Antonio was a guy that I waited tables with at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan years ago.
I loved working with Antonio because he was hilarious, flamboyant and charismatic. And even though I hated my job knowing that Antonio would be working alongside me made a huge difference.
But when I found out that Antonio was a full on coke head everything changed.
I’ll never forget the one night I was carrying a tray of silverware down to the kitchen when I caught Antonio drooling over a line of coke on the stairs.
I nearly dropped my tray and I’m pretty sure Antonio pissed himself.
It was then I realized that although I loved and wanted the best for Antonio, I couldn’t have his hot mess in my life.
I knew it was time for some boundaries.
And boundaries are what I’m talking about in this post.
Whether you’re tired of living with someone who won’t address their drinking problem, looking to create a safer, drug-free environment for your kids, or you’re done with the abuse, creating boundaries is a must.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t even know where to start. We’re afraid that setting up boundaries with a loved one means that we’re trying to control them. We’re afraid that our boundaries are unrealistic, that we could go overboard and as a result we do nothing.
Well, that’s changing today!
Today I’m sharing a fresh perspective on where to begin when you’re building boundaries.
The 3 tips I’m sharing with you don’t include any fill in the blank scripts about what to say to your loved one. And I’m not going to tell you that setting boundaries is hard or that you deserve a better life.
Instead, we’re going to start at the beginning of boundary making.
Yes my friend, we’re starting with the most important person in this boundary making business, YOU.
#1 Get Honest About Your “I Don’t Want To”
I’ve discovered a limiting belief in the many emails and Facebook messages I get from people who are having trouble figuring out how to create boundaries. And what it comes down to is this,
They don’t believe they’re worthy of creating boundaries.
How do I know this belief exists? Because of this simple phrase that gets repeated over and over again,
I Don’t Want To.
I don’t want to control him.
I don’t want to be unrealistic.
I don’t want to disappoint my kids.
I don’t want to go overboard.
I don’t want her to think I don’t care.
You see, in my experience, a phrase like I don’t want to reeks of fear.
And instead of I don’t want to I hear,
- I’m afraid to
- I don’t deserve to
- I’m not worthy
And this is not the best place to lay down your boundary setting roots.
Because if you don’t believe that you’re worthy enough to create boundaries in the first place they’ll never work.
Look. I’m not saying that you genuinely don’t want to disappoint your kids or bruise someone’s feelings.
But what I am suggesting is that you get curious about what’s behind your I don’t want to.
You may just find that underneath it all you don’t believe that you or your boundaries are worth it.
#2 Begin With The End In Mind
If you don’t even know where to begin with creating boundaries, this tip is for you.
Beginning with the end in mind is all about getting super clear about what you want as well as what you’re not willing to tolerate in your relationships.
How do you do that?
By imagining your ideal situation within a relationship or interaction with a person.
So for example, let’s say that your ideal situation is all about coming home to a clean and peaceful house after work.
As it stands right now, you often come home to a pile of half-full beer cans strewn about the living room. Loud music bouncing off every wall and clumps of cigarette ash stuck to the carpet.
And to top it all off, your husband, boyfriend, daughter or whoever is passed out drunk on the couch.
Now that you’re clear on what you don’t want, it’s time for you to picture what you do want.
Allow yourself to picture exactly how you want your house to look when you arrive home everyday and begin to build your boundaries out from that picture.
Ask yourself what boundaries you would need to put into play to create your ideal situation, home life or relationship.
Remember to keep the focus on what you need to do to make your boundaries work.
This isn’t about controlling the other person or dictating their behavior. This is all about you.
So for example. There was an incident with Antonio where he showed up at my apartment on 75th and 1st on a Sunday after being awake and out for a full 24 hours.
When he rang my bell he was coked out, sweaty and looking for a place to crash.
Given that I grew up surrounded by people like Antonio, it was important for me to keep drugs and drama of all sorts out of my house. This was the boundary I created as a result of the peaceful home life that I’d imagined.
I didn’t let Antonio in my apartment that day and he was pissed but my boundary wasn’t about him. It was about what I needed to do to create the peaceful home that I’d imagined.
#3 Remember The “Yes” Behind Your “No”
This last tip comes right out of Alan Cohen’s book, “Dare To Be Yourself.” It’s a book I’ve had on my shelf for near a decade and I refer to it often.
The concept behind this tip is simple, whether you realize it or not, whenever you say no to something you’re saying yes to something else. And whenever you say yes to something you’re saying no to something else.
When you say no to that luscious peanut butter cup you’re saying yes to a slimmer waist line. And when you say yes to tackling that pile of dishes in your sink, you’re saying no to a dirty kitchen.
So how does this concept apply to boundary building?
Often times, when we’re building our boundaries we have a tendency to focus on who or what we’re saying no to instead of focusing on what we’re saying yes to.
For example, when you end that relationship with your alcoholic boyfriend who refuses to get help, you’re saying no to the toxic relationship and yes to the possibility of being in a healthy one.
When I told my brother that I wouldn’t step foot in his house while he was high and drunk, I was saying no to his addiction and yes to my sanity.
As Alan Cohen says, “Remember the “yes” behind your “no” and focus on what you are moving toward rather than what you are leaving behind.”
And this is especially true when we’re creating boundaries.
Now that you’ve heard my two sense, I want to hear your take on boundaries.
In the comment section tell me,
- What you struggle with when creating boundaries?
- What advice would you give about building boundaries?
Your opinion and insights matter. And you just never know who needs to read what you have to say.
Before you take off, please share today’s post with a friend, or two, or all of them. I’d be forever grateful if you did:)
As always, thanks for reading.
Until Next Tuesday.
P.S. Here’s a link to the Alan Cohen book I mentioned. I highly recommend it.