Tag Archives: personal responsibility

A Better Relationship with Food Means Making Deliberate Decisions

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

We make deliberate choices every day, often every hour about what and how we will eat. There is freedom in this.

I just want to point out that getting better from our struggles with food doesn’t happen by chance.

I talk to a lot of women who seem to believe that there must be a secret way out of all of this – one that will allow them to be somewhat unconscious or inactive while someone or something else does the work (I’ve been there!).

We won’t wake up one day able to eat the exact right amount for our body without judgement, without overeating and without a lot of conscious choices just because we’ve been hoping that would happen.

I certainly tried that. I remember literally trying to “pray” away my weight as a kid. And as I got older, I definitely daydreamed about just waking up in a body that wasn’t confused about food.

We won’t “fix” our stuff just because someone gave us the right diet plan. Being told what to eat and how much is liberating, but only briefly. I say briefly, because on any diet, we will find ourselves choosing to not eat the things or quantities we are supposed to at some point. We will make decisions about food, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.

There have been many times over the years where I just thought if someone else would tell me what to eat, exactly what to eat and I didn’t have to make decisions about food, then I wouldn’t have the struggles I did. I wanted to opt out of all decision making about what I put into my body.

But the way out is by actually facing those decisions head on, taking responsibility for our choices and having the consciousness to be able see what our actions lead to.

The best thing to do is to accept that almost everything we do in our food life is because of a choice that we made. Even the choice to not make a choice and have someone else make it for you (i.e. having someone give you a specific diet plan) is itself a choice. The lack of decision is also a decision.

We will only improve our relationship with food by making deliberate and more conscious choices and decisions about:

  • what we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat this compelling donut in front of me or the nutritious lunch I planned?)
  • how we eat (ex. Will I choose to eat slowly, chewing every bite thoroughly before swallowing? Or will I choose shovel handful after handful of chips into my mouth without even taking a breath?)
  • how much or little we will eat (ex. Will I choose to eat until I’m uncomfortably full or will I stop when I’ve had comfortably enough?)
  • when we eat  (ex.  Will I choose to eat because it’s a certain time of day, because it’s been 4 hours since I last ate or because I am physically hungry? etc)
  • why we eat (ex. Are we choosing to eating from a recognition of our physical hunger? Or are we choosing to eat so that we can avoiding feeling our feelings?)
  • even the other stuff like letting go of judgement, loving our body and loving ourselves as we are right now. It all feels abstract and the thoughts we have about ourselves do pop up without conscious choice, but it’s still a conscious choice as to what we will do with those thoughts. Will we choose to let them pass through like clouds pass by in the sky? Or will we choose to choose to focus on them and allow those thoughts to grow?

This is not a blame game. I know people often feel sensitive and defensive when they hear that they have a choice about something because it sounds as if we are choosing to be unhappy, overweight, or to live a complicated relationship with food. But just because we have a choice over our actions, doesn’t mean that it makes it easy to make the best choices all of the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will make good choices even when you are aware of the consequences of the choice you are making. So before we get riled about trying to figure out where to place blame, let’s just decide that there isn’t anyone or anything to blame. This is just how it is and let’s take responsibility for what we can, and not worry about what we can’t.

Focus on the actions you can take to improve things in your food world, like bringing more awareness and more attention to your choices, your meal times, your purchases at the grocery store, how you eat, when you eat etc. Make awareness your job.

When you start to feel acutely aware of the inner thoughts you have as you make these choices (oh, we all have them!), you’ll notice that you can decide to go along with it or choose to do something different. You’ll start to notice that when you decide to make a different choice that you feel better, happier, have less digestive distress etc. And when you feel all the good things that come with making the best choices for your body, making those choices more often will get a little easier!

But first you have to make deliberate and conscious choices regularly, daily, even hourly sometimes. You must do this daily – it has to become part of your life’s practice.

Choose to not reach into the candy bowl again.

Choose to not eat in your car.

Choose to exercise even when you don’t want to.

Choose to eat vegetables even though chips might be more appealing right now.

Choose to go out and visit with friends when you’d rather be downing a pint of ice cream on your couch.

