Boundaries, Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Victim mentality, Who are you meant to be?

We're better with boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brene’ Brown

I struggle with boundaries in certain areas of my life. And I’m quite certain that I’m not alone. I believe that a lack of boundaries is at the center of so many of the issues and relationship struggles I discuss with clients, co-workers, friends and family. Both personally and professionally, having healthy boundaries are essential to our happiness and well-being, and can help transform our lives.

Establishing healthy boundaries can be very difficult. It can feel extremely uncomfortable upsetting or disappointing others. Putting their needs before our own and ensuring their happiness seems like, on the surface anyway, the best way to keep the peace. But taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness while ignoring our own needs doesn’t actually make others happy. Nor does it make us happy. In fact, you’ll actually become very unhappy. In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” Brene’ Brown describes that before she established healthy boundaries she was “sweeter on the outside” but “judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside”. I can relate. Can you? Because really, can you truly be happy if you’re always trying to please others? I mean, I’m sure you don’t believe that people are responsible for your happiness, so why would you believe that you are responsible for their happiness? At the end of the day, no matter what we do or don’t do, I know we can’t really control the happiness of others.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.” ~ Brene’ Brown

The way we treat ourselves sets the standard for others around us. If we don’t put the effort into clearly establishing what we want and don’t want, then how can we expect others to know what we want. They can’t read our minds so if we don’t define them, then someone else will. Having healthy boundaries in place will help you realize your self worth, and demonstrate that your needs and feelings are valid and important. You’re worthy of being seen and heard and of putting your needs first. You deserve to have a voice and an opinion. Of course, for some, it may be a bit more difficult to find your inner power and firmly define your boundaries, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. There’s no doubt that it’s hard but anyone can do it with time and practice. At first you’ll feel uncertain and a bit scared, and your boundaries will feel a bit shaky, but the more consistent you are, the easier it will feel. In the beginning you’ll likely feel bad or guilty if others aren’t happy, but you can’t please everyone.

Just like other people can’t read our minds, we can’t read theirs. It’s not our business to try and keep them happy or avoid disappointing them. In fact, in doing this, we also kind of take away their power from them by trying to avoid upsetting or disappointing them. We don’t need to filter ourselves for the sake of others. We’re allowed to feel what we feel and it’s not our place to manage other peoples emotions, even if it comes from a caring place. We may think we know what’s best for everyone but sometimes we need to take a step back and allow other people to decide how to feel for themselves. All we can really do is have our own boundaries in place, honor them, and express what we need and how we feel.

Having healthy boundaries can help change our lives. They can help you express your needs and desires without feeling pushy, rude or guilty, and they help you strengthen your relationship with yourself. When you get clearer about what you want, what you are here for, you’ll no longer feel the need to hide or filter yourself. The more self-aware you are (see previous post), and the better you understand your Striving Styles predominant need, fears and triggers, you be able to identify who you’re meant to be and know that you’re worthy of feeling good and honoring yourself. Your well-being doesn’t have to come last.

Signs you lack healthy boundaries

A lack of strong and clear boundaries can result in feeling worthless, weak, or not good enough. Here are some signs that you are lacking healthy boundaries in your life:

  1. you find it diffcult speaking up when you feel mistreated.
  2. you find it difficult making your own goals a priority.
  3. you do things when you don’t want to. You have a hard time saying no.
  4. you go out of your way to please others and seek their approval.
  5. you overcommit and give away too much of your time, making too many sacrifies at your own expense.
  6. you get guilted into doing things for others.
  7. you agree when you actually disagree.
  8. you feel guilty taking care of yourself, and taking time for yourself.
  9. you feel guilty when someone else feels bad, like you are responsible for other peoples thoughts, feelings, and actions. You feel guilty when others aren’t happy.
  10. you feel taken for granted by others.
  11. you give your time away for free.
  12. you do or give away things that you can’t afford.
  13. you feel like you have failed someone or guilty if you say no to them.
  14. you feel resentful and complain even though you agreed to the request or the expectation.
  15. you are what others want or need you to be, and not what YOU need to be.
  16. you are almost always comply with those in superior positions (boss, parent, etc.)
  17. you have toxic relationships or stay in unsatisfying relationships or situation.
  18. you let others describe your reality.
  19. you minimise your own feelings and needs.
  20. you do things out of obligation.
  21. you are consumed with what others think of you.
  22. you over-share details about your life.
  23. you often feel like a victim (refer to previous post)
  24. you attract people who try to control or dominate you.

