Healthy boundaries can be hard to identify and maintain. Here’s one concept that can help.
We’ll be diving further into Healthy Boundaries this weekend in our LIVE Saturday School workshop on November 21st, 2020.
Check it out and register here to join us!
Let’s start with a really tangible definition for the often nebulous concept of ‘boundaries’:
A boundary is a property line, as defined by Dr. Henry Cloud.
The boundary tells you who controls the property, who has freedom and choices over the property, and who is responsible for the property.
Now let’s take that definition into the realm of our everyday lives, and pair it with a concept that can help us decipher our property lines.
Types of property
The property that boundaries are helpful for include:
- Emotional – your feelings
- Material – your things
- Mental – your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs
- Physical – your body
- Time and Energy – your time and energy
Who owns the property?
According to Byron Katie, there are three kinds of ‘business’ in the universe. I like to think of this as ‘Who owns the property?’
- The Rest (aka: God/Goddess/Universe/life/reality’s – pick the descriptor you resonate with)
I like to think of these three kinds of ‘business’ as three separate yards – like three pieces of property.
Mine – My yard contains those pieces of property that I control and am responsible for: what I do, what I say, how I feel*, how I spend my time and energy, my possessions and what I believe.
*Feelings get a little star, because they are by-products of our thoughts, beliefs, and circumstances – not as easily in our control, but nevertheless, still our property. You can read more about getting to know your garden here.
Yours – Your business is what you control and are responsible for. All those same bits of property: emotional, material, mental, physical, time and energy.
Life’s/God’s/reality – This is made up of all the things that are outside of my control and your control. Examples include: the past and the future, as well as elements of the weather, accidents, traffic, etc.
With my yard, your yard, and Life’s yard, we’ve basically drawn ourselves a map of our existential ‘neighborhood’. Maps are cool on their own, don’t get me wrong, but the magic comes when we use them to navigate.
Some scenarios where this map comes in handy:
- When you’re feeling stressed.
- When you’re afraid someone will be upset with you.
- When you feel compelled to say ‘yes’ even though you want to say ‘no’.
- When you’re caught in the mental loop of ‘what if’s – worrying about the future.
- When you’re upset or angry with someone else.
In any of these not-so-hypothetical cases, you can pull out your map and ask yourself:
“Where am I?”
Find yourself on the map: “Where am I?”
Let’s use an example from above, and ask this question: “Where am I?”
When I’m afraid you will be upset with me, the property I’m focused on is your feelings – specifically your feelings of being upset with me.
Whose yard do other people’s feelings reside in? Their yard. Their feelings are their responsibility. When I’m trying to take responsibility for them, I’ve left my own yard – walked right off my own property and onto theirs – which leaves no one home to care for me.
Walk yourself home
When you’ve found yourself trying to manage someone else’s property, walk yourself back home by asking:
“What’s my business?”
Identify what is in your control, or what is your responsibility, and take action.
That could look like:
- Donating money, time, or resources to a cause you care about.
- Sitting with your uncomfortable feelings.
- Creating a workshop to share a new perspective or tool.
- Completing your stress cycle by exercising, breathing, or enjoying time with a friend.
Do boundaries make me self-centered?
At first glance, boundaries can seem like a way to stop caring about anyone but yourself.
Let’s just sit with that. If you’re anything like me, that idea brings up a lot of fear about being selfish, putting my needs ahead of others, etc. When I pause, put my hand on my heart, and just feel those feelings of fear and guilt and breathe through them without feeding them more thoughts, they’re usually a lot quieter in 90 seconds or less.
Here’s the real truth that I invite you to experiment with for yourself, straight from Brene Brown’s research:
The most compassionate people are absolutely the most boundaried.
Let that sink in.
The more I leave you to your work/business/journey/lessons, and the more I take responsibility for my own work/business/journey/lessons – the more compassion I’m able to have for you and what you’re going through!
Healthy boundaries are the foundation of empathy, authenticity, and accountability – and they’re an integral part of self-care.
For more on staying in your own business and listening to your intuition as an interpreter, check out this RID VIEWS column – Self-Care: Caring For Ourselves Within a Community.
Healthy Boundaries for Interpreters
I hope you’ll join us November 21st, 2020 for Healthy Boundaries for Interpreters. We’ll explore what healthy boundaries are, what makes them hard to hold, how to tune into your guidance system, and how to communicate your boundaries in a kind and honest way. I can’t wait to spend this time with you!
Take a few minutes to journal and reflect, and then share with us in the comments:
Describe a time that healthy boundaries – yours or someone else’s – created a space for more compassion.
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