Even with acute awareness and practice, sometimes you will still choose the things that won’t feel best. You will still occasionally choose to eat more than you had planned. You will still sometimes choose foods that don’t feel so great in your body. But that doesn’t have to mean that anything has gone wrong or that you aren’t doing the best you can right now. Normal eaters sometimes do these things too. And for someone healing their relationship with food it is normal to wonder if these perceived “slip ups” are proof that you aren’t improving things or if it’s normal. It’s all in how you handle it. Will you view one single overeating episode as a reason to go back to overeating all the time? Or will you use your knowledge and awareness to let that go and make a different choice going forward?

Realizing that every bite we put in our bodies is because of a deliberate decision we have made is actually very powerful. We can choose to view that as crappy and feel like we are being blamed for our eating challenges or we can choose to see freedom in knowing that we can be active participants in the way out.

Knowing you can choose at every meal and every situation is very liberating. It is freeing. It can help you relax around food. It can help you beat yourself up less (because there will be more choices to make going forward). I know it isn’t easy and I’m not promising that making good choices is easy from the start (it’s not!) – but to get to the “easy” and I know that most of us are always looking for easy, you have to first understand and accept that we have choices to make, bring your attention and awareness to your actions and choices and then start deliberately making choices from a conscious place.

There is a lot of hard work in this. And yes, sometimes it’s really uncomfortable, painful and you’ll feel “I don’t wanna!”. That’s fine – you can feel that way. Just don’t stay there all the time (that’s a choice too cutie!). Come back when you are ready and let’s make more deliberate decisions together.


Could you use some support in this area? Schedule a free consult with me here.

You can also download a free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!). It’s my starter tool pack for those who want to begin changing their relationship with food.

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15 Life Lessons to Learn for More Peace in Your Life

Life LessonsI’m not going to wax poetic about food or weight loss this week.

Nope! Instead I’m going to share with you some essential lessons that I have found invaluable! Some of these you will have heard before (you may have learned them yourself) and others I frankly just made up and incorporated into my belief system (#10 is one of those) from personal experiences but I hope you’ll read on to see if some of these are things you need to learn too.

One of the many things that directed me towards a career in coaching was that life lessons kept hitting me in the square in the face and once I got over my initial resistance to accepting those lessons, I became interested in how I could use them to my lifelong benefit. Like most people “growing up” in their 20’s and early 30’s, things I thought I believed strongly would be called in to question, again and again by challenges and disasters I would find myself up against. I was certainly opposed to accepting some of these lessons for a long time, but once I did, their effect on me has been immeasurable. Life frequently forces us to learn lessons, through conflicts, tragedies, obstacles, and we can choose to ignore them (only to have them show up again and again until we learn what is needed) or we can choose to see what it is trying to teach us.

A lot of my coaching practice has nothing to do with food, nutrition or the physical side of our health. My favorite part of health coaching is the “life” coaching part because physical transformation cannot happen without some emotional and spiritual transformation. A truly well person, especially one who hopes to have an improved relationship with food, needs to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions in a responsible way.  To do that, we have to learn to separate out what is actual truth, from the old stories and beliefs we keep telling ourselves, from what is actually in our personal control vs. what is out of our reach, and what actions, behaviors and beliefs are keeping us down, vs. lifting us up. The most important life lessons are the ones that help us do this and in doing so, allow us to live more peacefully, both with ourselves and with others.

I sometimes wish someone had given me a primer of some of the lessons that were coming my way. I would have still struggled, that’s an unavoidable part of growth but maybe it would have been less stressful? Easier in some way? Probably not, haha! Today’s post is my attempt to give that to you!

Below are 15 of the life lessons I’ve learned so far (some serious and some silly!) that have brought me more peace, happiness and confidence in living my life. Knowing (and living by) some of these “truths” makes it a lot easier to make decisions, more accepting of when things don’t go the way I want them to and makes my relationships less tumultuous.

