A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. William Arthur Ward
Whenever there’s a catastrophe in your life, who do you turn to?
Generally during times of adversity, we turn to our family and friends for support as we know and trust they have our best interests at heart while we rebuild ourselves. Despite all the hard times I have come up against in my time, I am so fortunate for the friendships I have made and the family I have. I never have to look far for someone to talk to; my social calendar is always full; human contact is never far away – I always have the phone glued to my ear or I’m texting. I can honestly step back and say my life right at this point in time, without doubt, is the best it has been in several years because of the people I currently have in it.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing and my friends can testify to that. I’ve had to weed the odd person out, and some of them were so deeply implanted that getting them out of my life was almost impossible. There were even times I actually believed poison ivy could grow into a rose bush – and when I was disappointed, my friends gave me that extra strength to dig that ivy out. What I learned? Some people genuinely want you to be unhappy. I can’t tell you how much trouble I had accepting such a simple fact: psychopaths exist. They walk among us, just like normal people. On several occasions it has taken me a while to snap out of the denial, stop trying to help the ivy in hope of roses and accept: it is what it is. Unfortunately I got hurt in the process.
Oscar Wilde said it best “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.
So despite the immense pain I felt, I weeded my garden and in the process I started to accept that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be helped. So, although it was difficult to get rid of some of the weeds, it proved worth it because once the weeds were gone, there was so much space in the garden for more roses, daisies and sunflowers. This week Happiness Weekly looks at friendship and how it can inspire happiness – whether you’re sad or already happy – having friends to share your life with is essential to a happy existence.
Often I harp on about the best things in life being free and it would appear this philosophy is supported by the Daily Mail with their article Money DOESN’T buy happiness: how friends and family – not flashy possessions – bring true contentment. The article talks about the happiness that lies in gratifying relationships, and says research has shown a close circle of friends and family is most important for happiness and that material possessions such as iPhones, computers, wealth and owning a sports car do not provide the same level of contentment.
This Emotional Life said close, loving relationships are crucial to our wellbeing and happiness because they create a psychological space that makes us feel safe to explore and learn and it’s in that environment that we can build resources for times of stress and adversity. It’s like a squirrel stockpiling their acorns for the winter, because winter is sure to come, just as with times of adversity.
The Connection and Happiness article by This Emotional Life says belonging to something such as a group or community gives us a sense of identity. Plus, people with strong social connections have been found to have less stress-related health problems, are lower risk of mental illness and recover faster from trauma or illness.
Both introverts and extraverts are happier in the company of others than on their own. It makes us more pleasant, helpful and sociable. “So being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness,” This Emotional Life concluded.
Happiness is contagious according to Psychologist James H Fowler, who found that it benefits other people through three degrees of connection and the effects can last for a year. “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness,” James said.
Some people, such as Alex Roberts, believe having fewer friends is most important to your happiness because they are real friends. It’s our close relationships that gives us greater meaning and support. This supports that quality not quantity is most important when it comes to our friendships, which is why we must weed our gardens and have an overall clear out from time to time.
Others, such as this article found on the Huffington Post believe a larger circle of friends is the key to happiness. It’s been discovered that broad social networks contribute to our happiness by making us feel more connected and increasing our sense of belonging and self-esteem. Whatever it may be, it’s undisputed that with a little help from our friends, our overall happiness and wellbeing is improved.
Action for Happiness says research shows people who have strong relationships with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer than those who don’t. According to 32 Keys interacting amiably with friends and family is good for your health because it reduces stress. When we’re healthy we’re able to be happier because our worries and anxieties are reduced.
The Pursuit of Happiness talks about happiness according to Aristotle. According to the article, Aristotle recognised friendship as one of the most important virtues in achieving happiness – but not just any friendship, it was a particular type of friendship we needed to seek. The type of friendship he encouraged us to have is one “based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility of pleasure”. This type of friendship is long-lasting yet tough to obtain because it takes a lot of work to have complete and honourable friendships. It’s worth it though, as it brings us the most enjoyment by combining pleasure and integrity which brings our emotions and intellect the most fulfilment of any other friendship. For this reason, Aristotle would conclude we couldn’t have many friendships because of the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship requires.
