I want to talk about boundaries. This has always been a difficult topic for me and seems to be something that keeps coming up for me in my life. I wonder, when am I being selfish and insensitive to someone else’s needs vs. when am I being strong, standing my ground and respecting my own worth? The lines are blurry for me.
From the very beginning of my life, even as an infant, I learned that there was little space for me in this world and that my needs were not important. I learned to be sensitive to everyone around me so that I could navigate through life without stepping on anyone’s toes or rocking the boat. I learned that as long as I was quiet and obedient, and sat prettily in the background I may get some attention. There was no room for anger, sadness or any other messy feelings as there was no one who would contain them for me.
If I was good and did what I was told, excelled even, then I was able to have a place in my family and in the world where I belonged. If someone wronged me, I thought it was my fault. If someone was upset or angry in the house, I felt I needed to shrink and give space to them. If I was experiencing negative feelings, then I would deal with it alone in my closet.
And so, here I am, a grown woman, mother of two, business owner, teacher and author with a tendency to focus on the needs of others and forget myself. After all, needs are weaknesses, right? And I don’t have the right to ask for anything. And if I do, I will be rejected. This lesson I have my father to thank for.
This pattern of thinking has haunted me throughout my life and showed up most of all in my intimate relationships. I believed that anytime I said “no” “this doesn’t work for me,” I was being selfish and overly demanding. So I stopped saying no and tried to please everyone I could. It worked sometimes, but guess what? People still weren’t happy and in addition, I suffered as well.
I want to be a sensitive person. I care about others and can feel their pain and struggles and am happy to be a shoulder to lean on. But what do I do when someone’s behavior is harming me? When do I have a right to say no?
I am realizing that sometimes standing up for myself may not elicit a positive reaction from someone else because suddenly, I am not available to silently take on his or her behavior. What I am having trouble doing, is being ok with that. Being alright with finding my voice and standing behind it without apologizing for it or feeling like a bad person. Anyone with me on this?
In Yoga, we work on the balance of strength and flexibility. If we are overly flexible or overly rigid, we find ourselves hurting from the very practice that is designed to heal. There are times to focus more on integrity and stability and other times in other postures to emphasize an element of letting go.
I think I am pretty good at being flexible, but not so good at standing strong on my own two feet at times.
This week in my classes I want to focus on these boundaries which can be developed healthily by cultivating sensitivity during your practice. The more awareness is integrated into each posture (yes, even savasana), the more you can become sensitive to what is coming up for you so that you can honor your own Truth. Without this form of mindfulness, it is easy to lose where you are in the ocean of life and just get carried away with the strongest current.
Sometimes it means recognizing that a certain style of practice is not serving you, sometimes it is a teacher, a friend, a partner or a co-worker. Instead of coming from a place of reaction, checking in and noticing your breath and sensations can tell you the real story of what is going on. Then you can respond to that sensation instead of react.
This is so hard. I want everyone to like me, and to pay me compliments. But I am tired of allowing myself to be walked all over at my own expense. I want to stand up and say no, but do so compassionately and with an open heart. I want to believe that I deserve as much respect, attention and love as another. I want to believe that I have a voice too. Not an easy task, but something I am working on.
While learning to walk, we often stumble and fall down. But the only way to learn is to wipe off the dust, get back up and place one foot in front of the other. Part of being strong is not always doing what everyone else wants, but what you know to be true in your heart. Integrity is the ultimate tool of the peaceful warrior.
Luck to us all.