 

15 Life Lessons to Learn for More Peace in Your Life

1. Stop trying to change other people’s opinions, actions or feelings. The only person you can control is you. It will save you years of frustration, pain and strained relationships if you can accept this. Really. You can’t change how someone else thinks, feels or what actions they take. You can’t control what they say. You can’t do anything about how they live their life. You can’t change their opinion of you (and it’s none of your business anyhow). But you can control how much you allow someone to affect you. You can control how much you allow them in your life. You can control your thoughts about the person and how much energy and time you give to them. You are in charge of you (no one else). And no one has a right to try to change you. If someone tries to control what you wear, who you talk to or what you can do, they’re stepping out of line. You are not obligated to follow someone else’s expectations of you. You manage you and they manage them. To read more about this, I blogged about this last year.

2. Forgive and “let go” of past hurts/wrongs done to you or by you. For some reason we think that holding on to the pain and the story of our past pains is the only safe thing to do. We think that if we let go of it or forgive someone that it means they’re off the hook or that we’re invalidating our painful experience. You don’t have to be “over” it, but it only hurts you further to direct negative energy towards the other person or yourself over the long term. Forgiving and letting go is for YOU. No one has to know that you’ve forgiven them. You are welcome to keep it all to yourself! You don’t have to wait for an apology from someone to feel forgiveness for the past. There is healing (for you!) in deciding to no longer allow that pain to color every aspect of your life – and only you have the power to do that.

3. We all have an inner critic who tells us (to varying degrees) that we’re not good enough, we look fat, we’re awkward (or whatever). You don’t have to listen to it. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s true. Ultimately, that inner critic is trying to protect you from getting hurt in some way, but they go about it the wrong way.  For example, when that inner voice tells you that “you’re not good enough to sing on stage” or “you’re going to embarrass yourself by signing up for a 5k”, it’s the part of you that wants you to play small so that you don’t get hurt. If we go after what our hearts truly want (maybe a singing career or winning a race), we do risk failure. We risk embarrassment. We risk falling flat on our faces. But the inner mean critic doesn’t have any more information than you do. She can’t predict the future. She isn’t automatically speaking the truth. The key to not letting her get to you is to acknowledge that this critic is trying to help and that we don’t have to listen to her.

4. Take responsibility for your feelings. No one can hurt your feelings but us. Really. It’s the meaning we take from someone’s actions or words that cause us pain. It’s the way we are thinking about it. This one took me a long time to learn because ultimately I wanted other people to not be jerks (right?!), but it’s empowering knowing I’m in charge of how I feeling. It’s not a blame game – just because you’re not blaming someone else for how you feel, doesn’t mean you’re to “blame”. It’s not about that. It’s about not giving your power away which is exactly what we do when we blame someone else for how we feel. When you recognize that you are responsible for your feelings, you have the power to feel better now.

5. Your past is just your past. It’s not a glimpse into your future. Just because you’ve always struggled with your weight, your body, with food etc doesn’t mean it will always be a struggle or it will stay a struggle. You can change it. Believing that something is impossible makes it so.  You know that humans are adaptable and intelligent so why not believe that about yourself also? Same with events or actions that occurred in your past. They are not happening in the present and you don’t have to repeat it over and over just because it’s a part of your history.

6. Use physical hunger as a judge as to whether you should eat or not. Not the amount of calories you’ve computed, not whether the scale read the right number today or not because you think you shouldn’t eat. If you’re worried that your physical hunger will lead to weight gain, you probably aren’t in touch with it (it’s ok, most of us are rusty) and are eating driven by cravings, emotions or something else. Learning to listen to your body signals – what hunger feels like, what being satisfied feels like etc is an incredibly valuable skill to have. If you can get in touch with this, you’ll always know when to eat and when to stop. Weight issues solved.

7. If you’re not getting the results you want from whatever life changes you are trying to make, ask yourself, how committed am I to making the changes? How much effort am I truly putting in? If you’re only putting in 50% effort, expect your results to reflect that. We can think all we want about how we want something to change. We can say out loud that we want something so badly. We can read all the books and listen to all the podcasts hoping to learn all we can about something, but if we don’t actually apply what we’ve learned to the thing we’re trying to change, it’s not going to do anything. You want results? Then you’ve got to take action.

