But, ask yourself this question: Where is the line between being a good human being and being a doormat?
As my readers know, I grew up as a people pleaser. Subconsciously I used to find ways to become indispensible to groups, organizations, or people, and work my tail off for the good of the group. I felt guilty when I wasn’t giving 100 percent or more.
When I started to wake up to the unhealthy co-dependency involved in such relationships, I suddenly found people angry at me for not fulfilling their expectations any more. I needed to change, but they did not want me to change. My gentler approaches were either unrecognized or minimized. It is in those times, tougher sounding measures like the examples above need to be used.
This quote is from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney:
The process of Recovery teaches us how to take down the walls and protect ourselves in healthy ways - by learning what healthy boundaries are, how to set them, and how to defend them. It teaches us to be discerning in our choices, to ask for what we need, and to be assertive and Loving in meeting our own needs. (Of course many of us have to first get used to the revolutionary idea that it is all right for us to have needs.)
How do you handle boundary setting when others want to “own” a part of you? I’d like to hear your thoughts about this!
* These boundary setting examples are from The Artist’s Way at Work by Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen
Photo credit: speech path girl
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