As a new mom (way back when) I had read many parenting books. Some books, to this day, remain on my shelves as treasured gems, others I have shared with loved ones, and others still have gone by the wayside (ahem…not all parenting books are created equal). What I found repeated in most, if not in all of these books, was a strategy to create clear boundaries for my children. This, in order to make my children feel safe in knowing what the expectations were and consequences that followed. This makes perfect sense, does it not? I did that. I created boundaries for my children. There were all sorts of boundaries to adhere to for safety reasons, for social reasons, for development reasons, and on and on. For the most part my children grew up knowing what those boundaries were.
I, as an adult however, felt that in order to experience freedom I could happily live life without any real boundaries. And I did. Within the greater limits of being a decent human being and a law-abiding citizen, I did what I wanted when I wanted. That would give me the freedom that I, as an adult, had earned, right?
Well…I suppose freedom is a funny thing.
In all my years of doing whatever I felt like doing, I never felt true freedom. I always felt bound by something or someone.
In creating boundaries for myself today, I am enjoying a taste of freedom I have never experienced. It is amazing to me that adhering to such rigid, tight boundaries has allowed for such freedom. Life without boundaries created an inner turmoil and chaos that I could never cease or control even though I spent so much energy trying to do just that.
The fact that I make decisions before or after (not during) the heated moment sets me free.
The fact that I have rules and restrictions (more clear than just guidelines) to abide by sets me free.
The fact that I am bound by integrity to my commitments (commitments to myself included) sets me free. These boundaries leave little room for questioning, for humming and hawing, for indecision.
It all sounds intimidating and punitive, I admit, but really it is not. For myself I have found it to be an exercise in self-compassion. It came to me when I read a comment from a previous post titled, The Gift of Forgiveness. The comment read,
LOVE THIS! I’ve recently learned that I can forgive and not carry hate or resentment. However I made a conscious choice to not accept the behaviour. This meant setting a very important boundary in protecting my values and choosing love for myself and my family. xoxo
When writing that article I had never thought about ‘protecting my values’, my aim was simply at learning to forgive others so that I may learn to forgive myself which would hopefully shed light on self-love and self-compassion. But my strategy was missing a key element – boundaries!
There can be no love or respect, no compassion or integrity for my Self or others unless my highest values are clearly laid out. The only way I can live by my values is to know my boundaries around them. As the reader above implied, forgiveness is one thing but consciously setting a boundary to protect a value is choosing love for Self.
Today I am doing my best to create boundaries as defined by my highest Self. In doing so the greatest lesson I have come to is learning to say no. Saying no is not mean spirited or selfish, on the contrary it is how I respect the boundaries I have set and ultimately respect my Self. It is how I protect my values and live by them. It seems so limiting but quite the opposite is true. Boundaries are almost like a filter where the unimportant things are sifted out and what remains is what you value, you don’t have to worry about the rest. It is so liberating to make choices and live life by the confines of what you value.
Boundaries create a safe space. Boundaries limit the endless array of options thereby making a decision is simplified and less overwhelming. My newly bordered territory has become easier to navigate and has allowed the mental space for deepening and strengthening my spirit, for deepening my connection with a power greater than me; and has reaffirmed my sense of gratitude for all that I have to be grateful for. It has given me permission to respect my choices and my decisions giving way to respect, love and compassion for my Self. It is only then that I can respect, love and be compassionate towards others.
Are not boundaries then truly blessings?