8. If you’re sensitive – own it, be proud of it, pay attention to it. I remember getting teased in elementary school for blushing when called on to give an answer (or really any time attention was on me). I got made fun of in my own household by family members growing up for crying in response to anger or frustration. For a long time, I saw my sensitivity as a burden and an obvious sign that there was something wrong with me. But being sensitive is what makes me an empathetic coach, wife and friend. It’s what makes my heart feel alive and what makes life feel so incredible. Being sensitive is actually a gift that doesn’t come naturally for most and if you have it, it’s not a burden. It’s a tool you can use to understand your world, your environment, other people and yourself in depth and it can serve you well.

9. Stop looking for the perfect diet that will solve all your weight or food issues. It does not exist. I promise. Almost any diet can work if you follow it closely and are willing to follow it for the rest of your life. Like, forever. If you’re not able to do that (who the hell is??), your best bet is to find a way you can eat for the rest of your life, that makes your body feel good, you feel satisfied and doesn’t make you want to eat your arm for 90% of the day. I am not selling the perfect diet and no one else is either, regardless of the marketing you see out there. You have to figure out what foods, quantities and qualities work for your particular needs. See #6.

10. Let friends and family take photos of you! This is one of my silly lessons. Someday you might not be here and it would be a damn shame if the people who loved you didn’t have pictures to remember you by, all because you were feeling self-conscious. Don’t say “Ug, I don’t want any photos today!” because you think you look fat, ugly or anything else. Your family and friends think you are amazing no matter what you think you look like and they want to remember the day with photos and that includes with YOU in them. Constantly telling others not to take photos of you (or making a big deal to hide behind others during photo ops) actually puts more focus on you – and that’s probably not what you’re after. Join in, as you are. No one is fixating on how you look in one particular photo as much as you are. Show your kids that you accept yourself as you are at this moment – whether that’s 75 lbs overweight or at your ideal weight. Can you imagine a child saying “don’t take a picture of me, I’m too fat right now!”? It would break your heart. You saying the same thing is breaking everyone’s heart who loves you – and one day it will break yours. Smile for those photos like you are feeling incredibly happy to be there (and don’t you dare hide yourself behind your kid or your cousin). You’re fucking fantastic the way you are at this moment. Yes, I’ve talked about this before.

11. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, figure out how you can enjoy both alone time and social time – because there are going to be times that even the most reluctant introvert needs to spend time with others and even the most gregarious extrovert will be all by themselves! Everyone has a specific balance that drains or energizes them and it’s important to know how you can best spend your energy. If you prefer to be with others, learn how to also enjoy your time alone – explore hobbies, learn new skills, travel to a new place etc. If you prefer to be alone, choose more social situations that involve something you really want to do – so that at least when you do need to be social, you’re able to enjoy yourself. People with strong social bonds tend to have better function and well being in old age – so there is good reason to foster those relationships! Though there is also evidence that being alone can help protect against loss of autonomy in old age. It’s important to find the balance that works for you – knowing that both have their benefits and finding ways to enjoy both (even if you prefer one over the other) can go a long way towards the happiness you feel in your life. I find I get depressed and irritable if I spend too much time alone or too much time with others. I am an extroverted introvert (or introverted extrovert – I can’t decide!) and really need to toe the line to feel and function my best.

12. People live the lives they want to have. My father used to say this and it drove me nuts – if someone is in a crappy relationship, how could they want that? If someone hates their job, how could they want that? But it finally dawned on me as an adult that it’s true. People stay in crappy relationships because they think it’s better than being alone or finding someone new – by staying where they are and not doing anything about it they are actively choosing this for their life. People stay in jobs they hate because they are fearful of trying something new or worry that a new job might be just as bad or because it might be hard to find a new job. As unhappy as they might be, their current misery seems safer than the alternatives. Everything new in life is a risk – and sometimes we choose not to take risks (and sometimes we do). It’s a choice.

13. Learn how to say no without apologies. No. No, thank you. No, I am not available. No, I am not interested. It is not impolite to be clear, direct and honest about your intentions. Don’t lead people on to believe that you are interested in doing things that you don’t want to do just because you are afraid to look rude. We’re all getting harassed on social media by former classmates and acquaintances who are selling plastic wrap they want you to believe will make you skinny or breakfast shakes that cost the same amount as your car payment. Just because you used to be buddies in 2nd grade doesn’t mean you owe someone your time, money or energy. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store not too long ago selling Mary Kay – she asked if I had ever tried it. I said “yes, years ago.” She pulled out her phone and asked if I wanted to book an appointment with her to try some samples, I said “No thank you.” She looked dumfounded and stumbled with various questions trying to get me to say yes. Women have a hard time saying no and sales people are trained to take advantage of that. (No offense to sales people – just using y’all as an example). The first couple of times you say no, you might feel a twinge of guilt or like you did something wrong. But I promise you it’s not rude. It’s way more rude to feign interest.

