I suck at them.... Honestly, I do. When I first started looking at what the word "boundaries" actually meant in my own life, my brain went right to physical boundaries - and I have never had any problems with keeping my physical boundaries with other human beings, so I told myself, I don't have any problems with that... Yeah, right. My issue lies so much deeper.
Recently, sweet little Caesar helped coach a client on boundaries and I got so much borrowed benefit from observing what he was showing us.
Boundaries are everywhere in life. Humans tend to like physical boundaries. Walls, fences, things like that, but what about those boundaries that involve others passive aggressively taking your time, freedom, ability to rest, etc. from you without you even being aware of it. I often imagine boundaries as these invisible threads all around me that protect my entire being, kind of like the sinew that surrounds our muscles and nervous system - something so easily snipped away from me that I have to protect them with all my might but their invisible so I don't always know when one is being crossed. My biggest struggle with boundaries is my time. I give it all away. I do it without even thinking until it's all gone. Saying "no" is one way to protect our boundaries of time. I would agree with that one hundred percent. I do believe it's also having phrases like, "Let me think about it and get back to you." Or, "I understand why you would be concerned about that, I have faith in you that you will know what to do." I wish I had these phrases in my back pocket years ago, but I didn't know them. I didn't know that I could protect my own time for more meaningful things just by saying to a person, "I understand what you're saying." and leave it at that. I thought I had this responsibility to also say, "I will take care of that for you." BAM... boundary went right out the window and I was the one doing it to myself. I allowed it to happen.
I am becoming more and more aware of how precious my time actually is to me. How could I be so blind? Well, part of it is who I am as an empath, a dreamer, a feeler. I am always seeking harmony and balance within the world around me. When I feel someone is out of balance, I bend over backwards to restore that balance. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot of time for ME to remain in harmony with my own body and soul.
During a coaching session, we created visible boundaries with hoola hoops. These were easy to see and the client got to stand in the center where she could keep an eye on all three hoola hoops. Caesar tried to cross the boundaries that we made. Protecting them was quite challenging because Caesar loves hay and he really doesn't care about some person standing in between an invisible spider's web that going to keep him from getting it. I was dumbfounded how quickly my little miniature figured out the game we were playing and slowly approached the client with his head to the ground and managed to snatch a couple of bites of hay before she physically pushed him out of her circle. We discussed how this was not going to work forever. She needed some other way to keep him out. Enter the flag - a tool that works pretty well with horses and moves them in a way that is easy and direct. Once again, Caesar thought very hard about how he could cross her boundary to get to the hay; however, her body language and her voice had instantly changed... She was stronger, more powerful with her words. Instead of saying, "No Caesar, I need a minute" she was now saying, "No Caesar, I need ten minutes." Within this short experiment, she was already maximizing how much time she wanted to keep to herself. She wanted to stand strong with her boundaries at home and at work, just like I do. She got to FEEL what it was like to protect her boundaries, and be successful.
I don't know if Caesar fully understood the impact he had on both of us that day. He is a straightforward, honest type of horse. Amazingly, he's not only a miniature horse, but also a herd leader. One of those bigger than life personalities. He's learned how to be an opportunist in the herd being smaller than the others. He sneaks in to get what he wants, but quietly so no one even notices. Who would have thought that the behavior of a horse could be reflective of what happens to us in our own lives?
After reflecting on the many places in my life that I gave up my own time for others that wasn't necessarily needed, I realize how confusing this game of who and what I should be giving my time to really only matters to me... The VALUE of my time is only determined by me. Do I want to spend my life running around trying to please others or would I rather volunteer at the homeless shelter, donate a coaching session to a woman who couldn't afford one, surprise a person with a painting that took me weeks to paint - that is how I would prefer to give my time away. Our time matters. We should never think for one second that we need to give it away in ways that do not feel good for us. That is the key for me. I think it all comes down to how we feel about ourselves. If we feel like a doormat, guess what, we will live like we are a doormat. If we feel like a gift, full of love and kindness, our life will be exactly that - a gift that is
full of love. I am eternally grateful for my sensitive nature, my heart that over flows with love and emotion, and the boundaries that I'm still creating and mending like a quilt of invisible threads, full of color and design that swirls around me and gives me wings to be exactly who I was meant to be. What does your boundaries look like? I hope they are as strong and colorful as mine.