In more recent times Drake Baer has spoken about why our friendships shape our happiness, creativity and career saying the people we know “affect us in subtly major ways”. His reasons touch on the fact that our friendships broaden our perspective which encourages us to take new avenues and they continually shape our behaviour and ideas.
Whatever the size of your friendship circle, ensure your friends know you are grateful they are in your life. This post is dedicated to all my friends and family for their constant support, love and help with weeding the garden. I love you!
In what ways do your friendships evoke happiness in you?
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein
When we live through a traumatic event we generally find ourselves coming out with a million questions that whir around our brains like a broken record. The same questions come up over and over again – depending on the trauma and the scale of how bad it was, you could literally feel as though you’re driving yourself crazy. This constant questioning that can become like an obsession is a form of hyper self-analysis.
By questioning ourselves after a traumatic event we are looking at ways we can take responsibility for our situation. We question ourselves, making ourselves accountable as a way to avoid blaming anyone else and keeping us in control. This is healthy. But when the questioning become obsessive and continuous, and starts adding to our anxiety, this is where it becomes a problem. It’s important to know when to stop.
The types of questions we ask ourselves following a traumatic event can be narrowed down to: What is wrong with me? What else could I have done? What is going to happen? How will I get out of this? This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can stop questioning yourself so you can start living a more fulfilling life that enables you to let go of the past.
Realise there is nothing wrong with you
Let’s get something straight right now – there is nothing wrong with you. In fact, most of the time when we are questioning ourselves on things, there is nothing wrong with us, instead our constant questioning of ourselves can be a direct result of someone deliberately hurting us and our self-esteem. Be confident that there is nothing wrong with you – it’s the first step in moving forward.
Understand that continually questioning yourself feeds anxiety
Stop and ask yourself what the benefits are in continuing to question yourself and going over what has already happened. It’s likely you’ll quickly decide there are no benefits to the questions and if anything, they may more likely just lead you to have more questions. So drop it! Make a conscious effort to stop yourself from going over it because it’s only adding to your torture.
Accept the past – it is what it is
There’s nothing we can do about the past. It’s done. No matter how traumatic the event that has happened to us, there is nothing we can do to go back and change it – no matter how much we wish we could. This is why it’s so important to live in the moment and never to hurt someone you love – because you can never go back. Just like memories – nothing from the past can’t be altered. Make peace with it and leave it where it belongs.
Know that you did your best
Take comfort in knowing that you acted the best way you could, with the knowledge and skills you had at that time. Perhaps the traumatic event has given you a steep learning curve and you’re asking why you didn’t know before. Take the lesson, surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart and continue to move forward with your new knowledge.
Watch your self-talk
The best advice I’ve been given for those moments where we constantly question ourselves over things is to watch your self-talk over the situation. We are constantly talking to ourselves, and it’s important to be mindful that we are also always listening. One tactic in being mindful of your questions is to talk to yourself (in your mind or out loud) as though you’re talking to your best friend or a child. By taking this approach you will quickly discover your attacking questions become more empathetic and your anxiety begins to ease.
Spend time growing your inner confidence
Instead of spending your time questioning yourself over and over about the past, spend your time looking for ways that you can grow your inner confidence so the situation doesn’t repeat itself. I have found some great clips on YouTube that assist with this including this one that I shared through my social media channels the other day where Justine Musk helps us find our deep yes.
Focus on self-love and self-nurturing
Focus on self-love and self-nurturing activities – you can find some tips in my previous blog: Discovering your self-love. Recognise all the things you have learned in your time, not just from this one event, and the strengths you have built on. Practice mindfulness and distract yourself from the questions by listing all the things you know you’re good at and how you make a positive difference to others. Concentrate on being in the present as much as possible to stop you from looking back.
Respect the answers you receive, accept the answers you don’t
As I mentioned, if you continue questioning yourself and seeking answers you will lead yourself to directly ask more questions and the answers seem to leave you more and more unfulfilled. Sometimes when you step back and wait long enough for things to play out, all your questions will be answered loud and clear. They may not be the answers you wanted, but at least you didn’t need to look for them. In the case that an answer never comes, that is something we need to accept – sometimes questions have no answers.
