Monday, 12 August 2013

Banish guilt and create healthy boundaries!

This blog is in part a challenge to myself to write as often as I can...daily if possible. It's 9:52 pm and there are good reasons for me to hit the hay and not to bother but I will try to honour this challenge before I succumb to the gentle beckoning of my sleeping place.

Go me for commitment! I had to let it slide for a few days last week, but without going into details, it was just one of those weeks and I'm getting pretty good at forgiving myself these days for being human and sometimes needing to cut myself a bit of slack. I've always been good at cutting the slack, but not so good at forgiving myself for I'd just feel guilty. Oh, what an unholy waste of time is guilt unless you intend to change your ways! So I don't feel guilty about the idea of not writing today, but I actually really want to do it, and I would miss the opportunity and maybe, just maybe, I can write something tonight that might not come together at some other time. And maybe what I can write tonight will mean something to someone and help them in some way. There's the motivation. I don't imagine myself to be some kind of guru or great teacher, but I've made a helluva lot of mistakes in life and I've learned a helluva lot from making just maybe sharing some stories or ideas can either help someone else to feel better about being human and stuffing things up now and then, or stop them from making the same mistakes I have. And maybe save them some pain. Therein lies the supposition that all pain is bad, and I'm not sure that is true. 

We talk about pain a lot really don't we. He's a pain, she's a pain, it's a pain. The speech was painful. Maybe just because you had to sit in one place too long and listen. Would it be less painful if you could have moved about a bit and listened as you paced? Most speeches must be taken sitting down. So when we talk about pain in these ways, aren't we really meaning an inconvenience, an annoyance, an interruption to our flow perhaps? Does this kind of pain lead us to do things differently or change our ways? If someone is a pain, do we think to ourselves, "I really should take the time to get to know that person more. They could have good reason for being difficult (or painful), " or do we start to avoid the person because they are an inconvenience to us? I challenge myself here I give people the benefit of the doubt every time? No. Sometimes I'm impatient or too busy or too self absorbed to give my time to others. 

I read a great book some years ago called Change Your Questions Change Your Life: 10 powerful tools for life and work by Marilee Adams. So let's think about the questions we ask ourselves when someone is being a pain. These are just suggestions so please feel welcome to substitute you own.
Why is he/she being so annoying?
Why is he/she being such a pain?
Why doesn't he/she just leave me alone?
Why does he/she always ring me?
Why does he/she always go on about him/herself?
How much longer do I have to stand here and listen?
Does he/she have to ring every day?
When we ask these questions we give away our power. We give the other person all the power because we are blaming them for making us feel a certain way; probably trapped!

So what questions could we ask instead that might change the dynamic, buy us back some power and change how we deal with people? You might have some suggestions too but here are a couple to get the ball rolling.
How does this situation look through his/her eyes?
What might it feel like to be him/her?
How can I show that I'm really hearing him/her (paraphrasing, summarising, clarifying...rather than just mmm-hmmm-ing)? 
How much time can I afford to give him/her and still feel relaxed?
Can I really listen for five minutes without trying to escape?
Sometimes to have someone really listen and really hear what is being said is all that he/she really needs. Of course at the same time you have to know what your own needs are. 

Personal boundaries are our own responsibility. We can't expect others to respect our boundaries if we don't know what or where they are for ourselves. Do you know what you will tolerate from others and what you will not? Do you set aside time for yourself that is sacred and for which you sometimes have to say "No." to others? Sit down sometime and think about your life. If you have someone that phones you and wants to talk at length when you have other priorities, it's perfectly fair to tell the person that you can give them five minutes or ten minutes and at the end of that time to say that's all the time you have to give them for now and you have to go and goodbye. And hang up. If someone calls in for coffee every other day and you would rather they only came on Thursday afternoons between 2 and 3 then let them know. Let them know that you won't be stopping to chat any other time. Then stick to it. Obviously there are times when rules can be bent, but if you have someone in your life who takes advantage of your kind heart then it's OK to make some rules to keep your sanity. Most of us have very busy lives and have a lot to fit in one way or another. 

Be kind to others but please also  be kind to yourself. Know that you need space and time to rest, to think, to reflect, to sleep, to exercise, to be with your significant others, to nurture yourself and your close relationships. Sometimes leaving others to work out their own stuff gives them the opportunity to grow. If you keep on helping and organising and supporting and propping then you can effectively be stifling them. Scary isn't it. The very thing you wish they would do...such as stand on their own two feet or take responsibility for their own stop them from doing that by being there for them all the time. Just a thought.

If you don't take care of yourself then your might find you start to get some of the other pain. Physical pain. Dis-ease. Cancer. Heart problems. Anxiety. Stress. These pains are bad but also good. How can they be good? They are like our dashboard letting us know that something is not right. The lights are flashing to try and get our attention. Usually it's a sign that we need to change the way we're living. It might be eating habits or exercise or relaxation or education or just finding time to make some goals or dream a little. There is so much information out there once you start looking. All the help in the world to guide you to a better life. Better to be kind to yourself. Be gentle with others but firm too. Protect your boundaries. Don't be a 'yes' man or woman...unless you are saying 'yes' to time out as well. 

PS Those bad pains...if you choose to do nothing about them...they just go on getting worse. Eventually they kill you. I've included a link to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Leading Causes of Death. I believe that if you really looked into it, most of them are stress-related. 10:52 Sleep tight.


  1. spot on Kerry. I used to find it hard to say 'no' and still do, even though I'm better at saying it, I feel uncomfortable about it. When I was very ill, I put a sign on the front door that said "Sorry, no visitors today please". I felt so guilty about that but I knew I had to put my own welfare first. I also rarely answer the phone these days and only pick up if someone is leaving a message and I know who they are and I'm feeling well enough to chat. And I even feel bad about that! Wondering if maybe someone had hung up without leaving a message really needed to talk to me....and then I get a grip and tell myself that if it's really important they would leave a message.
    It's so easy for me to put everyone else first and forget my own needs and I've learnt the hard way, the cost it has been to my health. And I wonder....if..oops..I mean, when I get fully well again, will I revert to putting everyone else first again....will I have really learnt to think of my own needs before I jump in? I hope so. I remember years ago when I was busy with kids/farm etc and there was a car coming up the driveway, I'd moan, wondering how long they would stay, what did they want this time, will they be staying for lunch or dinner or both! etc. And then when the visitors would leave I'd feel drained and relieved but also frustrated because another day had gone and I couldn't get jobs done. I read a book at the time that helped me immensely (sorry can't remember what it was) and it spoke of this dilemma and to look at in a positive light, that it's an energy exchange of giving and receiving. Sometimes there's more giving but when I would ponder on the visit I'd find little pearls of receiving that would warm my heart and I would also be aware of the visitors happiness when they left without me feeling like all they did was take. Instead of me thinking that the visitor came to debrief about a personal drama or problem and leave me feeling despondent afterwards yet they would leave feeling happier, I was able to feel joy at being able to help them.
    But you're right Kerry, we should to be able to set limits on how much time we can give and not feel guilty about it. I'm still working on that one!

    1. All strength and wisdom to you. Who has room for guilt in their life these days when there is so much fun stuff to do and so much research to show us how to look after ourselves better!