Yesterday someone asked me to talk about boundaries. For some of us, learning how to create, protect, and sometimes defend a healthy boundary is a lesson that is difficult to learn and involves lots of trial and error. But if you want to be full of love, you’re going to have to figure out how to take care of yourself. And if you’re a peacemaker, a people-pleaser, or some combination of both, you’re really going to need to work your a$$ off. Because the word, “No” probably doesn’t come easily.
I talk about compassion quite a lot. I believe it’s an undervalued, under-exercised feeling that could go a long way toward healing on a personal and a global level, and it’s totally natural to us. In many ways, we are taught to repress our compassion, to be tough, to go for the jugular in this dog-eat-dog, “survival of the fittest” world. Please don’t get me started on the total lie at the center of this premise (dogs don’t eat each other, hello?), or the “boundaries” topic will go right out the window. Recognizing your own humanity, and that of everyone you encounter, understanding we are all human, and will all make mistakes, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes are all beautiful ways to become more responsive and less reactive. More understanding, and less judgmental. More loving and less angry. Compassion gives us the space to see it’s not about us. A person can only be where they are.
And these things are important to realize especially when someone spills their humanness all over your life; when a person whose own damage or unconsciousness or rage or darkness or fear causes you pain. When you forgive people who have hurt you in some way, you unhook yourself from their journey. You take back your power. But if you continue to participate in a relationship that brings you heartache and pain, you really have to look at why. Sometimes the why has to do with some deep-rooted feeling that you are not enough. That somewhere deep within you, you’re just not lovable. If that speaks to you, I really wish I could crawl through your laptop and give you a hug. Because we are all worthy of love. And you are the only you who has ever, or will ever, walk this earth. Just by your existence alone, you are unique and beautiful, and you matter. You have a song to sing. So if you doubt any of that, you’re going to need to figure out why, and get busy doing the work of healing.
Sometimes you’re dealing with a family member, and cutting them out of your life is not desirable. This is where boundaries come into play. How can I love myself, and also love this other person without sacrificing my heart, my well-being, my self-respect, and my sense that how I feel, matters? If you’ve learned to value and prioritize other people’s needs and desires ahead of your own, if you’ve made your happiness dependent upon the happiness of another person or many people, you better get the gloves and the hoe, because this is going to be back-breaking, sweat-in-your-eyes kind of work. I’m not talking about the normal sacrifices and compromises we make willingly and happily for those we love, in a healthy give-and-take relationship. I’m talking about being held hostage by someone else’s instability, mental illness, addiction, or rage. In that case, you’re going to have to dig to the root, and these are the kind of roots that are deep. You’ve been soaking in some very stinky, toxic fertilizer, and it’s time to re-pot yourself in the dirt of “I Am.” Because you are.
You are here to shine, and sometimes that will mean you have to erect a fence around your trunk so the dogs stop peeing on you. Yes. I said that. The dogs are not bad. They’re just being dogs, and doing what dogs do. Dogs are awesome. But they’ll keep peeing on you if you let them. So sometimes you’re going to have to build that fence, and kindly let them know they have to relieve themselves somewhere else, but you will be here to offer shade if they need it from time to time. If you change your rules, the dogs will catch on eventually. I didn’t start this paragraph with the intention of writing about trees, fertilizer, or dogs, but there you have it.
Sometimes the people who hurt us the most are also the ones who matter most to us. That’s a rough combination, and my heart goes out to you if you find yourself in that situation. I know parents whose kids are struggling with drug addiction. How do you maintain any boundaries there, when every cell in your body is set up to take care of your children? To sacrifice on their behalf without thinking twice about it, without thinking at all? But a lack of boundaries in those heart-breaking situations never helps. Enabling and loving are two separate things. How you feel and what you need, matters. It is okay to say, “That is not okay for me.” You can feel compassion for all the people in your life, and all people, period. But if someone is hurting you and you’re letting them, that’s not compassion, that’s an affront to your very being. Your number one job is to protect the expansion of your heart. So you can give love freely, fully, and with abandon. So you can set yourself on fire with the burning of your inner yes, and you can shine as brightly as possible in every direction. In some instances where there’s a history of pain, you can still feel compassion, but that doesn’t mean you have to act on it, especially if doing so will damage your ability to take good care of your heart. A feeling is a feeling. You don’t have to act on every feeling you have, but you do have to take care of yourself. Sometimes love has to say no. Sometimes it has to say, I love you too much to allow you to damage yourself by treating me this way. And I love myself too much, too. Love is truthful. And love gets a hammer and nails when necessary, and builds that fence. Sending you a ton of love right now, and a shovel if you need one. Ally Hamilton