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The importance of personal boundaries and how you can maintain good ones

How boundaries cultivate symbiotic relationships

The ultimate key to staying in control of your agenda while still maintaining genuine working relationships is to set and enforce clear boundaries. Personal boundaries are tricky because human expectations are constantly changing. As a result, boundaries expectations not only pervade our relationships with other people, but also with ourselves.

How many times have you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and promptly gotten upset when you failed? How many times has have your (or others’) perfectionist expectations and need for control sabotaged a work project or personal relationship? Take a look at the graphic below to see how many of these ‘violations’ you frequently participate in – both for your own boundaries and those of others.

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Most of us struggle with setting boundaries and saying “No” on an ongoing basis. Not wanting to hurt feelings of others, not wanting to seem irresponsible or worse apathetic, we continue to let people invade our boundaries. And inevitably this leads to burnout. Whether we are pushing our boundaries to impress our colleagues and seniors or merely ourselves, there can be dire consequences for breaching your sacred boundaries over and over.

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When your boundaries are breached repeatedly (burnout, feeling incompetent, self-sabotage)

Our boundaries, both personal and professional, are meant to create a sense of security. They exist so that we may value and appreciate our own existence. They literally define who we are. How many times have you heard words like, she’s a pushover, he’s passive-aggressive or she’s too bossy?

People view others and themselves in the light of the boundaries they set. By allowing people to breach our boundaries time and again, we risk feeling burnout, incompetence and even self-loathing. If we are continually sidetracked by other people’s agenda, we lose sight of our own. In this tug-of-war with competing agendas, we rarely win – and believe it or not, the other person doesn’t win either.

Consequences of living with unhealthy boundaries can range from minor irritations to full-blown physiological problems. People with unhealthy boundaries:
•    Are unable to say no for fear of rejection or abandonment
•    Have a weak sense of identity often living to serve others
•    Feel disempowered – giving their power and responsibility to others
•    Let others make decisions for them
•    Are unable to protect their physical and emotional space from intrusion
•    Feel responsible for other’s happiness and satisfaction
•    Expect others to read their minds and anticipate their needs
•    May frequently breach others’ boundaries themselves

Healthy boundaries on the other hand lead to empowerment, strong limits and mutually beneficial relationships. People with healthy boundaries:
•    Are assertive and vocal with their opinions, thoughts, feelings and needs
•    Convey their point of contention in a respectful manner
•    Freely say yes or no and also are okay when others say no
•    Recognize that they have separate needs, thoughts, feelings and desires from others
•    Make healthy choices and take responsibility for themselves
•    Have high self-esteem and self respect
•    Share personal information gradually, in a mutually sharing/trusting relationship
•    Protect physical and emotional space from invasion or intrusion
•    Create equal partnerships with shared responsibility and power

Do you need to make changes? What changes could you make to help prevent further boundary violations?

Continue to Part 4 of the Staying True to Your Personal Vision series.

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Day 7 – I am Grateful for the Gift of Human Connection

I am grateful for the gift of human connection.

Loneliness is an epidemic in today’s world. From kids to teens to adults and the elderly, we are all suffering silently in our private worlds of disconnection. As technology replaces a lot of our human functions, as we are drawn deeper into the world of automated messages and snapchats, we are slowly losing our ability to have a deep face-to-face connection.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat side by side for an hour and a half while our toddler slept beside us. Silently. Without uttering a single word. When I managed to look up front the novel I was reading on my iPad, I realized how equally engrossed he was in reading the Times of India on his iPhone. Then a thought occurred to me: If we were locked into a room together for an hour without any gadgets, would we be able to hold a decent conversation? What scared me was that I didn’t know if we could. Where I expected myself to rebut with a resounding yes, my mind came up with a doubtful blank. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. I get along with him. Those of you who have been with your partner or spouse for a while may be able to relate. The conversations don’t have the sparkle they used to.

Then I got to thinking about other people. Can I find one person I can have a deep, long conversation with? Siblings don’t count, by the way. I tried to think of people in my life I could sit down with one-on-one and proceed to talk about an issue that mattered without giving in to the urge to fidget, check my iPhone or turn on the TV. Yes, there were a few people, but my list came up woefully shorter than I thought was healthy.

Nurturing Human Connections

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME5priGOWHU[/youtube]

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The other day, I was looking for something to help my preschooler deal with tantrums by teaching the concept of mindfulness. I ended up buying Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

The book tells many stories – one of these is the story of James, a little boy in Plum Village (France). In a group of children learning mindfulness, James and two of his friends are rebels. They’re always engaging in disruptive activities when the other kids are meditating. Instead of yelling and disciplining them, the spiritual teacher keeps inviting them to join and making them feel welcome time after time. They never join in, but on the last evening of the retreat, James comes tagging along behind his mother, asking the teacher for a hug. As time goes on James becomes attached to the teacher, his spiritual understanding deeper, his hugs warmer.

The power of this story lies in its simple lesson that disconnected though we may be in our human interactions today, there is still hope. In a situation where it feels like your efforts are going to waste, the little things you do may affect the other person in ways that you may not even notice. So instead of getting overwhelmed by the impossibility of forging deep connections in today’s world, get out there and sow your seeds of kindness. You never know which of these can germinate into a tree of genuine love and friendship.

I am grateful for the human ability to forge connections. I am grateful for the close connections I already have – those unconditional relationships where I can do anything, say anything, be anything. I am grateful for the close connections I have yet to form, that are yet to germinate. I am grateful for the ability to think, to listen to respond, I am grateful that despite awkward conversations, difficult circumstances and emotional hardships, many of my important relationships continue to thrive and grow. I am grateful for the redeeming and forgiving nature of these genuine relationships. When your underlying foundation is solid, no matter how big a rift your relationship experiences, there will always be a way to heal, to make amends. I am grateful for the gift of peering into the soul of another human being, and being able to bare mine for another to see.[/message_box]

Today’s Task

There’s a beautiful exercise in Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh called “Building Anew” that can prevent feelings of hurt form building up and diffuses conflicts in order to restore emotional safety in your relationships. Find a friend, partner or a small group to do this activity with. This is also a great family activity to increase bonding and express gratitude.

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  • This simple practice begins with something called ‘flower watering’ where you essentially speak truthfully about the positive qualities of others without any flattery.  You take as much time as you need while the other person practices deep listening, resisting the urge to interrupt.
  • Once you finish, you express regret for anything u have done to hurt others. This requires a reg=cognition of the fact that sometimes, it only takes a small thought, action or word to  hurt someone. Whether you hurt someone consciously or unconsciously, you can undo this damage by acknowledging that the other person has been hurt by your actions, and sharing your regret with the person you have hurt.
  • When you have finished expressing your regret, you can express ways in which others have hurt you. Use loving speech.  Goal is to heal your relationship and not a content for who is right or wrong. As the listener, you would show compassion by listening to another’s pain and showing willingness to relieve their emotional suffering.Even if you disagree with something they are saying, listen deeply. In doing so, you give the other person the gift of freely expressing their pain and allowing them to release the tension within. This is a rare and precious gift – the gift of allowing a free release of pent up emotions. Give it unconditionally.
  • End the practice with a soothing song or mindful breathing together.

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Inspired from Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh