Boundaries – the foundation of self-consent

CakeFri 6th December 2019

I’m done.

What was the final straw? I’m not sure that any emotional process can be reduced to a single moment but, to be fair, the crux of this has been my recent spell of cohabiting, just after moving into a new home. Much as I was looking forward to this temporary experience, and useful as it has proven in many ways in deepening an important relationship, I’ve also found myself repeating certain old and unhelpful behaviours. This has pushed my wobbling self off and over the edge of the cliff named ‘enough’. So, in a way, I have the last few difficult weeks to thank for this.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and anxious for weeks (months?) and, after yet another difficult week, I stopped. Stood still and decided, it’s time to pause and take a long, hard look at how I’m getting in my own way. Of course, as with many emotional issues, I know the answer already.

Much of this has to do with boundaries. Boundaries are the lines we draw around our own actions as well as the behaviour of others. I have poor boundaries around my time and my emotional resources as a consequence of never being taught about them, or about how to tune in to my own needs and feelings. I’m genuinely tired of the consequences (namely, fatigue, stress pains, anxiety, upset children and overwhelm).

Boundaries are the gradient lines of our behaviour as well as of the behaviour we will tolerate from others

The fact of living in a new home has been fascinating for seeing myself in a sharper, clearer light. I notice the old patterns more in the different, fresh space. The cohabiting has also really helped me to see the ways in which I’m behaving poorly in relationships, the one with myself as well as the ones with others.

A new house: the final part of the divorce. Being here, I knew that my priority was now to create an emotionally safe and rounded space for my children. And my self. One where I’m no longer performing all those resentment-soaked actions – the eye-rolls, the strained smile, the sighs. So much behaviour that I know comes from my own childhood experience, and which is triggered, mostly, by my being overstretched, by my not doing enough of the things that nourish me. And, now, I’m feeling very much ready to take action.

• I’m done with putting the needs and preferences of others before my own.

• I’m done with waiting for the work/housework/cooking/cleaning/admin/writing to be finished before making myself comfortable or doing what I would like to do (desperate for a pee yet still sending that email? That’ll be me…).

• I’m done with saying yes because I feel that someone else’s request for my time is more important than what I want to do with it.

Healthy boundaries and complete self-consent lead to less resentment, less anxiety and a clearer sense of presence and commitment both with the self as well as with others

But I’ve been here before, noticed these things before. So, how can I make sure that I DO what I need to do? I decided to take a look at the negatives and then go a step further: create a positively framed list of behaviours for the future.

Here are some of the ways in which I will be practising complete self-consent as of now: 

• I will pause and reflect before making any social commitments.

• I will keep space in my daily and weekly calendar.

• I will prioritise the things I enjoy doing and be more proactive in organising them, as well as keeping time clear for them.

• I will acknowledge when I am truly done with certain events and activities.

• I will recognise the signs of overwhelm and learn to stop before I fall off the edge of the ‘enough’ cliff.

• I will notice what I am about to say/do and consciously choose whether that is helpful or not.

• I will apologise when I make a mistake or fall back on to old behaviours.

• I will acknowledge the fact that I am doing my best and that conscious change takes both time and patience. 

The pause is crucial. By creating a gap, we allow ourselves to see the difference between an automatic, conditioned reaction and what is likely a more consciously chosen response

I’ve been telling myself all year that I’m going to put my needs first, and yet I have continued to not do so. I’ve continued to stretch and strain myself to breaking point. I need a true pause to reflect and make these necessary changes. I need to slow down enough to see where I am and check that I am going where I truly want to. 

Winter is such a perfect reflection and self-creation time. The pause is about not doing some things, and creating the space to do others. It is about casting light and not shadows across the world around us. About values-based living and loving. And so, I am pausing. Right now. 

For a detailed and insightful piece on boundaries read MJ Barker’s blog here.