Avoid any self-criticism
Generally while we’re questioning ourselves we are also criticising ourselves for not behaving differently during an event or situation. Another way to look at this is to put doubt in the doubt or to simply question any self-criticism that comes up. Consider what message you are giving yourself behind the questions you are asking and whether that message is helpful or not. If you decide the question or thought isn’t helpful, don’t forget to thank it for coming – it’s only trying to protect us – and send it on its way. You may want to spend some time reading as opposed to asking questions.
Give yourself permission to put yourself first
Following a traumatic event the best thing we can do for ourselves is to quickly learn how to put yourself first and as you heal you’ll really start to do only the things you want to do. Give yourself permission to put yourself first. Stop worrying about the traumatic event or what others think. A great book that helped take the sting out of my situation, and was recommended to me, is called God on a Harley by Joan Brady – it’s a spiritual book about finding yourself. What you learn in this process is that all that matters in order to lead your best life is what you think and feel. You can find more Tips for your inner confidence by Christine Arylo.
Find the funniest way you can to express yourself
Relax. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It sounds clichéd but to every negative, there is a positive and, not to continue with the clichés but what doesn’t kill you definitely makes you stronger! When things are fresh and the traumatic event is serious it can be hard to see the positives let alone laugh. But when you reach the point that you’re ready to let go, learn from the situation and set yourself free – through laughter! Laugh at the situation. Laugh at the person who hurt you. Laugh at your actions. Laugh at whatever you can. Remember, if you can’t find a way to laugh at yourself, find someone else who can, or join a laughter therapy group in your area. It only takes one person to start laughing before you find yourself joining in and when you can laugh at a situation – you win!
We’ve all done it at one stage or other – how did you stop questioning yourself?
Today was National Day of Action Against Bullying in Australia. Happiness Weekly has acknowledged various ways we can take action to stop bullying: Be proactive against bullying and Being conscious of our words and how they affect others – but one thing which has been largely overlooked online is how it actually feels to be bullied. This blog is posted to raise awareness of how it feels to be bullied in the hope of understanding for victims and second thoughts for perpetrators.
To acknowledge the Day, Happiness Weekly is giving an inside account of what it feels like to be bullied – because it’s not a checklist of what happens to people who are being bullied but it’s what goes on inside when we experience bullying that affects us. It’s what the victim feels as a result of bullying that starts them thinking and causes them to react – whether externally by lashing out at the bullies or internally, leading to self-harm and bullycide.
When you search online about bullying, it seems there are a series of resources on how to cope once it’s happened, how to help people when we see it happening, stories of incidences that have taken place and even what to look for in order to know we’re being bullied. What is more difficult to find is an account of what is actually feels like for the person to be bullied.
It’s been fifteen years since I was bullied in high school – but I remember how I felt like it happened yesterday. It affected me really badly back then but now it is what brings me great empathy to other victims and is what fuels my passion to write Happiness Weekly and continue to campaign against bullying and domestic violence.
When I consider how I felt when I was bullied – not only in the schoolyard, but I experienced it at the beginning of my career at work, and recently in a relationship (domestic violence is bullying) – despite the distance in years between each scenario, my feelings and responses were very similar.
So – how does it feel to be bullied?
In two words I felt: helpless and worthless.
It made me feel physically sick to be me. I wanted to crawl out of my body and get as far away from myself as possible. I naturally internalise as a way of coping with things, which meant I felt completely responsible for every situation I found myself in. I was riddled with self-doubt. I was scared. I felt violated. I felt completely unprotected – constantly watching my back for what was going to happen next. I felt as though there was something wrong with me and that still impacts me and my decisions I make today.
When I was bullied I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it because I didn’t want to be seen as causing trouble. I was also concerned that the bullies would be punished and it would make things worse. So I went home and withdrew. Day in and day out I’d write – but I wouldn’t keep a diary, because I didn’t want anyone to ever find it, so I wrote stories that danced around what was happening to me and my character would respond in the way I wish I could. That was my way of coping.
