If you answered the four questions about setting boundaries in my last post, you have the information about YOU to move forward with practicing setting necessary boundaries and experiencing being the person in charge of your own life. It’s hard work; it’s often uncomfortable work; and regardless, the pay off for emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual health and well-being is worth it.
The goal is “IN CHARGE” VS “IN CONTROL” — when we are in charge, we are relaxed, breathing comfortably, thinking clearly, and making statements of what we THINK, FEEL, WANT, AND NEED. And at the same time remaining considerate of what the other person in the interaction thinks, feels, wants and needs. That’s the base line difference …..because control means we are trying to change the other person, the situation, AND ourselves….. The goal here is to be clear about what you want ….hearing what the other person wants….and when there is disagreement, moving to negotiation. When we give power away, we don’t reach the point of negotiation!
What makes that challenging for many women? At the most basic level, discord, disagreement, differences and conflicts equal DISTANCE in the relationship — a disconnect from the person with whom you seek closeness or agreement. And because most women have been socialized to be emotionally connected, when conflict or simple differences emerge in a relationship, we feel the “gap” in connection and move to restore it! It’s one of our best skills BUT it also is the energy that causes us to “give power away.” Short hand: we sacrifice what we want/think/feel or need in order to maintain connection. We agree when we do not really want to! For some women it is so deeply ingrained to “allow” the other person to decide, choose, and direct, the awareness of the need for boundaries — your own ideas/choices/preferences — is lost until slowly over time, resentment surfaces.
Taking power back needs practice! Before making changes in your primary relationships at home and at work, talk about boundaries and practice with a close friend. A great exercise is to tell a friend you are going to practice saying NO…as well as asking for what you want. That individual just needs to know you are experimenting with new behavior. Say no, regardless of what the other person asks for — you don’t have to mean it, you just have to practice and pay attention to how it feels. The same for ASKING. As long as your friend knows what you are trying, ask for anything, just to see how it feels. Discuss it.
Most individuals discover it’s truly hard! If you are an exception, great. Move beyond practice and work on your relationships that need better boundaries. Remember this: when you decide to make a significant behavior change give the person you are relating to a heads up. It can be simple. “I’m aware I need to be more direct about what I think and feel (in meetings/in this relationship) so as I work to make some changes, please give me any feedback that might be helpful.” Your own version of that statement will be BETTER if it’s a statement that feels like YOU. Just remember that changes in your behavior may not be at all welcome. When we have given power away to people we live with and work with, they typically want to keep it! So pay attention, go slow, and take one step at a time to retrieve your personal power! And remember to always ask for professional help when you need it.