Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
“Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish or uncaring because I don’t do things your way. I care about me too” – Christine Morgan
This article will address your boundaries and how good you are at maintaining them. Every now and again, we all need to remind ourselves of the importance of checking in with our emotional, physical and mental limits, thus maintaining a sense of safety and security. It will also remind you of your personal rights as a member of the 7 billion people occupying the planet. Something we all need reminding of now and again.
Think about the role you played in the family when you were younger. I was the peace- keeper, the go to confidante, the joker, the fixer. I was the, the ‘nice person’. Sounds like a great mixture, ‘Saint Giselle’! Yes, all great, but when does carrying this role into adulthood become a burden? I learnt the hard way, that I couldn’t fix everything and everyone, nor was I meant to. Sometimes, people need to battle out their differences in order to be heard and clear the air and although it feels uncomfortable to be around, it is necessary. I remember a heated disagreement breaking out between two very close friends, I was itching to jump in and mediate, but I knew that they were mature enough to sort it out between them or at least agree to differ. It has been a hard lesson for me to accept but I have realized it is more about my learned behaviour than others. So, to this day, with all I have learnt in life, I still must sit on my hands and resist the urge to rescue people.
As a young person, I was surrounded by dominant strong adults, who were to some degree a little terrifying to be around. I was a quiet, sensitive child who couldn’t bear too much noise – still can’t. Part of this has to do with growing up in the turmoil during ‘the troubles’ in Belfast. Although, I lived in a so called, quiet part of the city, I would go to sleep at night to the sound of gun fire being carried across the air, punctuating the evensong of the birds settling in for the night or the unexpected blast of a bomb somewhere in the city lighting up the evening sky. Someone somewhere was under attack. There was always the fear of impending danger, a sense of being out of control. We even had a signal in the house to tell those within, that it was safe to answer the door; three rings and you gained entry. Before, these times, the door was always left unlocked and neighbours and friends breezed in freely. Our freedom was curtailed for our own safety. Boundaries were set and adhered to.
Only when I left home at 22, did I start the journey of learning what real freedom was and what effect the loss of control over my own life had had unbeknownst to me. When I first came to live in the West of Ireland, I couldn’t sleep through the whole night. Then a very wise person pointed out the reason. Because my subconscious brain had being living under high alert for so long, now that it was so quiet at night, it didn’t know what was wrong. Makes sense now!
I have learnt over the years to create my own boundaries and although we can’t control what happens in the external world, we can to some degree set standards for how and what we tolerate in our small space.
It is one thing knowing your boundaries but as I have learnt, it is quite another to put them into practice. It takes time and energy, One small step at a time.
Step 1 – Knowing Your Rights
So, let me start with a list of the Personal Bill of Rights as outlined by Dr Edmund J Bourne
- I have the right to ask for what I want.
- I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
- I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
- I have the right to change my mind.
- I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect
- I have the right to follow my own standards and values.
- I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
- I have the right to determine my own priorities
- I have the right notto be responsible for others’ behaviour, actions, feelings, or problems.
- I have the right to expect honesty from others.
- I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
- I have the right to be uniquely myself.
- I have the right to feel scared and say, “I’m scared.”
- I have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
- I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behaviour.
- I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
- I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
- I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
- I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
- I have the rightto be in a non- abusive environment.
- I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
- I have the right to change and grow.
- I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
- I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- I have the right to be happy
- I have the right to unconditional love.
Note on the above: With regards to point ‘15’, I feel it important to add, that If you willing hurt others, you must acknowledge your part in this and make recompense where appropriate.
Print this list and position it somewhere you can see it every day. Don’t rush through the various points. Take each one and ponder it’s meaning for you and importantly, what difference it would make to your life if you put one or all suggestions into action.
What would be your greatest challenges?
Step 2 – How to Set Healthy Boundaries
I always know when my boundaries have been broken. Something feels off and I get a knot in my stomach. I invariably feel annoyed with myself, if I haven’t confronted the situation head on and called the person to book. This can be hard for a ‘pleaser’ like me but crucial to growth, so I know it is a hard task and takes a certain amount of courage to change habits of a life- time, but I also know that by not trying, we sell ourselves short. So here are a few ideas to work on: –
- Start out with small things, e.g. If you are asked to do something that you don’t have time to do, then say” no I can’t do that now”. But don’t fall into the trap of giving excuses for why you can’t. Your time is precious too.
- Go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then trust this feeling. In an article in Psychology Today, this type of gut intelligence/intuition is aptly described as, “intuition is a mental matching game. The brain takes in a situation, does a very quick search of its files, and then finds its best analogue among the stored sprawl of memories and knowledge.”. Look out for the red flags of resentment and discomfort. They are alerting you to something.
- You are responsible for your own mental health. Stop laying blame on others. If someone keeps breaking your boundaries, then maybe you need to walk away.
- Respect yourself enough to say no. If you don’t, others will keep pushing your buttons.
- Know your limits, what you can comfortable tolerate before you hit the buffers.
- Examine your past and see what role you have played. Ask yourself, is this an appropriate role to play now in all situations? Is it even appropriate?
- Do I need help to make healthy changes? Could I do with some assertiveness coaching? Remember , you can get your point across to others without being aggressive, In an article by Taylor Bennett, she defines assertive behaviour as, “ All about standing up for yourself and your values, in an unthreatening manner, while aggression puts others down”.
- Never give up or beat yourself trying to make changes, Be gentle on yourself and remember, you also have the right to make no changes, if you so choose.
Step out in safety and Love.
 Bourne, E.J. The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (5th Edition), New Harbinger Publications, 2010
 Flora, C. “Gut Almighty”. Psychology Today, Feb 2017
 Bennett, T. “Being Assertive vs Being Aggressive: Assertive Behaviour Demonstrates Respect and Leads to Better Outcomes than Aggression”. Thrive works; Aggression Counselling News, March 2019.
*Giselle Marrinan is author of the book ‘Another Zero’ published by Book Hub Publishing. She is also Reviewer for the forthcoming Mental Health for Millennials Vol 4 scheduled for release in October, 2020.