Being bullied is one of the worst things that can happen to you because you are the witness to your life story. You not only see everything happening to you in real-time like a movie, but you feel it all as well. It’s a very really fact that bullying causes depression. It leaves you feeling completely humiliated about who you are – right to the core.
You look into the mirror for comfort and all you see in the reflection is self-hatred for being in that situation – and the words and flashbacks repeat on you. The high level of anxiety when you’re venturing into any territory where you may have further confrontation with the bullies is indescribable. You may suffer panic attacks and other aches and pains that are associated with the emotional trauma you are experiencing.
In my experience I was exhausted – day in and day out. All I wanted to do was sleep. When I would sleep, I would nightmare. When I would wake, I’d be physically sick. I was so emotionally disturbed from what was happening to me. My grades at school started to slip because of my poor concentration and intermittently-functioning memory. The constant pressure and strain certainly takes its toll and subsequently the dropping grades gave me another reason not to like myself. I started to become one of the bullies. I couldn’t give myself a break. And so the cycle got worse, the more they hated me, the more I hated myself.
Any time alone I would spend crying – sometimes I thought I’d drown in my own tears. When I would finally leave my house to go shopping or out with friends, I was constantly on edge. I almost felt paranoid, constantly watching my back.
I started to withdraw from social circles, isolating myself from any possibility of further pain, upset or humiliation – just for being me. My process for self-preservation was, and still is, avoidance from all bullies. I took days off school and work to avoid my bullies. Eventually I left the school and I resigned from the job.
The emotional damage bullies cause reaches straight into our soul and forces us not to want to go forward with life. Every day feels the same. You know that saying “When you’re going through hell – keep going”? Well that doesn’t apply, because when you are being bullied you feel as though there’s no way out and this is how it will always be. Depending how bad it is, the bullies seem to multiply and spread even when you try to get away – and this is exactly what happened to the gorgeous Amanda Todd and how she would have felt. It’s also what happens in the case of cyber bullying – and this is what Charlotte Dawson would have experienced. When you’re being bullied it just feels like the more of them there are, the less of you there is and the less fight power you have, not only to defend yourself but to keep going as they continue to encroach on your boundaries and values while you’re week.
Human beings by nature are fight or flight creatures. In my experience with bullying, this is where I discovered what kind of creature I was. It’s not a bad thing to know how you respond to situations like this for your own self-awareness. It turns out – not surprisingly from my description – that I’m flight. I internalise. I try to escape. I hide. I do almost whatever it takes to avoid going through any scenario where I’m bullied.
Looking back on my experiences with bullying it has made me self-aware. It made me realise that your response is a choice – I’m a survivor not a victim.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone is also entitled to security, safety, happiness, freedom and wellbeing. When someone experiences bullying and feels under constant attack, it’s easy to swap your rose-coloured glasses for ones tainted with self-doubt and paranoia. You start looking for hidden messages in what people are saying to you: “Did they mean that in a good way or a bad way?”
Now you know what it feels like to be bullied … will you think twice before you hurt someone?
If you are being bullied and need support, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14.
Position Statement: Happiness Weekly supports the introduction of anti-bullying laws, along with other laws enforced to protect people from bullying, violence and harassment. However, these laws need to be absolutely fool-proof, with procedures to follow rather than boxes to be ticked, so the right people are protected and it can’t be used as another tactic for further harassment.
Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. Rick Warren
As I tell my friends – your time is the most valuable gift you can give someone. It’s something you can never get back. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can best use your time.
There are three very basic yet important things you should do to maintain good time management:
– Use a calendar so you always know what’s on and schedule appointment reminders to give yourself enough time to get wherever you’re going – and try to always be ten minutes early
– Prioritise and delegate activities to assist in getting tasks done on time
– Learn to say “no” – if you can’t make an appointment, don’t waste people’s time trying. Moral: Don’t try to do too much because when you fail, you’ll let other people down.
OK, now that’s out of the way, you should have more time. The question is – what are you going to do with it?
Finding what to do with free time can be challenging and frustrating until you find exactly what it is that you enjoy doing. Many people forget that while time is the most important gift you can give away – it’s also the most important gift you can give to yourself. When we don’t give ourselves time out from our usual daily grind we risk getting burn out.