14. Other people’s priorities may not be the same as yours. This has been a tough one for me to learn too! I prioritize some things in my life that you might find silly. You may prioritize some things in your life that I think are silly. Neither of us are “right”. It’s all relative. I have a client who feels that she and her husband are growing apart. Because of their work schedules, the only time they’re both home is on the weekend, but she prefers to spend all day Saturday gardening and he prefers to spend all day Sunday cycling with friends. Neither is “wrong” but they are currently prioritizing their hobbies over their marriage. They might not see it that way, because gardening and cycling are a super important part of their limited free time but at the moment neither is willing to make a compromise with their hobbies for their marriage. They have different priorities and until they both shift to wanting to put their marriage first or one of them is willing to let their hobby take a backseat and join the other on theirs, she will continue to feel like they are growing apart. We’re all coming from different places, desires and needs and should be understanding that that means we place varying values on the same things. I can’t expect you to have the same priorities as me – but you also can’t expect me to have the same ones as you.

15. Your worth is not debatable or fluid. It’s not something that changes. You are worthy and valuable just as you are right now, just as you were 10 years ago, just as you will be 10 years from now. Your value is inherent – you are amazing and have the potential to do amazing things. Your situation and circumstances may change regularly but your core value as a human being never changes.  It doesn’t matter if you are 75 lbs overweight. You are not less valuable than you were when you were thinner. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish college. That doesn’t make you less valuable than someone with their Master’s. Get it out of your head that you’re not worthy. Let go of the urge to criticize (yourself or others).  It’s not cocky or conceited to know you are worthy deep down in your soul. A lot of people struggle with letting themselves feel loved or valuable because they think if they do it must mean that they are prideful or arrogant. That’s hogwash! We have nothing to do with our value or worth. We don’t deserve accolades or a pat on the back for being a valuable and worthy soul so there is nothing to be arrogant about. You’re valuable just because you ARE – not because of things you do or don’t do. Accept that you have this worth and let it fuel your choices in life. It’s a lot harder to make poor decisions when you know you are amazing and have the ability to do good stuff!

Phew! I didn’t mean for that to become such a long post! Do any of these speak to you? Have you found any of these to be important in your life? What lessons have you learned that help you live more peacefully? I’d love if you would share some of them with me.


Like this? For more, download your free copy of Healthy Eating Shouldnt Be a Workout:  Real Life Strategies to Take the Confusion Out of Healthy Living (includes recipes, snack and meal ideas, ways to save money and more!).

Click here to get your copy!

Click here to get your copy!

How to Set Clear and Healthy Boundaries That Actually Work

People are going to cross your boundaries. Here's how to make more effective ones.

People are going to cross your boundaries. Here’s how to make more effective ones.

One of the biggest causes of frustration that I see people dealing with is that they go through their lives feeling walked all over, stepped on, disrespected and that other people are taking advantage of them, over and over again. If this is something you struggle with regularly, it’s very likely that you aren’t good at setting boundaries or that you don’t know how to set boundaries correctly.

I hear “They don’t respect my boundaries” a lot. But, we can’t stop people from doing the things they do. For some reason, in our society, we think we have a right to control how other people act and because of that, most people think that others need to respect their boundaries and they can’t figure out a way to make that happen. They get frustrated. They don’t feel like boundaries are worth setting. But that’s because they’re setting boundaries with the expectation that the other person controls whether it works or not. Of course that’s not going to be effective!

People are going to cross your boundaries. That’s life. You cannot stop people from pushing your buttons or from doing things you don’t want them to do. They don’t have to respect your boundaries. You have to respect your boundaries.

They don’t have to respect your boundaries. You have to respect your boundaries.”

I’m going to tell you how to make boundaries work for you so that you never feel powerless or walked all over ever again.