If you identify with any of these then stay tuned for next week’s blog post where I’ll be discussing strategies and tools you can use to define, develop and honor healthy boundaries in every area of your life. While initially it won’t be easy, having healthy boundaries can really help you navigate life situations without feeling guilty or bad every single time. By leaning on the understanding that ultimately everything you do is for the sake of yours and others well-being and that you are always doing your best, you will soon realize that you’re worthy of taking care of yourself and that there is nothing wrong or bad about it, and eventually you’ll feel less and less guilty.

Healthy boundaries* include:

  1. saying no to things you don’t want to do or don’t have the resources to do.
  2. leaving situations that are harmful to you.
  3. telling others how you want to be treated.
  4. being aware of your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel differently than others.
  5. not trying to change, fix, or rescue others from difficult situations or feelings.
  6. allowing others to make their own decisions.
  7. prioritizing self-care.
  8. sharing personal information gradually based on how well you know and trust someone.
  9. recognizing which problems are yours to solve and which problems belong to others.
  10. communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
  11. having personal space and privacy.
  12. pursuing your own goals and interests.

in the following video clip, Brene’ Brown explains, in her typical humorous style, how to let go of the person we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we are. And when we have the courage to set boundaries, we engage with our worthiness.

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION: LIVING WITH COURAGE, COMPASSION AND CONNECTION | Excerpt | PBS
•14 Feb 2011 PBS

Book recommendation:

Now, it’s your turn.

What you would really want to do if you knew that it wouldn’t disappoint others? Which area(s) of your life are boundaries the most difficult to maintain? Which of the unhealthy sign(s) did you identify with? I recommend journaling or mediating on them. Of course, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (view of Stanley Park from Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)

*Sharon Martin, LCSW

Brain dominance, Dreams, Goals, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

What would you do with an extra 13 years?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver

I recently read that the average North American watches between two to four hours of TV per day or 14-29 hours per week. If so, that would means that over the course of an average lifespan it would be equivalent to spending between 7 and 13 years in front of the TV! I also read that the average person spends nearly 2 hours per day on social media or 14 hours per week, which is equivalent to five years and 4 months over their lifetime, and this continues to increase. That’s crazy! I know I need to become way more intentional on how I’m spending my time, especially how much time I’m watching TV and spending on social media. How about you?

Just imagine what you could accomplish within 13 years! You can become a doctor in 11 years, and 13 if you specialize. You could get a PhD in whatever you’re interested in. You could go to university part-time, and complete a four year undergrad. There are endless courses available and you could become an expert in any subject you’re interested in. Or you could learn to play an instrument, become fluent in another language, learn to paint or draw. You could start a new business. Maybe get a black belt in karate, train and run marathons. Get fit, lose weight. Get a second job and pay off debts or save for that amazing vacation you’ve always dreamed of taking. You could take 13 amazing trips if you planned just one per year, in maybe 13 different countries. You could write that book you’ve been thinking about. Volunteer in your community. You could mend a relationship or nurture existing ones. The list is endless and it’s sure got me thinking about what I could do in 13 years!

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” ~ Earle Nightingale

From the time I was young, I dreamed of going to university, but four years of university seemed too much of a commitment, too much time, and out of reach mainly because I suffered from debilitating self-doubt (that’s a whole other topic). In spite of this, I was ambitious and keen to work, so I got a job and completed a two year diploma program at night school instead. It took me five years, working a full time job, a part-time job, and going to school, while taking one or two courses per semester. Definitely not an easy or fast path but I was proud of myself for finishing. Of course, the dream of going to university was still there, so as soon as I finished that program, I enrolled in university. Ironically, one of the excuses I had about going to university was too much of a time commitment! So, without boring you with all the details of my life story, I did plod away for 20 years on it, with many stops and starts along the way due to competing priorities from my career, family, moving, home renos, etc., and I’m proud to say I did eventually get my degree. While I don’t recommend that particular long and winding path, the point is, time passed anyway so I’m glad I did it. I absolutely know I would’ve regretted not doing it.