Here are a few ideas for how you can give yourself time as a gift:
– Review your goals, see how you’re tracking – it’s motivating!
– Get reading, learn something new by reading an online article or just snuggle in and read something fiction – whatever takes your fancy
– Exercise! Keeping fit and healthy is great for managing your stress levels
– Check in with yourself. Keep a diary, meditate, talk to your inner child about their day
– Make yourself a playlist. Select songs that YOU like and that make YOU feel good (no judgement!)
– Speak to your inner child about the day’s events. Like your parents or guardian would talk to you as a child, talk to yourself – explain things as though you’re talking to a child when you start to feel yourself grumble about something
– Make yourself a scrapbook of your favourite things
– Practise some mindfulness techniques. Sit by water (beach, lake, bay) and list all the things you can see in your mind. Then list all the things you can hear in your mind.
Need more ideas? Fifty ways to have fun by yourself on the cheap by the frugal introvert.
I also wanted to share a few ideas for how you can give someone else time as a gift
– Write a handwritten letter to someone telling them how important they are to you
– Help someone to do something they can’t do on their own
– Do something nice for someone who least expects it
– Write a blog or create a YouTube clip about something you’ve learned to teach others your lessons
– Listen to someone when they need you
– Buy someone a gift you know they’ll like, just because
Find out who you are and do it on purpose. Dolly Parton
Two weeks ago we said farewell to Charlotte Dawson, a model, television presenter and passionate anti-bullying campaigner. I must say, Alex Perry’s speech at her memorial was absolutely beautiful – what a great friend! If you didn’t catch it, you can see it here. I am so happy to know that Charlotte’s campaigning against cyber bullies and trolls will continue despite her departure from the world. Where ever you are, Charlotte, you certainly left your footprint.
Unfortunately when something tragic or unsettling happens to us it’s hard to remember our purpose in life and easy to retreat to the couch in a darkened room with a bucket of ice cream. Yes, I know how it feels. What we need during these times is our own mission to keep us going and that mission will act as a bright light through the darker days. We are talking about the real reason for why you are here, the reason you actually exist. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can find your purpose in life which will be strong enough to keep you going through whatever painful or tragic events life throws your way.
1. See everything as an opportunity
Imagine if one day you stopped looking at challenges as problems and started looking at them as possibilities. Opportunities would present themselves, and start to unlock and open as you walk towards them, like an automatic door. Half the time, the reason we’re held back from living a life of purpose is that we don’t know what we want or what we’re looking for.
2. Clear your mind and focus
Clear your mind completely so you can really focus on this exercise. Make sure you won’t be interrupted. Scribble out any final thoughts. Practise some meditation to capture your focus if it helps you. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Everyone has their own unique way of clearing their mind. Whatever yours is, do it and then come back to this. The idea is to get rid of any pre-conceived judgements you have about what you can achieve or your self-worth or anything else which may block you from achieving everything you need to in this exercise.
3. Visualise your perfect life
Write down what your life looks and feels like once all your dreams have come true. Really be in the moment. Touch things, smell things – use all your senses. The more vivid you can be, the better. Consider where you live, how you feel, your hobbies and interests, how you make your money, the people who are you in your life etc. Take one action from this list and start today, to firmly plant your feet in the direction to head where you want to go.
4. Identify your purpose
OK, it’s time for some soul searching – get set to ask yourself a lot of questions:
What do you enjoy doing so much that you would do it without earning money for it?
What makes you feel happy? What makes you feel good about yourself?
What are your favourite leisure activities? What can make you lose track of time?
So you have no regrets, what is the one thing you want to do or accomplish before you die?
Who inspires you the most? And what is it about this person that inspires you?
What are you naturally good at doing? What do other people say you’re good at or come to you for?
If you had to teach something, what would it be?
What would you regret not doing, being or having in your life?
Visualise yourself as a 90+ year old – who matters to you most at the moment?
What challenges, difficulties and hardships have you overcome or are in the process of overcoming and how did you do it?
What causes do you identify with the most and want to make a difference to?
If you could get a message across to a large group of people – who would the people be and what would your message be?
