This month, the Life on Fire community is reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. I talked about the book club and why this book means so much to me in my first ever video post – check it out!
In the book, Brené talks about the acronym BRAVING (Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity) as the key to building trusting relationships with ourselves and others. In order to find the courage to stand alone when needed, we must develop this trust. So this month, my blog will be dedicated to looking at each of these principles in greater detail. I will explain my take on the concepts and introduce tools for using each on in our daily lives. I am strongly committed to empowering women and men to live their most authentic lives, and the BRAVING framework is a darn good place to start.
What are boundaries?
“Boundaries—You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Do you remember your elementary school playground? Perhaps you played the game: Red Light, Green Light- our first encounter with setting and communicating boundaries. Personal boundaries are like our own traffic lights that say when to go, stop, or slow down. Just like the traffic lights we use to drive through intersections without crashing into other cars, our boundaries allow us to operate safely in the world. A clear and understandable system helps everyone to feel safe and secure while interacting.
At work, this can look like having clear expectations for you and your co-workers that when someone is working with the door closed to their office, they are not to be disturbed unless it’s a true emergency. It hopefully includes clear messages throughout your company about what the boundaries of harassment look and sound like, plus a clear chain of response in case of violation. It might mean letting your chatty cubicle-mate know that when you have headphones on, you’re trying to focus on a task and will talk to them later during a break.
At home, boundaries can mean having a chore schedule that clearly assigns which chores are done by whom and when. It could mean letting your partner or children know that when you’ve had a stressful day at work, you need half an hour of quiet alone time to recoup and will play with them afterwards. It could be an agreement that you won’t enter your teenager’s room without permission as long as they keep it reasonably clean. Perhaps you set limits with your friends so that they know not to ask you to go out drinking on weeknights, but that you’d be all-In for a wine and paint night on Saturday.
I think of boundaries as the manual for how to interact with each other peacefully.
Why Boundaries are the Foundation for A Happy Life
1- Prevent Resentment
When I was in my 20s, it seemed like every time I had a conversation with someone, I heard about another person getting married or having children. Now that I’m 40, it’s turned into who’s getting divorced next? Resentment at the core of every relationship turned sour, whether they are intimate relationships, friendships, or working relationships. Whatever the ultimate cause of a divorce or someone quitting their job is the “final straw”, but there is usually a whole heap of hay bales underneath. Having clear and consistent discussions about your needs is required to stop resentment before it starts. The little things that irk you are tiny boundary violations that over the long haul becomes death by a thousand cuts. If someone is doing something that continually bugs you because they didn’t take your objection seriously the first five times, schedule a serious chat with them. Explain that your relationship is too important to be eroded by resentment, and ask if they can really listen and respond to your needs.
2- Eliminate Loneliness
Imagine how much more compassion and understanding we would have for each other as a whole if we knew each others’ boundaries! With new studies showing that more than half of all Americans say no one really knows them, it’s time to improve our communication. Humans are a social species, and doctors are declaring our collective loneliness a health crisis. According to Forbes, an “…analysis of 70 studies found that loneliness, isolation, and living alone all had a significant effect on a person’s risk for early death. The researchers suggested that the impact was similar to the effect that obesity has on mortality rates.” (Forbes, 2017). If our tendency is to isolate because we fear speaking up about our limits, we are actually putting ourselves at risk of early death. Just having friends and going to social events doesn’t mean you aren’t lonely. To make real connections we have to have that feeling of safety, which comes back to having clear and consistent boundaries.
“More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well.” ― Rhitu Chatterjee, “Americans Are A Lonely Lot, And Young People Bear The Heaviest Burden”. May 1, 2018 npr.org
3- Boldly Go
Decades of parenting research has demonstrated that when limits are clear and consistent, they feel more empowered to explore and take healthy risks that help them grow. There is freedom in knowing exactly where the lines of the sandbox are. How much more productive would your work day be if you had clear understandings of your boss’ and coworkers’ boundaries and expectations? I think we’ve all had that boss where the office had to tiptoe around, never sure about what was going to set him/her off today, right? It’s emotionally draining, and it certainly doesn’t encourage creativity or innovation. Knowing that you and your BFF have a method for clearing grievances without shame or judgement is a ticket to lifelong friendship and more open, honest sharing. It’s a wonderful paradox that knowing the limits creates the most freedom.
Tools for Creating and Maintaining Boundaries
Use a guided meditation to visualize your energetic boundaries. Recognize that you are connected to all living things on Earth, and they are connected to you. Also know that you are your own entity, and imagine a bubble or forcefield surrounding you that allows you to safely interact with the world. Use affirmations like: “I am strong in my power. Power with others, Power to create.” Meditations in apps like Calm or Stop, Breathe, & Think that are compassion building or loving kindness meditations also help to reinforce boundaries. If boundary violations are stressing you out in the moment, use some of the tactics here in my article on mindfulness for real life.
Know Your Values
In order to communicate our boundaries, we need to have a complete understanding of what they are and why they’re important. Not in a general way, but specifically to YOU – what are your values and how might someone unknowingly violate them? For me, Authenticity is a core value, and if someone is holding back parts of themselves, I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know that to trust others, I would much prefer brutal honesty to sugar coating or speaking in circles as an effort to be “nice” about criticism. Perhaps your strongest value is Family, so a surefire way to start building resentment at work is when HR gives you crap about taking time off to go to the school play or a wedding. Get reflective and make a list of the things you value most, and use them to identify areas where you need to set clear boundaries.
Write a script
What will you say to communicate your boundaries ahead of time, when starting relationships? What will you say when someone crosses your boundaries? Pre-planning what you will say allows you to thoughtfully respond to situations, rather than reacting or retracting. If this causes a lot of anxiety for you, I strongly recommend using something like Tim Ferriss’ “Fear Setting” tactics. Go through your values list and write out ways to communicate your values to others. Identify scenarios that are likely to push your boundaries and create responses that you’d feel good about saying. Practice them out loud with a compassionate friend, therapist, or a coach. You’ll feel much more confident in the moment!
Have a tactic to share or thoughts to add? Disagree with my analysis? Please leave a comment below!
Note: I am not an affiliate for any of the people or things that I linked to in this article. They are just resources that I really treasure and like to share with others!
Originally published at www.devongrilly.com