August 25, 2016

TrishBits #26: Boundaries Without Guilt

When you feel guilty about displeasing someone, you’re still blurring the boundary….

Choose Clarity, Confidence, and Freedom.

On your mission to be a good, successful and kind person, which boundary gets blurred for you?

Is it the one between you and your boss, who thinks that you should be checking – and acting on – your email at 5 a.m.?  Is it the one between you and your college-age kid, who’s never been very responsible and keeps you up at night, though she’s 300 miles away?  Is it the boundary between you and your so-called best friend, who withdraws when she’s not getting her way?

My definition of boundaries is simple:  it’s the line between what is yours and what belongs to someone else.  The boundary is always there.  You get to decide whether or not to honor it.  Honoring boundaries is about changing your behavior – not someone else’s – regardless of how that other person responds.

Other people, who’ve grown to count on your hyper-responsibility or over-functioning or people-pleasing ways, will indeed be displeased.  Get ready.  Maybe even practice tolerating the tension of your boss’s disapproval.  Right now, close your eyes, and imagine your best friend giving you the cold shoulder.  Get so familiar and comfortable with it that it fails to set off the usual alarms inside you.  Then you can decide whether it’s time to honor the boundary.

When you dodge boundary-setting to avoid guilt, you’re still embroiled in what I call a ‘power ploy’ – a ploy to keep from feeling guilty, a ploy to keep someone’s wrath at bay.  When you allow guilt to consume you after you’ve said, “No way,” then you’re still blurring boundaries.  If you are feeling guilt, then somewhere inside you is the belief: “I should do what he/she wants.”

A word about guilt:  True, soul-saving guilt offers a sense of remorse, humility, and a natural urge to prove to yourself and others that you are ‘better than that.’

The kind of guilt that ensues when you fail to please a demanding person is very different.  That kind of guilt is what Dr. Albert Ellis used to call, “useless guilt.”  It’s useless because it serves no purpose but to keep you stuck in someone else’s drama.

Get out of other people’s drama.  You get to decide what is and isn’t yours.  Choose where to put your effort, and why.  There will be consequences, like push-back and criticism.  But also like: clarity, confidence, freedom.

Choose clarity, confidence, and freedom.

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