5. Write a list of your current resources
Consider your current resources and abilities and write a list of all the tools that could help you to live a life of purpose. Once you have this list, consider how you could use your current resources to serve, help and contribute. Make some notes next to each tool, ability or resource that you listed and make notes about how each one could be used to do in order to live your life of purpose.
6. Write your personal mission statement
Consider what you want to do, what you want to change or help and what result you want. Put it into a sentence. Too hard? Need more inspiration for this one? Go here.
7. Start today!
Don’t leave it up to chance or wait for the perfect moment to start living your life of purpose – once you figure out what your purpose in life is (by completing the above exercises), start living your life of purpose today! Be intentional with the decisions you make. If you start taking action now you’ll slowly build more confidence in working towards your purpose and soon you’ll be achieving things and be living a strong, purposeful life.
Highly recommended reading:
Today – Saturday, 8 March 2014 – we celebrate International’s Women’s Day!
This year’s theme – Inspiring Change – is directly aligned with the work we do at Happiness Weekly and so we are writing a special blog to celebrate. The theme “calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change,” the website says.
Our next challenge was figuring out what to blog to link Inspiring Change to International Women’s Day. We could talk about celebrity women – such as Oprah – who inspire change, or discuss how women in politics and positions of power have inspired changed, point out some great female ambassadors who are doing great things…
After long thought we decided instead to create a song list to help empower women to make the changes they seek. Groupies and love song dedications aside, below is Happiness Weekly’s empowering song-list to celebrate women:
Independent Woman – Destiny’s Child
So Beautiful – Superchick
Sisters are doing it for themselves – Eurythmics
I refuse to be lonely – Phyllis Hyman
Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
Woman’s World – Cher
Girl On Fire – Alicia Keys
I am woman – Helen Reddy
Man I feel like a woman – Shania Twain
I’m every woman – Whitney Houston
Run the world (Girls) – Beyonce
I Am Woman – Jordin Sparks
This One’s For The Girls – Martina McBride
Born This Way- Lady Gaga
Just a girl – No Doubt
You Gotta Be – Des’ree
Women of Intention – Deap Vally
A Woman’s Worth – Alicia Keys
I am beautiful – Candice Glover
Some girls – Madonna
Mrs Robinson – Simon and Garfunkel
Go Girl – Ciara
Lady Marmalade – Christina Aguilera
I’m a woman – Peggy Lee
Who says – Selena Gomez
Womanizer – Britney Spears
If I were your woman – Gladys Knight & the Pips
Only girl in the world – Rihanna
Your woman – White Town
My girl – Temptations
Brave – Sara Bareillies
The greatest love of all – Whitney Houston
Girls just want to have fun – Cindy Lauper
Foxy Lady – Jimi Hendrix
Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Video – Indie Arie
Big girls don’t cry – Fergie
Feeling Good – Jennifer Hudson
Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Proud – Heather Small
Good fences make good neighbours. Robert Frost
Every healthy relationship needs boundaries, which is difficult for many of us to accept particularly when we care so much for the happiness and wellbeing of others. It’s easy to let boundaries lapse when we like someone, but it’s important to respect yourself and the other person enough that you don’t because boundaries are essential to healthy relationships.
If you have a hard time standing up for yourself, or agree to do things you don’t want to do, tolerate rude comments or pushy people … this blog is for you! This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can set boundaries to attract healthier, more positive relationships into your life.
What are personal boundaries?
According to Darlene Lancer from PsychCentral boundaries are rules and principles you live by when you say what you will or won’t do or allow. There are various types of boundaries including material, physical, mental, emotional, sexual and spiritual. Setting a boundary is all about self-preservation.
According to Wikipedia, personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what is reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. They are built on a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.
Happiness through Humanism says a boundary is a definite place where your responsibility ends and another person’s begins. It stops you from doing things for others that they should do for themselves. It also prevents you from rescuing someone from the consequences of their destructive behaviour that they need to experience in order to grow.
Knowing your boundaries
Knowing your boundaries is really about self-awareness. You need to be able to define your likes and dislikes and set distances to allow others to approach. Consider what you can tolerate and accept, and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed – based on your beliefs, emotions, intuitions, self-esteem and social learnings – within the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual realms.
