Tag Archive | boundaries

Boundaries: Loving Kindness in Action


© Lynn Barrette

What does setting boundaries mean to you? Selfishness? Gigantic confrontations? Plates thrown across the room? Hurt feelings followed by the silent treatment for days? An opportunity to unload 30 years’ worth of baggage that you’ve been carrying?

When I say the word “boundaries” to my clients, I often sense the fear response that is common for many people when they think of putting in place even the healthiest of boundaries.

Yet, setting boundaries is a loving gesture that allows us to take care of ourselves through clear and gentle communication of what we’re willing to do or to allow around us. Boundaries that we set are kind for the other person, too. They make our intentions clear and help each person to be respectful and respected.

Brené Brown, PhD, author and human behavior researcher, uses the acronym BIG to formulate her boundaries with others: “What Boundaries do I need so that I can stay in Integrity with myself and be as Generous as possible with you?” We can’t be generous with others—our time, resources, emotional energy, compassion—when we feel overburdened, taken advantage of, or drained. We instead start feeling resentful and build protective walls between ourselves and the other person.

How do we set boundaries with loving kindness?

We are in charge of ourselves: our time, our location, our finances, our sense of self and well-being. If any of those are being taken advantage of, it is up to us to protect the resource we feel is being drained. To do this, we define what we need or are willing to do, and determine the best way to communicate it, given the person with whom we’ll be communicating.

Here are a couple of examples:

Scenario #1: You have a friend in need whom you want to support, but he’s not taking any action to support himself. After several rounds of hearing the same story and offering the same suggestions, you are beginning to feel drained.

Possible boundary: “I understand you are going through a hard time. You always have my support, and I know that you know what to do.” Repeat as needed.

Note: I always encourage the use of voicemail as a boundary-setting tool. You can return the call at a time that is convenient to you; plus, you have time to prepare your boundary beforehand and have it ready when needed.

Scenario #2: That obnoxious family member will be at the dinner gathering you are going to. She is always in everybody’s business and has something to say about it.

Possible boundary: “Thank you for asking, Aunt Millie. Things are going well with me. What have you been up to lately?” (Notice the deflection and redirection. You only have to share what you want to, and with those you want to share it with. In this case, turning the focus back onto Aunt Mildred kindly redirects her attention, at least for a while.

In either scenario, the other person wouldn’t necessarily know that we are setting a boundary with them. We are communicating the limit clearly, but less directly. We don’t have to wait until we are so exasperated with our friend, frozen in crisis, that we stop talking to him altogether, or end up saying something that is more hurtful than helpful. With Aunt Millie, we don’t have to tell her how obnoxious her behavior is— she probably already knows, and she might thrive on the negative exchange if we did tell her! In both cases, we simply set our boundary so as to not get entangled with the other person’s emotional state.

Boundaries are kind, compassionate, loving ways to maintain our own integrity while respecting where the other person might be on their journey of self-awareness. What boundary are you going to put in to place today?


Who’s Running Your Show?

ImageDo you know the many “yous” of you–the conglomerate of many selves that make up your whole self?

At a recent women’s retreat that I facilitated, we took an entire day to examine and become familiar with different parts of ourselves. We met Responsible, the Pusher, Do-Nothing, the Child, the Spiritual One, and many others. We asked them what they needed from us, how we could better support them. With some of these aspects, we asked for cooperation. By the end of the weekend, we were more conscious of the many parts of us than we have ever been before!

Why bother with such a process of getting to know our many selves? Because there is one Greater Self that is hidden among this committee of selves. The parts come in and run the show, often times without our awareness or permission! The more we get to know the parts and learn what their needs and desires are, the more consciously we can decide if those needs and desires are aligned with the intention of the Greater Self. If so, we can go with it because it will align us more with the Whole. If a part of us has needs and desires that do not align with our soul’s goal, then we are able to set clear and firm boundaries within ourselves to keep us on track with our Greater Self.

When we feel stuck, we can ask, “Who is running the show?” As we become familiar with the many different expressions of self that we have, we can more easily answer this question and make choices for ourselves accordingly–conscious choices that keep us on track, instead of unconscious impulses that pull us every which way.

What are the many different parts of you? List them, one by one. Ask them what role they play in your life. What do they need or want from you? When do they like to run the show?

There is great power in being aware of these aspects of ourselves. We become freer to “run the show” in ways that bring us more and more into alignment with that Greatest Self, the One we truly are.