Yesterday dealt me a lesson in spades. I will keep the details confidential to respect the agreements of those who I was working with - what is said in that circle, stays there - but will share the more overarching experience.
Without boundaries in my life I ended up feeling frustrated, feel as though people are taking advantage of me, become overwhelmed with things that I have to do, and end up blaming others for how I feel. The reality comes in two parts, both of which are tightly entwined,
- I am not being clear about when and what I am saying “No” to in my life.
- My wish to please can be tightly entwined with me saying “Yes” to requests for help…but to the extent that I do not know when to say enough is enough.
In short - none, or weak boundaries.
Life without boundaries is a life half lived. You are not respecting yourself, and your emotions come filtered through that hole in your boundary wall. To quote Brené Brown,
“Empathy without Boundaries is not Empathy. Compassion without Boundaries is not genuine. Vulnerability without Boundaries is not Vulnerability.”
When helping is not enough
So what happens when you are involved in work where some of those participating are being made to do so against their will? For me I keep telling myself that I am there to help and must do that come what may. I tell myself that there is a key that I just need to find that will enable me to get through to those not interested. I tell myself that I am here to help and so must push through until the results come.
The result? Frustration and anger building up in me at the lack of cooperation - and those who don’t want to be there, still don’t want to be there.
When our work was over yesterday, I told my co-facilitators that going forward I had no intention of working with participants who are not interested in being there. That I wish to ask those who we work for to not make participants be there against their wishes. That if I knew that I was being asked to go back into such a group again, that I would say “No.” I was clear about that. I can use my time better.
I felt clearer and stronger for having said that. If people do not want to be helped, I can’t help them whatever my skills might be. As Brown said in the quote above, “Compassion without Boundaries is not genuine."
If I am clear about who and how I help, the help will be much more effective.
Along with the feeling of strength and clarity, I feel a shakiness and vulnerability about making such a statement, but again as Brown says,
Boundaries are not fake walls. Boundaries are not division. Boundaries are not separation. Boundaries are respect. Here is what is OK for me and here is what is not.
Where are your boundaries, and where are they not?