Being of service to others and the world can bring immense joy and is of amazing value - it's massively inspiring and fulfilling. When offering service, maintaining healthy boundaries is essential if we are to remain aligned and in balance. It's so easy to become exhausted, depleted or resentful through giving too much of ourselves. In this article we explore what it means to have healthy boundaries and how this enhances our lives and that of those around us...
What are boundaries?
A boundary can be defined as something that indicates bounds or limits and healthy boundaries are about knowing and understanding what our own limits are. Having personal boundaries means maintaining and expressing what feels right and what doesn't, stating what's okay and what's not okay. Boundaries are not necessarily fixed or static, sometimes they may be general guidelines we adhere to, other times they are a recognition of what is right in a particular situation. Each of us is unique and so our boundaries will vary depending on who we are, what our purpose is and what is being invited at a particular point in time. Boundaries can be about how we give of our time and energy, or they are can be around what is acceptable to us from others.
"Boundaries are not fake walls or separation,
they are not division. They are respect."
Maintaining healthy boundaries
Boundaries require respect and self-love. Setting boundaries and working to preserve them is not only a gift to ourselves, but to the world around us. This is by no means easy. In a world full of societal expectations and "shoulds" we can feel conflicted and find ourselves in roles and situations where we compromise. We end up doing things from a sense of obligation or because we think it is the most loving and kind thing to do. Most of us want to be liked and approved of by others and fear that expressing our boundaries or our own needs would cause upset to others. However in my experience the opposite is mostly true, if we clearly communicate our boundaries with sensitivity and compassion, others are very appreciative, understanding and respect our honest choices. Clear boundaries enhance relationships and mutual respect and help avoid unspoken expectations and misunderstandings.
"When you feel yourself becoming
angry, resentful or exhausted,
pay attention to where you haven't set a healthy boundary"
People pick up on any incongruence between our words or actions and our inner truth or feelings. Being clear and honest about the boundaries that are good for us is vitally important. If we ignore the boundaries that are being invited, resentments can build. Sometimes and especially with those we are closest to codependency and patterned ways of interacting can develop. It requires immense courage, self honesty and openness to recognise unhealthy patterns and to find and implement the appropriate boundaries. In such situations it can be invaluable to get to know ourselves and acknowledge our needs. It can be beneficial to explore and ask "What is being invited now?", to find what is right and come from that place.
At times saying "No" is the most compassionate thing we can do. It encourages and empowers the other to find their own way on their personal journey. At times our not assisting or fulfilling expectations may cause another to feel hurt or some other "unpleasant" emotion. Yet this may be exactly the experience that will help them to grow and evolve.
For example, there have been times in my life when I have been needy and engaged in the drama of situations. I wanted and expected those close to me to act in a particular way and support me. When they didn't it caused me pain and suffering, until I realized that I have all that I need and that the Universe supports me in other perfect ways. When I let go of expectations and become open, I always get exactly what I need and often in the most delightful of ways. I could not have received this insight if others hadn't remained true to their boundaries and for that I am grateful. Often by overly supporting others we disempower them.
It is liberating and empowering to take responsibility for our own experiences, and express out to the world when something is not okay for us or alternatively step forward for something that is right for us. I really appreciate when people are clear and express their boundaries even if it something that I do not want to hear or it causes apparent inconvenience. When we change or live our own truth, those around us are inspired and change too. In the words of Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”, whether that be in your relationships, your working life or other circumstances.
Being of Service
We can best serve the world by being true to who we are and finding what is right in each moment. When we find and express who we truly are, it is so fulfilling, perhaps that is our ultimate purpose in this precious life. Maintaining healthy boundaries supports us in this regard and as a result when we engage with the world we do so with more joy and enthusiasm. When we come from presence and trust in our own truth in any moment, we best serve the Whole. Tuning in and asking the question "Does x serve me?" or "What is being invited in this situation?" can be beneficial in discerning the most aligned way to engage. Living within healthy boundaries energises and fulfills us and helps us stay in balance.
Some helpful guidelines regarding boundaries
- Remain aware so that you can feel what is right for you and where you may need to introduce boundaries. By tuning into what is right for you, you will discover what is most aligned for all life.
- Ask "What is being invited now?"
- If you notice your energy becoming low or depleted after certain engagements, question why this is so and if some boundaries need to be implemented?
- Express your needs clearly to the relevant people.
- Say "Yes" because you really want to, then you do so with joy and lightness in your heart.
- Begin with small steps, establishing boundaries or saying no is not always easy, especially if we are accustomed to pleasing others or care about what others think.
- Start with small things and you may be surprised by the positive responses you receive.
- Seek support from others, if you are struggling to implement and communicate healthy boundaries in your life.
I love this video with Brene Brown where she talks about the value of boundaries and what she discovered through her research...
With love, respect and best wishes for living true to your rightness,
Fiona is an Openhand Facilitator and the Openhand Community Manager (see about us at: Openhandweb). She is also a reflexologist and experienced doula. She is passionate about living true to her heart and soul and empowering others to do the same. Her website is... http://www.fionareilly.co.uk