Boundaries. Some of us are good at setting them and others are not. I ebb and flow in my stance on boundaries. It depends on the situation and it depends on who else is involved. What I do know is that each and every situation I am in creates the moment to decide how I am going to handle my own boundaries. There are different levels of boundaries we must monitor on a day-to-day basis.
Maybe we have a family member that asks too much of us and we always say yes, or maybe it is how they treat us, thinking that there is only one way or one answer to a problem. It could be that they completely disregard our thoughts and opinions and think about what they want, or what they think we should do with our life, never understanding that we have to make our own decisions. A friend might take too much from us in an unbalanced way. A child that has us wrapped around their finger. A boss that does not allow no for an answer.
All of these can be challenging situations depending on who is on the other end of the conversation. Often I think that others do not know how their demands on us affect us. They expect others to have their own filters, to be able to say no when they hit their limit. That is unrealistic though. Love, guilt, compassion, and never learning to say no have a strong hold on us. Often we do not want to disappoint those we love, so we say yes, we move forward with no boundaries and suffer the consequences. Whether that means we allow too much on our plate, we get burned out, or we find that we become resentful.
Speaking up for what you want and what you are willing to do means you create the life that feels right to you. Even if that means upsetting an in-law, sibling, friend, or co-worker. You are only you if you speak up for what you need. That might mean saying no. It might mean saying yes — but with specific limits. At the very least take time to listen to your inner voice and decide what you truly want. Then you can battle the naysayers in your mind, speak up for yourself, and ultimately create the boundaries you need. Definitely not easy, but doable?
Often I think we do not even realize we do it. We complain about how little sleep we got the night before, the guy that is driving too slow on the road, how a co-worker treated us. We might complain about the wilting lettuce that came on our salad, or how cranky we feel. It is almost second nature for us to complain. I am just as bad as the next person. I think about it though. I try to watch myself and see when I am complaining. I wonder what life would look like, feel like, or sound like if we did not complain. Would we all sound like Pollyanna?
This Fast Company article, “What It’s Like to Go Without Complaining For a Month” is an interesting idea. I know it would not be easy to do, and yet why not? Does the Pollyanna vibe feel odd to us because someone who does not complain feels fake? Does that mean that our society is so immersed in the idea of agonizing over the hand that we were dealt, that it is almost very strange to imagine not sharing our qualms, experience, and drama with our co-workers, family, and friends? Is it the drama that encourages to complain? Or is it the storytelling and community that comes along with going into all the gory details of all you went through getting your take out last night at your neighborhood Chinese restaurant?
Often I think individuals do not realize they might be complaining. We are all storytellers at heart. I am an addict of a good story. I love to laugh and while I am not one to make fun of someone’s misfortune I do love when a story weaves and explores what someone might have had to go through – even if it all happens in the process of complaining.
While I do not think I have it in me (yet) to go an entire month without complaining. I am going to *try* to be conscious about my complaints. For someone who is very free with my thoughts and what is on my mind, I could do a better job filtering the complaints. I should probably spend some time thinking about the list of ideas in the Fast Company article that are tips for complaining less.
He is a gentlemen. He is listening, watching, and aware. However, do not be fooled, he can have a bite too. As you watch him in a room, he can often be the quiet one, but when he talks others listen. Most likely it is because he does not fill the airwaves with mindless banter (as I might be more accused of doing). Regardless of his quiet demeanor, he has always put me first (well 99% of the time–no one is that perfect)! Yes, I am speaking of Chris. My man, my partner in crime. He is good to me, takes care of me, and does little things that make me feel safe. An example, walking back to our car in a sketchy part of town, he will open the door for me and make sure I am in the car safely. Does he do it all the time? No, do I want him to? Hell no. Do I love that he does it randomly? Yes (said with a smile).
“I wrote a post about chivalry, trying to unpack what it means to be feminist in romantic relationships. I liked when guys opened doors for me but wondered if that fed a stereotype that women were weak and needed to be taken care of by men. I thought about it and felt good about the distinction that I came up with—door opening as a loving gesture versus door opening with an ‘I don’t think you can open this heavy door by your little self!’ attitude. What I ended up writing was that it’s romantic if it happens out of care and interdependence but not romantic if the guy thinks you are an ‘invalid’—a word I was trying to use ironically.” Page 229
Martin mentions romantic relationships, but I think as a woman it can also translate to work. You can tell which male co-workers open the door because they are just opening the door for you, (and you would do the same for them) and how many are doing it because of a power play. They feel like they should, as Martin mentions they think you are too weak to do so, or they are better at the task. It is always a little strange as a woman, that men let me go first through a door. I mean–why does it matter who goes first?
Whether the men I work with everyday, or the one I have chosen to spend my life with decide to do it as a “loving gesture” or not, I hope they at least think about their intent. That is all that really matters, right? At the end of the day, power over another does not make us equals. Why not look at the relationship and decide what works? Maybe we all have different ways to show we care, and we also have different ways to show our power.
Why should I trust you? Should we trust people immediately when we meet them, or should they have to earn our trust? Most of the time I give people the benefit of the doubt that they can be trusted, but if they do something that crosses that line that makes them not trustworthy, they will have to work hard to earn my trust back.
Trust is a crucial topic in my life. It is the cornerstone of my marriage, imperative in my friendships, and integral in my daily work life. My approach consists of giving others the space and opportunity to show me who they are, and if they follow through with what they have committed to me, it allows me to continue to be open and transparent with them. If the space and openness I have provided is tarnished by dishonesty, or missed commitments, the relationship becomes more closed. I no longer want to open up or share of myself with them.
Is it so hard, or so much to ask to be honest, and do what you say you will do? In my marriage, that means that we are completely transparent with each other. We say the tough stuff, are blunt with each other, and hold each other accountable to the commitments we have agreed to with each other. It is not always easy, and can sometimes be work, but it is always worth it in the long run.
At work, I know that everyone does things in their own way, and there are numerous ways to handle tasks and projects. I am not worried about how someone goes about a project so much as that they are honest, do it well, and follow through on the commitments they made. Good work, honesty, and follow through to me are the foundation of trust in good working relationships. Once I know that my colleagues meet those standards, then trust comes easy to me. Trust among my co-workers has led to some amazing connections and friendships along the way.
Maybe this blog makes me sound like a bitch, but I have very high standards. Trust is the glue in relationships. With trust, relationships are open and transparent. Without it, intimacy is closed.