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Learning the Boundary Dance

Stepping more fully into who we are…who we truly are at our core…cannot come without boundaries. When we develop greater self-awareness we might start feeling suffocated when we choose not to protect ourselves and who we are. If we lived life for any period of time (and I think this probably applies to all of us) in a form of self-deception, we might do anything to protect the authenticity we now live with. The feeling of deep resonance and “rightness” when we start speaking up, showing up, and being ourselves.

I was recently reading from Sara Kuburic’s book “It’s on me” on this topic. She said:

Our self-awareness and embodiment will often come with new boundaries, lower levels of tolerance for mistreatment, and higher standards. We are changing the nature of the relationship, the steps of the dance. If people want to continue dancing with us, they must learn the new choreography. Some will be unwilling, while others will step on our toes or awkwardly stumble at first.

I love the beautiful picture she paints of developing boundaries. Wouldn’t it be nice if our new boundaries we set looked like a beautiful dance? Have you ever seen “Dancing with the Stars?” If you’ve ever seen an entire season, you might have noticed a difference from episode 1 to the grand finale. Usually, at the beginning there is awkwardness and mis-steps. But they keep practicing! They keep at it and then by the end there is much more of a natural flow. Ok, so I know they are all paired with a professional, but it doesn’t discount their hard work and commitment to the process of getting better.

This is the same with boundary setting. None of us come to this topic as “naturals.” Well, for as long as I’ve been in this field of therapy I haven’t heard one person tell me they grew up in a perfect, well boundaried family. I’ve been studying and practicing this skill for many years and still get uneasy saying “no” at certain times. Even the ability to tune in with ourselves to know what boundary has been cross and what we need can feel so new and intimidating. I know. I’ve been there. And I’m still working at it!

*If you’d like help working on your boundaries in the New Year, check out my boundaries workgroup!

As we get more comfortable setting boundaries and practice placing them in our lives, we might notice something really annoying. Actually, we might notice two annoying things. I know, you probably want me to tell you this process is easy. I wish I could say that. It’s not easy, but it’s SO worth it. Your peace is worth it.

What are the annoying things? Like Sara said in her quote, you might notice that people step on your toes. They may not get the dance at first. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying and stop setting your boundaries. This is as new for them as it is for you. As annoying as it can be and as much as we want them to get the dance right on the first try, it doesn’t always happen. Keep at it.

What’s the second annoying thing? Well, this one is a little bit more disappointing. Some people never get it. She said, “chronic resistance (to you, to your boundaries) is a form of rejection.” These are signs she gave that you may be dealing with resistance:

· They continue to remind you of your past.

· They say “you’ve changed”…but it’s not meant as a compliment. Yikes.

· They challenge or outright violate the new boundaries you are setting.

· They make you feel guilty for simply trying to take care of yourself.

· They belittle the growth you’ve made.

· They make condescending comments.

Did any of those resonate with you? I know it can be hard when we are on a new path of taking care of ourselves and the people in our lives we want so desperately to “get it” just don’t seem to be there. It can be so painful. But I also know stepping back into a place of self-loss and self-deception can feel even more painful. Sometimes we might find ourselves needing to ask ourselves if more distance in the relationship is what’s needed when the other person continues to reject or dismiss our boundaries.

Where are you in this process of setting boundaries? It’s on going, life-long process. We never “arrive” at the perfect set of boundaries because we are constantly evolving and our life is constantly evolving. If you’d like help with this concept of boundary setting, please check out my boundary workgroup starting January 2024!

Happy rooting, everyone!

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