November 29, 2016

Boundaries are Brilliant but Dangerous: How I learned to Say “No.”

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There is nothing more thrillingly lovely in my life than saying “no.”

I enforce my boundaries with vigour and joy that increase as I age.

No to Friday night obligatory work drinks, no to sharing my joy with an energy vampire, no to clients who don’t respect my time, no to that friend who keeps calling past 10 p.m. on a Tuesday, no for clinical/medical/spiritual exorcism of an ex, no to chocolate, no to Spirulina shots, no to wearing Spanx when I feel a wanton jiggle, no to the pushup bra, no to my partner cutting short meditation time for a “cuddle,” no, no, no, no…You get the jist.

I like saying “no” now.

This wasn’t always the case. I have spent my life half-hungry for approval, and half-resentful of those who provided it.

I used to be the ever-seeking sycophant of my friendship group. I would sit, for hours, listening to a verbal annihilation of a friend of mine, only to nod in false agreement like I’d found a trapped nerve in my neck.

I was the insipid looking, grey-eyeliner-girl, the one with all the piercings—tragus piercing, the lip piercing, the nose piercing—who justified getting all those holes at once because it made me feel exciting. Who cares that I looked like a lacerated plum three days later? I was so wild. Woo.

I always drank more than I needed. I said yes to every extra shot. I always explored that “enigmatic person” who gave me a hot sense of dread every time he threw me a modern and tantalising “neg.” I was the one who listened to, not just one band, but all the bands, in a loop continuously, until I’d learn at least one lyric of conversational merit by heart.

I said yes to heartache, yes to emotional trauma, yes to everyone else and rarely, if ever, did I say yes to myself.

Who was I?

Boundaries are a buzzword at the moment. Defining myself in terms of what I don’t want in my life, creating a minimalist approach to my energetic expenditure—is now. But no matter how many times I say no, I have to remind myself that this is not really me, either.

People in my life have passed by like experimental seasons relatively often, given how much I’ve moved cities. I developed a will for necessary deletion if someone wasn’t serving my life, in a way that was helpful or kind. I became, in my late 20s, almost ruthlessly self-serving, having carried a resentment and loneliness for years, generated of a lack of self-respect and no idea about what I wanted.

Self-discovery came from a realisation that I did, indeed, have a voice and opinion which wasn’t formed of hate, judgement or ridicule. I realised that I had argued for argument’s sake in the past, with people who deeply loved me for my openness.

In the past four years, I have tried to murder my soft heart in such a fashion that is almost brutal. I’ve collected a varied range of ruthless, fearless, fierce and fantastic female friends recently, which seems like no accident—the types that intimidated me. The types that I admired, and used to avoid like the plague. The dynamic has changed. I’m too swift now to forget what it was like to feel hollow. To feel beyond-explanation sad about the uncertainties of my life. I forgot what it was like to be gracious in my need to say no.

Projection of my own self-interests onto others is a different beast than having boundaries. I want to find a balance in my life where I haven’t forgotten to nourish myself, but also don’t want to obliterate every gentle, youthful energy that comes to me for nourishment. I cannot become resentful of the mirror image I see, in the weakened, raw and beautiful states of friends. That’s still me.

In order to assert healthy balance, whilst honouring the conflict between energy and necessity, we need a system.

This is my system. It doesn’t always work with setting boundaries on things like—a bar of chocolate first thing after work on a rough day, or watching JP Sears videos after a particularly intense yoga, Shakti, dance or a meditation class.

There’s something grounding about impulsive indulgence, whether it’s laughter or sugar, but for clients and friends alike, it makes sense to expend our energy in healthy ways.

1. Will I grow from this action or conversation, and/or could another person grow? 

If the answer is yes, move to step two. Anything, which offers an opportunity to heal, stretch and learn—outside our usual, co-dependent, messy, overfamiliar comfort zone is worth exploring.

2. Will this action or conversation increase positivity in my life right now? And if not, do I have enough energy to give out to someone else at this point?

If the answer is yes, go to step three. You owe it to yourself to share the love. Spirit works through us in exciting ways, and everything that is shared increases. I fully believe that with my priorities right, I can feel myself healing in ways impregnable in words, just by showing up and sharing.

If the answer is no, reject it. Know your limits and if you repeatedly find yourself hitting step two and not feeling up to it, check how you might not be looking after yourself. Rebecca Campbell, writer of Rise Sister Rise, offers an incredible free Light Sourcing meditation, which is bursting with sustenance. I can’t get enough of her either. She’s worse than chocolate or JP Sears combined.

3. Is it important?

Some of the most important steps in our life will make us feel scared, angry or confused. The most valuable step to real understanding, and genuine connection with others, is through the courage to see the difference between what is really important, and what isn’t. This is where the lid comes off my own nonsense. I was born to lift lids off—of biscuit tins, roofs, my heart.

A “no” here shows an imbalance. And the imbalance, more often than not, is caused by me. As a clairvoyant and tarot reader, I try to apply this with every client. If their relationship to me is more about comfort and dependency, rather than growth and healing, somebody is doing something wrong. I have to realise that if I have something to give the world by inviting dependency or simply by trying to bolster myself, we both lose.

We live to be important, to be valued, and to have purpose.

I’m defining my role and my limits according to good intention—and will ensure that no matter what the exchange, I’m not short-changing myself. I matter. Growth is the operative word, and if I’m going to keep showing up in the best way I can, it means honouring what helps me grow, and what—quite frankly—drains the well.

Laughter is growth, chocolate is growth, and life will force its own ideas of balance, without our conscious thought, if we don’t show up to be our best in every moment.

I may be an all-singing, all-dancing, fanatical spiritual healer, but even I can’t allow fate to decide everything.

Life is too short. Play fairly, be conscious, or hand over the Dairy Milk.


Author: S. Friel

Image: Angelina Litvin/Unsplash

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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