In this post, I’m digging deep and sharing a bit of my personal story with you. I want to do it because I think it’s important for you to understand that my life has not been a bed of roses and that many of the things I share with you come from experiencing my own complex challenges.
I’ll be honest; if you’ve read my first book, Thoughts Become Things, you’ll know that I had a tough upbringing. Growing up, there was a distinct lack of parental love, kindness, and overall care.
In my childhood home, statements like, ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ and ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’ were common, and I’ve walked a tightrope throughout my life attempting to keep the peace within my family dynamics.
Unfortunately, having that responsibility at such an early age builds strong people-pleasing tendencies and a distinct lack of awareness of how to say ‘no’ or set adequate boundaries.
So, why have I decided to tell you this now? Well, as you’re no doubt aware, over the past few weeks, I’ve been asking for feedback on your biggest challenges, and those two things (boundaries/saying ‘no’ and how to stop people-pleasing) have come top of the list. Therefore, as we go into the Christmas period, where family demands on our time and resources typically increase, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the top tools that have helped both my clients and me.
If you were brought up in a household where one or both parents/primary caregivers didn’t model boundaries (either with you or themselves), it’s probably the case that you didn’t learn the skill. Also, if you recognise that you have people-pleasing tendencies, you will likely struggle more because of a deeply rooted need to be liked, keep the peace, and not have anyone upset with you (all things that make us feel psychologically unsafe). You’ve likely been programmed to please from an early age.
So, what are the main types of boundaries, and how do we set them?
Emotional boundaries to protect your emotional well-being, e.g.
- I’m not comfortable talking about my weight or what I eat.
- I prefer not to talk about my relationships/plans for children.
- I’d rather we didn’t talk poorly about other family members
Time boundaries to protect the use and misuse of your time (be clear upfront about how long you intend to stay at a gathering can be helpful).
- I can come, but I can only stay [?] hours.
- We are going to do [this] first, and then we’ll come to you.
- Why don’t you come to us this year?
Mental boundaries to protect your thoughts and own value system (which can be different from your family).
- You have the right to your opinion; I have the right to mine.
- You don’t have to agree with me, but please speak to me in a respectful way.
- I don’t like it when you… [tell me that your recipe is better than mine].
Physical boundaries to protect your physical space
- Please don’t bring your dog; it’s too much chaos for me to handle this year.
- I’d rather not hug/kiss you. (IMPORTANT: Never force your kids to hug/kiss people when they don’t want to – it is vital for them to learn that their body is their own and that they have the right to protect it)
- Please don’t touch me.
I appreciate that if you’re not used to it, setting boundaries can feel very uncomfortable, even scary and unsafe at first. However, it’s important to point out that some people may be upset with you if they’re not used to it. They may even try manipulation tactics to bring you ‘back into line’. However, remind yourself that it’s their problem (usually around their perceived loss of control over you or from their own fear of abandonment) and actually, nothing at all to do with you.
YOU ARE AN ADULT, and it’s your right to not put up with behaviours from others that jeopardise your physical and mental well-being, even if they’re family!
I realise this topic doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is important for some. So, if you know someone who would benefit from reading this article, please feel free to share.