Why boundaries and values go hand-in-hand
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” Brene̒ Brown
Last month, in Part 2 of this series, I mentioned I was going to share how values and boundaries go hand-in-hand.
The truth is it’s not enough to simply connect intellectually with our values; we need to live them through our minute-to-minute thoughts, words and deeds.
And in order to do this, we must protect them. How? By making sure we have boundaries in place, and feel comfortable enforcing them.
Think back to a time when you allowed someone to treat you in a way that went against a value that is important to you, or a time you yourself did something that went against one of your core values. Chances are, you didn’t have boundaries in place around the issue, or if you did, you found it hard to impose them – this is what led to your value being compromised.
What exactly are boundaries?
The kind of boundary I am referring to is an invisible one that we place around us, to protect ourselves and our values. You may well ask, from what? From the views, opinions, needs and demands of others. By being clear on what matters most to us, we take responsibility for asserting our needs (based on our values) so that when we say ‘yes’ we mean it, and when we say ‘no’ we can do so without feeding the guilt monster we have been conditioned to believe in.
For many of us, childhood conditioned us to believe that by saying ‘no’, we were responsible for disappointing or displeasing another – usually someone important. This burden being too much to bear, not to mention understand, resulted in us sidelining our own needs in return for love and acceptance. It’s no wonder as adults many of us find it hard to stay true to our values, while simultaneously feeling good about it. It seems for many, we are either being true to ourselves and feeling guilty, or giving in to others and feeling disrespected. But only we are responsible for enforcing our own boundaries.
How do you feel when somebody steps over a personal boundary?
Let’s say your boss is insisting you stay late at work, when you promised your son you would pick him up after school and take him to his soccer practice? Or when somebody gossips to you about a mutual friend? My guess is this could stir feelings of resentment, guilt, anger, powerlessness. The reason is that your values are being compromised – in the first instance, family may be a core value, and in the second, loyalty.
How do you make your boundaries clear?
The golden rule is to establish them as soon as possible into a new relationship (whether a friendship, romantic or work relationship) or when the situation arises. It’s much easier to say: “family is very important to me and I will only work until 5pm” in the interview, than two years down the line. It’s easier to say: “I’m a very loyal friend, so I don’t do gossip” the first time someone badmouths a friend than it is after you’ve politely listened three or four times. However, it is NEVER too late to establish healthy boundaries that respect your own values and those of others. In the long run, you will be much happier for it.
Finally, remember you have a right to express your core values (as does everybody else) and an equal responsibility to enforce boundaries in order to protect and uphold them.