A frontier preacher was giving the traditional sermon on sin. 'We should take all the whiskey and dump it in the river!' Back in the back of the church, a little old lady with a bonnet on stood up and shouted, 'Amen, Amen!' and sat back down. The preacher smiled and continued, 'And we should take all the sinful lust and dump it in the river!' The little old lady jumped up and shouted, 'Amen, Amen, Amen!” then sat back down. The preacher excitedly hollered, 'And we should take all of the gossip magazines in this world and dump them in the river!' And the little old lady stood up and said, 'Now you've stopped preaching and started meddling’!'
I know that my topic today is going from preachin‘ to meddlin‘! In the past two posts, I‘ve been explaining how to put up the „signs,“ or boundaries that we need when we are in relationship with others. By identifying and communicating our feelings and needs, we help others to understand us better and (hopefully) begin treating us with the dignity and respect that we deserve. Today, I‘d like to examine the boundaries that we need to set in dealing with OURSELVES!
Have you ever made the decision to stop doing something that you know wasn‘t good for you? Quit smoking? Stop spending more than you make? Quit pigging out on McDonald‘s Flurries? Stop saying „Yes“ when you want to say „No?“ How easy was it to stick to that decision? If you‘re anything like me, I‘m guessing that it wasn‘t all that easy! Have you ever wondered why that is, and what in the world that might have to do with your inner boundaries?
The fact is, we all need to learn how to set healthy limits on ourselves and our own behaviors and attitudes. This is actually the best training field for learning to set healthy boundaries with others, because you are around yourself 24 hours a day! Plenty of opportunity to practice! Most of us would agree that an out-of-control lifestyle is anything but attractive, and yet we put up with behaviours, patterns of thinking and attitudes that send us on a downward emotional spiral over and over again.
What are some of the most common „bad boys?“
FOOD: A quick glance in the mirror is all it takes for many of us to identify the most obvious lack of healthy boundaries in our own lives: our eating habits. Do you overindulge in foods that you know aren‘t healthy for you and end up carrying the price tag around with you everywhere you go?
MONEY: Do you regularly spend more than you can afford and/or neglect responsibilities in order to „treat yourself“ to new things? Has your overspending led to unpleasant consequences in your life?
TIME: Do you overcommit to activities, keeping your life super busy and neglect your own need for rest and relaxation? Are you experiencing the consqeuences of persistent lateness, procrastination or compulsive overcommitment?
THOUGHT PATTERNS: Do you allow yourself to engage in hateful and demoralizing self-talk?
ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Do you ingest substances that take away your ability to reflect and make solid decisions?
SEXUALITY: Do you engage in activities that are risky, compulsive and potentially harmful to your relationships and consistently ignore the boundaries that you need to stay physically and emotionally healthy?
Why is it so hard to set good boundaries on ourselves?
In previous posts, we‘ve explored the concept of boundaries as a means of helping us get our needs met. When we aren‘t able to set and enforce healthy boundaries on ourselves, we need to look one level deeper and find out what NEEDS we are trying to meet in consistently overstepping the boundaries of what is good for us. If we're not careful, we end up creating NEW unmet needs! Let‘s look at some of these in detail:
I need: Comfort, Reward, Relaxation, Joy, Freedom, Love, Revenge
New UNMET NEEDS: Self-Confidence, Companionship, Peace, Comfort, Health
I need: Reward, Joy, Comfort, Aprreciation, Excitement, Challenge, Love
New UNMET NEEDS: Peace, Financial Security, Space (due to too many possessions), Freedom
I need: Attention, Recognition, Status, Appreciation, Love
New UNMET NEEDS: Peace, Relaxation, Balance, Health
By examining what we need MOST, we can start to identify the unhealthy trade-offs that we are making in overstepping our own boundary system! When you are meeting your needs (for comfort, relaxation) in the right ways, you will not be creating new, unmet needs in other areas!
How I start setting better boundaries on myself?
1. Identify the symptoms: do you suffer from depression, anxiety, panic, phobias, relationship struggles, isolation, work problems or psychosomatic issues? These are oftentimes rooted in our inability to set good internal boundaries.
2. Find the roots:
lack of training—some people have never been taught how to set healthy boundaries on themselves, modelling instead the dysfunctions of those that raised them.
rewarded destructiveness—many families only experienced connection around the illness, dysfunction or addiction of another person in the family
distorted needs—What needs are you trying to meet with your current behavior or thought patterns and is that really working for you?
fear of relationship—a lack of internal boundaries makes it easier for people to reject you, helping you to stay „safe“ from the uncomfortable process of developing intimacy with others.
covering emotional hurt or abuse—masking our pain with out-of-control behaviors keeps us from truly dealing with the sources of our hurt.
3. Identify the boundary conflict and find out what specific areas you are lacking boundaries for (see categories above)
4. Take responsibility for NOW even if things in the past weren‘t your fault! We can‘t do anything to change our past, but we can take responsibility for impacting our futures positively! You empower yourself by setting good boundaries!
5. Identify your needs for relationship and accountability and allow others to help you. A good friend, a trustworthy family member, a counsellor or a coach can help you keep perspective for those blindside moments where you are lacking healthy boundaries and keep you accountable for defending what is in your best interest!
This has most definitely been the most difficult blog post I‘ve ever had to write, because I also feel the discomfort of stepping on my own toes! For years, I disregarded healthy boundaries on my eating habits and spent nearly 20 years overweight. My needs for autonomy, control, reward and comfort led me to make bad food choices and I suffered immensely as a result, never being able to find flattering clothes and always feeling terribly self-conscious! When I finally realized that I could get my needs met by making healthier food choices and sticking to an exercise regimen (working out as a means of reward for hard work or as a stress release), I was able to lose the weight and have kept it off for the past six years. No diet will ever be able to take the place of learning how to identify your needs and meet them in the RIGHT WAY!
Get started on this journey TODAY! You are your most important person and are worthy of having and defending healthy boundaries on yourself. If you need help with this process, feel free to get in touch with me to find out about my coaching plans! I want to encourage you to start setting and enforcing healthy inner boundaries so you can start living a more emotionally rewarding life!
The Link to my Livesession: From Preachin‘ to Meddlin‘