First, remember that no one can walk all over you or take advantage of you without your compliance.

How we respond when someone tries to do this to us, either reinforces to them that they can keep on doing that behavior without repercussions or shows them that their actions won’t be tolerated. We choose how to respond and how we’re going to allow ourselves to be treated.

Getting good at setting personal boundaries means a lot of things have to happen – you’ve got some personal development work to do to be able to do this well! You have to have a good amount of confidence in yourself. You also need to learn how and when to say no, always say what you mean (stop beating around the bush and expecting other’s to know what you need) and let go of the need to be liked by everyone all of the time. You also have to be able to recognize that a boundary is something you put in place to protect you – it’s not put in place for the other person to abide by (which can be tricky to understand – I’ll go more in detail about this difference).

Today we’re going to go over all of this – what boundaries actually are (not what most of us think!), how to set them, enforce them and what boundaries are NOT. Really getting familiar with boundary setting has helped me navigate my personal and professional relationships with so much more ease. With clear boundaries, I no longer worry what to do when I’m with people who want to push my buttons or when family members overstep their bounds. I choose what’s best for me thank you – and I confidently make decisions as to how to handle myself.

If you take the time to learn this tool and practice it, it will make an amazing difference in all of your relationships – but especially the relationship you have with yourself.

Let’s talk boundaries, shall we?

What is a boundary?
First off, a lot of people think a boundary is something we set for other people in order for them to behave the way we want them to. Nope. This is wrong. That’s manipulation.

We can’t control how other people act. We cannot change someone else’s behavior (though wouldn’t we all like to sometimes!). Clear and effective boundaries can only be set from this perspective.

What we can do is set boundaries for ourselves. We decide what we are ok with and not ok with. How others get to treat us. How we want to feel in our relationships.

A boundary is an action you decide that you will take if someone does something that violates either your physical or emotional personal space. Your physical space is your body, your home, your safety. Your emotional space is a little harder to define but I see it as “how I decide I am willing to be treated” or what my “emotional dealbreakers” are. There is shit I won’t put up with in my life.

Here’s an example of a physical one. Let’s say someone steps on my toes in public. The boundary I will set is that I will move away from someone if they step on me. Pretty obvious right? I don’t even have to communicate this boundary to the person. I can take care of my physical needs (which includes not being stepped on) without them even being involved. Notice the boundary does not require the other person to do anything but is instead is something I do in response to their action.

Here’s an example of an emotional one. Let’s say I have a friend who really hates my husband and keeps talking shit about him to me. I can’t make her like my husband and I can’t control what she says to other people about him but I can decide how I want to be treated. The boundary in this case I would set is that I would ask her to no longer talk negatively about him in my presence. If she continues to talk about him, I will leave. If she calls me and wants to talk shit about him, I will hang up the phone. (This is a fictional situation by the way! My best girlfriends are fab and all love my husband). Notice again, this is an action I take in response to a boundary violation. It is not an action I ask her to take. She is still free to hate my husband. She is still free to talk about him until she’s blue in the face, even in my presence, but I don’t have to participate in it.

What a boundary is not
A boundary is not a threat or done in retaliation. Threats come from a place of anger, pain, fear – we threaten people because we want to cause harm (usually because we are hurt!). A boundary is set with respect & love. There shouldn’t be any intended harm when you set a boundary.

Here are a few example of threats (not boundaries!):
“If you don’t get a job that makes more money, I’m going to divorce you.”
“If you go out with your friends tonight, I will leave you.”
“If you don’t lose weight, I’m going to cheat on you.”

You could also call the three above “ultimatums”. Sometimes we get it in our head that people are supposed to act a certain way in life, as if there is some freakin rulebook that they should know about. We have rules for people that we just assume they will abide by and when they don’t, we get upset and want to throw up our fists and demand that they do what we want. But this isn’t the same thing. Someone not losing weight, going out with friends or not making more money is in no way a violation of your physical or emotional space. Demanding an action be taken by someone else is NOT a good boundary. The easiest way I can explain this is to remember that a boundary can only be enforced by you taking the action. The other person doesn’t have to do anything to satisfy you or make you happy in order to make the boundary successful.

