My biggest fear about setting boundaries is that it would lead to someone leaving me.
As it turns out, yes, that does happen.
And yet…is that really a bad thing?
I’ll start at the beginning of this story, on a page where the ink smeared from my tears and hope and confusion, blurring clear punctuation marks. Maybe it all started with a question…as so many things do.
A question like, “What am I doing?” that bloomed into something bigger and got my attention like a stoplight changing from green to yellow. Then red.
Recently, I had to set a big boundary with my beloved due to some major differences in our visions for the future, and I was scared as hell.
Yes, fear had entered the building, folks. Fear pitter-pattered in my chest like a freakin’ wild animal.
But there was something else, too.
I felt this stab in my gut that decisively said “No further.”
I knew I had to listen. There was no turning back, the sentences practically poured out before I could stop them. So I let them. I said what I needed to say.
Power and powerlessness all fumbled together in singular, human moment with sweat, a couple of bad words I regret, and something bigger guiding me through it all.
My relationship crumbled. It fell apart because we were both willing to be honest and hold true to not compromising on fundamental things that matter deeply to us.
In this weird way, I was proud of us. I was proud of myself.
A week later, I sat in my kitchen peeling potatoes with my best friend (from six feet away of course), feeling shades of shakiness and sparks of new excitement as I spilled the news from my lips, wondering if I had been foolish to put it all on the line.
She looked at me with this calm smile and said, “I’m so glad you’re taking care of what you need, honey.”
And she meant it.
I felt like she was hugging my heart—all the tender places in me that still aren’t certain I deserve goodness or to get my needs met.
But in that moment, my eyes watered and I came home to myself a little more.
Because there is the raw grief of losing a relationship we desperately wanted to work—and there is the pure gold of returning to ourselves.
In this return, it feels so good to be surrounded by those who not only tolerate our boundaries, but gladly honor them.
When we tune into to ourselves, when we know a limit is reached—and we listen…
It goes against those pesky societal narratives that get in our heads and tell us in misguided tones what girls and women “should” do.
We are often taught to people-please. To give our power away—to give everything at the expense of ourselves. To politely go along with what others want and put a muzzle on our own desires.
So when we pause to listen to ourselves and take positive action, history shakes in its boots. Thunder spits rain that is healing for you, for me, for us all—and we begin new story.
For sure, though, it’s not black and white. There are a million shades of grey: it’s not just being a doormat or being a badass. Sometimes, compromising is badass—as long as we aren’t compromising ourselves.
And sometimes, it’s hard to know the difference.
But when it comes down to it: to stay with someone who we fear might leave us and be quiet or set a boundary and speak honestly—I think we have to take that chance.
We have to summon the courage to face our fears and make our needs heard.
Yes, loneliness may rush in, all itchy, hot, sometimes wonderful, and oh-so-tender. But is it not lonely in a much more depressing way to deny ourselves the fresh air of our truth?
At the end of the day, setting boundaries is sexy.
Taking care of ourselves is delicious.
Knowing what we need is divine.
After facing many trespasses in my life by men who were less-than gentlemanly, I am overjoyed when I am able to set a boundary and hold it. I am overjoyed when dear friends set a boundary and hold it.
Because when we do this
We are saying
I value myself.
Yes. I value myself more than pleasing others. More than a relationship that doesn’t quite work. More than being liked. More than trying to be a perfect woman. More than all of that combined.
Yes, we are saying to ourselves—
“I value you.”
“I respect you.”
What a powerful way to show up in the world.
What beauty blooms from that?
I don’t quite know these buds intimately, but I think it shall be a rich, vibrant garden visited often by hummingbirds and butterflies.
It will be a garden that no one trounces on, filled with plants that give freely as they are able. It shall be a garden where the emerald stems stand up tall in integrity—nourished by every single decision that is sweetly self-honoring.
As this garden feeds us in return, it also offers beauty and medicine to others. Setting limits is like that too, it doesn’t just help us—it benefits our loved ones as well. Yes, really!
People probably don’t want to keep trespassing and would appreciate our being kindly-direct rather than passive-aggressive, for that can feel a wee bit stifling, am I right? Folks can also learn how their behaviors are affecting others, and hey, this can lead to some luscious growth.
Setting clear, healthy boundaries also benefits the awesome stuff we are meant to do in the world. We can’t serve our purpose quite as well when we are exhausted and edgy from not getting our needs met, bending over backward to please someone, or too scared to say no.
In this way, we must be warriors. This means protecting and caring for ourselves. This means not letting ourselves become coated in misery because we’e not okay with something.
We must build small fences, sometimes walls, and sometimes gently, with care—we must cut away certain connections.
This is always hard, especially for those of us who may deeply feel the pain of the other person and question ourselves.
But we learn to sit softly with this difficulty, too. We learn to trust ourselves no matter what.
And we shall feel it
From the depths of our soul, whispering her siren song—
Yes, our needs are important. Yes, we matter.
Yes, we deserve to be accepted for exactly who we are.
For many of us, that is the biggest lesson of all.