Sometimes our dreams feel so big, overwhelming, or simply out of reach. Getting clear on what you want in your life is essential. Once you have a clear vision, you need to understand why you want it. Your why is your ultimate motivator when it get’s tough, because it will. The key is to break down your vision and goal into a tangible action plan with daily or weekly tasks. A little progress every day will add up over time and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

It will feel slow and tedious, especially if you’re impatient like me, but by continuously and consistently working, practicing, and staying the course, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done. The rap singer Macklemore wrote a song where he says that “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot”. This is a great reminder that there are very few overnight successes. Most success stories we hear about are the result of getting clear about what you want and a commitment to working hard.

For some people, envisioning their future self and figuring out what they really want can be challenging, while for others, it’s the easy part. Those that find it easy to visualize and dream may struggle with putting a plan together or taking action. All of this depends on what part of your brain dominates your personality. To learn how your unique brain is organized, and about your predominant style, complete the Striving Styles Personality Assessment. Helping people discover their dreams, and define a plan of action to achieve it, is what I love to do. Contact me if you want to learn more.

So what dream or dreams aren’t you pursuing because you’re sitting in front of the TV or glued to your phone. Just image what you could do in 13 years!

I think you might enjoy this inspiring and insightful Tedx Talk on the philosophy of time management.

The Philosophy of Time Management | Brad Aeon | TEDxConcord

My book recommendation

Now, it’s your turn.

What ambitions do you have right now that you are not pursuing? What dreams did you have when you were younger but have since given up on? What do you most wish for in your life? What do you want the most for your life? Share in the comments.

Photo source: Susan Wheeler (artist in Honfleur, France)

Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you shine?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Do you know who you are? What your unique gifts are? Each of us are born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then, over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, and to be liked by others, slowly erodes our uniqueness, and in many ways, encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy and motivation. It can also rob us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin.

Knowing who you are meant to be starts with knowing what you are born as. Too often people try to figure out what they are meant to do without having any idea about who they really are. This disconnect causes them to look outside of themselves for answers to questions that can only be answered from within. It also causes us to strive to be what others expect of us and to give up on ourselves and instead try to live up to an ideal, to be the person that we think we should be, rather than based on who we authentically are.

We’re are all driven by powerful, instinctual needs that we’ve had since birth – our predominant style or Striving Style. These needs are the source of our motivation for our behaviour, social interaction, and influence how we behave and how we feel about ourselves. When our predominant need is met, we are poised for growth and development.

However, when our predominant needs are not being met, we will feel threatened, frightened or anxious, leading to self-protective or survival behaviours. Fear and anxiety override rational thought which will profoundly influence our behaviour, often without our awareness, thus undermining our success and effectiveness.

Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like somehow your day was hijacked? Or maybe you’ve spent to much time reacting, caught up in some drama or just consumed with a sense of busyness. Do you ever feel uneasy, or have a quiet of rumbling deep inside that something isn’t right. This means you are living out of your self-protective systems. When I have a day like this I’ll reflect on the predominant needs of my striving style and make a plan on how I need to shift out of my self-protective system. If you’re unaware of your predominant needs you will be at the mercy of your unconscious impulses, emotions and negative habits of mind, leading to reactive, non-productive behaviour, increased emotionality, and an inability to focus on your goals.

The Striving Styles (SSPS) gets to the heart of the human experience and helps you identify what you need to feel secure and psychologically stable so you can grow and develop. As well, it provides you with insight into the consequences when you don’t get your predominant needs met. The SSPS doesn’t provide a laundry list of strengths and weaknesses but rather, it takes into account the complexity of your brain’s functioning and its impact on your personality.

Coming to understand yourself, recognizing and expressing your uniqueness and who you really are will make you feel more creative, confident, energized and inspired. Your personality, your unique history and story is like no one else’s. Living a life with authenticity, meaning and purpose is ultimately what a happy and fulfilled life looks like.

I love this beautiful (and fitting) song that I have currently playing on repeat. Enjoy!

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Now, it’s your turn.

Think about a time recently that you felt really happy and content, like in that moment you had everything you needed. Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel when you were in this moment of happiness?

How about a time that you felt inspired motivated or purposeful. When you felt you were focused, in the zone. How did it feel to be inspired in this way?

What about a time when you felt moved by something more- a beautiful sunset, a night sky, the ocean an overwhelming experience of love or compassion.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels