How do you know when a boundary has been crossed?
I’m asking because whenever I teach a class about self-care, or mindfulness (or anything really), there is always an acknowledgement that, whilst we often feel we “should” be available to those around us, it comes at a price. Self-care feels indulgent, but ultimately it’s necessary. But it’s not easy if in order to achieve it, we have to say no to someone or something that matters; when we have to draw a line.
In her book Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free, Nancy Levin describes zones similar to the ones I talk about, that help manage compassion fatigue. She says when experiences are positive, we’re in the green zone; when we feel neutral or shaky (like you’re not sure whether something is good or bad) you’re in yellow. And when neutral experiences give way to negative experience we know we’re in the red zone, and a boundary has been crossed. Levin also explains that the trouble is, sometimes we’re totally unaware we have a boundary, much less that one’s been crossed. (She calls this “boundary blindness”.)
So what do we do?
This week, maybe set the intention to Check the Boundary. in her book, Nancy Levin suggests keeping a boundary inventory, and particularly knowing when limits need to be set. Examples would be when a friend is calling 20 times a day (and late into the night), a family member keeps borrowing money but never pays it back, or your boss expects a lot more for less. Another recommendation is to set your “bottom line” boundaries – these are more challenging though, as it requires the “Dreaded List of Consequences” and getting comfortable with discomfort, especially where drawing lines with friends or family are involved.
This article includes a worksheet that can help create personal boundaries as well as a “Boundary Response Plan”. (Please note: some content may be behind a paywall).
Nancy explains it’s time to reclaim selfishness. And yes, you read that right: Selfish is the new vibe.
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Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021