All three of these examples are intended to cause fear, hurt and pain out of retaliation. Boundaries are never about retaliating. They’re more about protecting yourself (your physical / emotional space).

Threats = pain / fear / hurt.
Boundaries = love / protection / empowered.

If anything, when we set a boundary, it should help us feel more love towards the person and ourselves. Remaining in situations where we feel our personal boundaries are being encroached on brings up all kinds of negative feelings that can affect our life and our relationships. Setting clear and appropriate boundaries (not threats) where you have an action you know you can take is empowering and will let you take control over what you do have control over – yourself!

Will everyone be happy when you take a stand for yourself? Not always. People who like to cross our boundaries are rarely happy when someone has healthy self-esteem enough to set them! But what’s awesome, is that if you are in a healthy enough emotional place to set boundaries and hold yourself accountable to them, you will be less bothered by people who don’t like it.

How to set them
You set healthy boundaries by first deciding how you want to feel in the relationship. This friend who is talking crap about my husband – if she is someone really close to me, I probably want to feel love towards her, right? I don’t want to feel resentment and resentment is what I will feel if I keep listening to her negative feelings about someone I care about.

If I set my boundary from a place of love (for both of us) – it will be clear and appropriate.

If I set my boundary from a place of anger or resentment – it’s probably going to be more of a threat and that doesn’t help anyone (certainly not if I want to keep this person in my life).

I want to feel love towards her. I can’t stop her feelings and I can’t stop her from talking about him in general, but I certainly can control if I’m willing to listen to it or be around it.

I know some of you are reading this and going “But she shouldn’t be saying those things! She’s not a friend if she is!”

But, here’s the thing – that’s actually your opinion. That’s not a fact. I’m sure there are some cases, where telling a friend how awful her partner is, would be considered being a good friend (like what if the friend was in an abusive situation?), right? So, the best way to deal with those thoughts that come about about how someone should or shouldn’t be acting is to just remember that that is completely out of our control. So we need to focus on what we can control and that is our behavior. If she’s really as crappy as y’all think she is, I can choose to walk away from the friendship entirely but that’s not always what we want and sometimes way more extreme than it needs to be!

Ask yourself – Am I setting this out of love? Or out of fear/pain? and What do I want to feel towards this person? If love – boundary. If fear/pain – cautious, it might be a threat.

How to enforce them
We enforce boundaries by doing what we’ve said or decided that we’d do if the other person infringes on them.

Boundaries only work if we actually take the actions we’ve decided we are going to take when there is a boundary crossing. They are completely useless otherwise.

If you’ve set a boundary that you are going to leave the room when someone does something unacceptable to you, then you must leave.

If you’ve set a boundary that you are going to not answer work related phone calls after 7pm, then you must not answer your phone when coworkers call.

If you have a boundary and don’t follow through with the action you’ve set, then it’s not going to do anything but upset you and communicate to the other person that things are just fine with you!

If you’re not ready to take the actions you’ve decided to take in your boundary setting, then that is not an appropriate boundary and you should revise it. Remember, they don’t work if we don’t take the action we said we would take.

One more thing: You may tell someone what your boundaries are but it isn’t always necessary – because you are the one who will take the action, not them. There are some boundaries that aren’t worth saying to anyone, such as in the toe stepping example above – it goes without saying that most people don’t want their bodies to be stepped on. I don’t have to communicate my boundary here. In some cases though, you will want to communicate your boundary and doing so will make your relationships better. In the example with the friend talking shit about my husband, I would communicate my boundary. I certainly could act on it without communicating it, but it would make our relationship confusing to her when I got up and left the room or hung up the phone. Who wants more confusion and drama? No thanks. Communicating the boundary doesn’t make the boundary firmer (firmness happens on my side – my actions) or more enforceable but it does make communication clear and makes less room for resentment and pain on all sides.

Will my friend be annoyed? Maybe. Will she find herself still blabbing about my husband? Probably? Will she eventually learn to shut the fuck up around me? Yup. Pretty quickly I might add.

Quick recap: How do you know if you’ve set a boundary correctly?