While working out your boundaries, pay particular attention to any situations where you lose energy, feel a knot in your stomach, want to cry or feel panic or frustration. If you start feeling discomfort or resentment in a situation, it’s generally because someone is encroaching on your boundaries – this blog post is designed to help you stop ignoring your needs and start respecting yourself.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
How to set healthy boundaries
1. Change your perspective about what a boundary is
If you’re new to setting boundaries, don’t think of it as something you are doing that will cause you to lose friends or respect from others – because it will actually do the opposite. When we have boundaries in place, we start to filter out the bad and enable only the good, positive energies into our lives.
2. Be direct in what your boundaries are
If someone is crossing a boundary, which generally your intuition will say there’s something not right with the situation, use it as your opportunity to clearly tell them what your boundaries are. Be assertive and in the most respectful way, tell them what is particularly bothersome to you and how you can work together to address it. The clearer you are with someone about your boundaries, the more they will respect them.
3. Be honest with yourself
Being honest with yourself about your boundaries and not making excuses for your feelings of fear, guilt and self-doubt is very important because when we start questioning our feelings we impact the power we have behind the boundary. Boundaries not only impact relationships in a healthy way, they are also a sign of self-respect so it’s really important that we preserve them as best we can.
4. What do your values say
Consider the way you were raised and your values and beliefs when setting solid boundaries. This is where you put learning from previous mistakes into practise. Use this as an opportunity to really get to know yourself and what you like and dislike. Are the relationships in your life healthy and reciprocal is there give and take? Really look at your values when setting your boundaries and make sure they align.
5. Put time and effort into self-care
Have you been self-nurturing lately? This is important because it gives you permission to put yourself first. Self-care gives you perspective and enables you to be more present with others and be there for them.
6. Get a boundary buddy
If you’re having difficulty setting boundaries, get yourself a boundary buddy – someone who is either really good at setting boundaries, who you admire or someone who also needs assistance with their boundary-setting and you can lean on each other for support.
7. Monitor your boundaries
Step back and continually monitor your boundaries. See how they are serving you and others. Are they too rigid or too flexible? Ensure you are getting something out of them and the people around you are respecting them. It’s important to be flexible enough that you can change them, but not so flexible that they get overlooked and feel insignificant.
8. Clearly communicate your boundaries
Once you’ve set your boundaries, it’s really important that you clearly communicate them to people, particularly if they are impinging on them. It may be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation to have but don’t be a doormat because the consequences are much greater than five minutes of awkward conversation. Say “When you …” “I feel…” “Can you please do … instead.” For example “When you yell at me, I feel intimidated, could you please talk calmly with me instead?”
9. Reward your friends
If you have friends who are supporting you and respecting your personal boundaries, make sure you reward them and acknowledge them. Acknowledgement can be by telling them that you appreciate their support and friendship, or it could be taking them out for a drink – it’s entirely up to you.
10. Let go
Learn to let go of anything that no longer serves you. According to the Sanctuary for the Abused, toxic people will use guilt to keep you enslaved and bludgeon you back into place if you begin to detach or upset their status quo. Resist this by learning to recognise the guilt trip and letting go of the people trying to control you and hold you back.
Before dropping a boundary
If you are tempted to drop a boundary, you are looking directly at a red flag. Ask yourself what has changed for you in order to drop the boundary. Consider what you or the other person are doing in order to make you want to forget this boundary. Focus on what the situation is really about at the current time and also what implications dropping this boundary may have on you. Consider some other alternatives to what you can do about the situation and how you can maintain your control and preserve your boundary – don’t forget, they’re there for a reason and self-preservation is essential to our happiness and wellbeing.
In protecting the boundary it is again up to you to clearly communicate what you want with the person. You could do this by following this format: “If you …” “I will…” “And if it continues…” For example, “If you continue to yell at me, I will switch off from you completely, and if that continues you won’t be able to communicate with me any further at all”.
Not sure where you stand with boundaries?
Take this quick online test provided by Psychologies Magazine – it reveals the hard truths behind where you’re up to with setting boundaries and gives some tips on the next steps to take from here.
– 7 ways to protect your energy and enforce healthy boundaries by Dr Susan Biali, M.D.
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