I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, no one ever talked to me about setting boundaries. Maybe it was a generational thing, but I was raised just after the generation of kids who endured the “speak only when spoken to” era. So in my generation, kids were just finding their voice, right along with the rest of the western world as it pivoted into individualism - recognizing the human individual with their goals and desires to be of primary importance. It was an era that valued independence and self-reliance. This was the 1970’s.
It was coined the “’Me’ Decade” by one popular novelist, Tom Wolfe. However, children were still not given the attention or focus of the family like they are today. And, even though there was more of a focus on individualism, there was yet to be encouragement to define that individualism, set boundaries to protect it, or even understand what we now call ‘agency’.
‘Agency’ is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. It’s where you decide who you are and who you are not. It is our ability to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others and to take responsibility for what we think, feel and do. It refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power, their independence. ‘Agency’ is taking responsibility for your life through self-regulatory skills.
And, one of those skills is creating healthy boundaries.
So, I never was intentional about setting boundaries in my life. And I can look back, now, and see where I really needed to have some boundaries put in place. And, I needed the personal empowerment to make sure people weren’t infringing upon those boundaries. But there has never been a time that I needed it more than just after losing my spouse. I needed to set some boundaries, and fast.
I found that just after Brian died, people wanted to see me, which I am so appreciative of their kindness and friendship. But, the more we would talk the more they ended up asking questions that they probably shouldn’t have. I knew they were just curious. It’s natural. You hear that someone you know died and the first thing that pops in your mind is “Oh my gosh, how did they die?” And basically that’s what comes out of your mouth. So, there’s a morbid, but natural curiousity around how someone died. Now, it’s one thing to ask a third party about something like that, but to ask the person directly who has just lost a loved one crosses a boundary. Definintely crosses my boundary.
Friend, if you’ve lost a loved one and people keep peppering you with questions, and honestly this is not just for someone who’s lost a loved one, this is for anyone regarding anything in your life: you don’t have to tell everyone everything. In fact, you don’t have to tell anyone anything. You don’t owe anyone the details of your life, or an explanation why. The world needs to get used to you saying, “I don’t feel like talking about that right now.” Or, “I don’t feel like talking about that at all.” And it’s okay.
I just did that recently, let someone cross my boundary in an interview. They asked me a question no one has ever asked before and I was a little thrown off. And I didn’t really want to answer the question, but I did. I can even recall now that little pause, that hesitation before answering where my mind was spinning - speaking a warning, ‘You don’t have to answer that. Don’t do it.” But I did anyway. I’m not sure why I let that boundary get crossed. I’m not sure why I didn’t have the power or ‘agency’ to say “I don’t want to answer that question.” But I have every right to. It’s self-care to. If I don’t want to answer that question I’m certainly not obligated.
So, how do we do that? How do we set boundaries - in a way that is loving towards others and at the same time loving towards ourselves?
And why do we want to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships? Because, poor or no boundaries lead to resentment, anger, burnout, depression, co-dependency, discomfort, anxiety, stress, fear. When you lose the individuality of your person – when you lose your ‘agency’ – you lose yourself.
Here are some ways you know you’re on your way to losing yourself:
· You can’t make your own decisions
· You can’t ask for what you need
· You can’t say “no”
· You can’t speak up
· You feel criticized when you do speak up
· You feel responsible for other people’s feelings
· You seem to take on other people’s moods
· You are often nervous, anxious, or resentful around certain people
So, how’d you do?
1) allow us to get close to others when it is appropriate and to maintain our distance when we might be harmed by getting too close
2) protect us from abuse and pave the way to achieving true intimacy.
3) help us take care of ourselves – physically and emotionally, as well as care for ourselves spiritually.
Remember, agency means that you have the capacity to make decisions for your life that are alone your responsibility, no one else. You are responsible for the direction of your life based on the decisions you make - decisions to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Setting healthy boundaries allows us to care for ourselves, our ‘agency’. A lack of boundaries opens the door for othersto determine what you think, how you feel, and what you do. When you have a lack of boundaries, you are giving away the authority of your ‘agency’. You are giving someone else permission to be lord over you. And no one has the authority to tell you what to do except your Heavenly Father.
Ok, so I like to try to keep my podcast short and to the point, giving you as much value as I can in a reasonable amount of time. Just enough time for my friend Angela to put on her makeup in the morning. That’s what she tells me, anyway. But I have so much more to say. So we’ll pick this up again next week and talk about setting boundaries for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Don’t forget to head over to my website triciazody.com to get personal development worksheet for the first 3 episodes. I think it’ll bless you.