  • It’s something you will do if your physical or emotional boundary is crossed (the other person doesn’t need to do anything to “respect” your boundary). You respect your own boundary.
  • It’s not a threat (it’s intention is not to cause harm or pain). It’s done out of love for you or the other person.
  • It is not an attempt to manipulate someone else’s behavior or choices. It’s about protecting you.
  • You act on it. Don’t set one and not do what you said you’d do. They don’t work that way.
  • You won’t feel frustrated anymore.

So that’s it!

Practice setting boundaries. You can have the relationship YOU choose to have with people. You decide ahead of time what you are ok with. You decide ahead of time what you are not ok with AND what action you will take if the other person crosses that boundary.This allows you to be fully present in more of your relationships, instead of spending time and energy resenting people.

Are good boundaries going to fix every aspect of all your challenging relationships? Of course not. But being able to set these and act on them is a sign of emotional maturity and responsibility and that can go a long way in every relationship.

I’d love to hear from you now. Do you have difficulty following through with boundaries you have set? Do you have difficulty determining when and how to set boundaries? They can be tricky, so I’m happy to help you find clarity if there is a situation you are having difficulty with.

 

Is it possible to be happy when you don’t have what you want?

A beautiful sunset can help me feel happy! This one is from a trip in 2010 to Rangeley, Maine.

A beautiful sunset can help me feel happy! This one is from a trip in 2010 to Rangeley, Maine.

Ever notice that there are some people who post nothing but negative things on Facebook? Those same people, if you know any of them in real life, also tend to play the “woe is me, my life is the worst” card a lot. Of course, we’re all entitled to occasional bouts of negativity – especially when things are not going well for us (or during times we have no control – such as when a loved one is sick).  I’m prone to some serious rants myself sometimes!

But did you know that being happy is a choice? 

It has little to do with what you have or what you don’t have, your plans lining up perfectly, having things in life handed to you or even good luck.

You can have all those things and be miserable.  You can have nothing and still be happy.

Many people seem to think that happiness is something that shows up one day when you get that job you’ve been working hard for, when you finally lose weight or when baby makes three.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

You can have all the things you thought you wanted and still be miserable (and you are almost guaranteed to be if you allow events or objects to dictate when you are supposed to feel happy).  Positive psychologists believe we have a “set point” for happiness – meaning that most of us will have a certain level of overall happiness in our lives regardless of what happens to us.  Happy things will boost us for awhile but eventually you’ll go back to where you naturally live on the happiness scale (and the same goes for unhappy/sad events).  While this does mean that some of us are more naturally inclined to feel happy more often than others, it also means that there are things you can do to feel more happiness in your life.  And it begins with YOU.

You’re in control of your happiness.  You and only you.  If you don’t like something, you’re the only one who can change it. There are two tasks I want you to try that can help increase your happiness in life:

1. If there is something in your life that you know is a source of unhappiness for you, whether it be your job, your weight, your relationship or your to do list, sit down and create a strategy to change it.  Maybe all you need to do is talk to your manager to change your responsibilities, or maybe it’s time for a new job entirely.  Maybe you need to delegate chores at home more so you have some time to spend with friends and your husband or maybe you’re just trying to do too much and need to work on relaxing your standards.  Whatever it is, it’s up to you to figure out what the biggest strains in your life are and change what you can.

2. If you’re looking at your life right now and going “But I like my job, my weight is good, my husband and I are happy and I have plenty of free time but I’m still not happy” then I have another task for you.  And this one is so much easier than the first one!  If there really is nothing in your life that you feel is dragging you down, get yourself a notebook and a pen and keep it on the nightstand next to your bed.  Each night, before you turn off the light and go to sleep I want you to write down at least 3 things you are grateful for.  It can be things that happened that day or something more general. If you have difficulty coming up with things you are grateful for, you can also list things you did well that day (some days just getting out of bed and getting the kids off to school will be something to be proud of!).  Do this every night (or morning if that is easier for you) for at least three weeks and I guarantee you will feel a little better about your life.

And if you don’t, I think you need to look closer at task number one.

Ultimately, we invite happiness in to our lives by choosing to take control of where life takes us. No one has bad luck ALL of the time.  We’re responsible for much of what happens to us. Choose happiness and you are choosing to actively participate in your life which is a great thing!

What sorts of things are affecting your happiness right now?  What can be done about it?  Will you choose happiness?

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