If you can’t find a nurturing, reliable, respectful role model when it comes to setting healthy, loving, safe and clear BOUNDARIES … become one.
Now I apolgoise in advance if you are looking for a quickie. This topic is longer than usual for I have shared a mini Emotional Fitness workshop model on self-preservation when it comes to PERSONAL BOUNDARIES.
So if you’re in a rush, perhaps skip this one and return when you’ve got five minutes to put your feet up, perhaps have a cuppa and a relaxed read.
I kick off with a little everyday interaction with a very young “Gen Y” sales assistant ….
“Ok honey, just let me see if I have it in your size” said the sales assistant, who looked no older than perhaps 17. For me she had crossed the line. It wasn’t just the “honey” comment; it was the whole tone of condescension that was not ok with me.
I touched her gently on the forearm to get her attention. She turned to look at me and when she made pupil contact I spoke gently, respectfully and clearly.
“I need to explain to you that you are about to lose a sale.” I paused as she exhaled and looked at me with genuine curiosity.
“I was going to say nothing and just leave and then it occurred to me that you may not be aware of what you are doing.” I smiled warmly, as I could see she was starting to show concern on her face. She remained silent.
“When you are serving a woman who is considerably older than you, like me, I am over 50, and you call me Honey, Sweetie, Lovey, Darling or Babe, 80% of the time you will lose the sale. It is disrespectful and condescending. It is an intimate term that a lover might use, close friends could say to each other, or perhaps how an adult might address a child. But in the workplace, it is not professional from a young woman to an older one.” I explained with genuine compassion because I could see from what I had said she had no idea.
“Oh my God, thank you, I had wondered why old women would sometimes storm out without explanation; I thought maybe I had bad breath or something. Oh, my God, Oh my God.” She put her hands over her mouth as the penny dropped.
“I am so sorry, Madame”. I could see she was having an awakening.
I had to let the old woman comment go to the keeper. To her I am not middle-aged, I am old. Very old. She is much younger than females my sons would now date.
“There is no need for the Madame either, you don’t know me, so you don’t have to find a tag for me at all, I just need the right size now,” I reassured her, as she seemed awkward and flustered.
Now I get to some of you I might just sound like a pain in the arse. Sure there are older women that don’t give a rat’s arse if a younger person calls them darling. That’s fine. I do. And to each their own. Our personal BOUNDARIES are an individuated emotional palate and will never exactly replicate another’s, nor do they have to.
Calm assertion is the best way to deliver the news when someone we know or don’t know has crossed a personal BOUNDARY. To be able to speak up with respect for ourselves and the other party for the things we will and won’t stand for as a mature adult is how we preserve our self-respect. Mastering the art of maintaining my personal BOUNDARIES has taken me years of practice. I don’t get it right every time, however, when I do, my self-respect grows. It is a wonderful thing for an older chook who no longer chooses to be called “a chick”, like me.
People often ask me in Emotional Fitness workshops …
“What do you really mean when you talk about personal BOUNDARIES”? I always respond with this little story that seems to explain them in a non-clinical, but everyday sort of way.
I have come to understand PERSONAL BOUNDARIES to be like landmarks on the estate that surrounds the exquisite palace of our heart’s inner world. They clearly outline where our responsibility and morality finishes and other people’s begins.
Once I began to construct them (back in 1995 when my emotional recovery began) they then commenced to provide a framework that now preserves my emotional energy, quality of life, sense of self-respect and privacy.
Without individuated personal BOUNDARIES other people are able to come and party on our heart’s emotional estate, destroy what we have taken time and care in growing, and leave their emotional trash for us to deal with. So it is important to remember it is our responsibility to create, and then preserve, our own BOUNDARIES.
So if you need an overhaul in this area, where do you start?
This exercise I have been told in my workshops is a helpful one. Think of three people in your life that you have trouble holding your personal Boundaries with. For example, the people that when you say yes or no to you often change your mind and eventually give into them. These are the people with whom you cannot hold true to your own word and what you honestly want to do at a heart level. In a nutshell, you give your power away. Write them down or make a note of them in your mind, if you have time now.
Person 1 ………………………………………………
Person 2 ………………………………………………
I have found that with different people we often need different styles personal BOUNDARIES. I always explain this concept with these three visuals as a starting point. This model has worked for me personally as emotional visuals over the years and enabled me to preserve the quality of my own heart’s garden and its whole estate.
So picture these three types of PERSONAL BOUNDARIES as new options in your life as of today.
1. A low row of frilly petunias of all colours if you wish (I actually love just white for my visual). This row of delicate but gorgeous flowers anyone can step over, even a child, and enter the heart of your private inner world with ease.
2. A waist-height hedge that allows others to see into the property of your heart’s estate, but not enter without coming to the gate and respectfully requesting access.
3. A very high, ivy and moss-covered wall that surrounds the palace of your inner world. Nobody can see over this wall, or climb it, as it has sensitive security alarms installed within it. To gain entry, others must come to the solid, wooden, locked door and talk into the intercom to ask permission to enter.
Petunia personal BOUNDARIES are only for gentle and respectful souls in your life, and this type of BOUNDARY will work beautifully with them. These types of people are usually quite intimate with us and can be trusted. They are the ones in our lives that encourage us to care for our own personal BOUNDARIES and would assist us in maintaining them if we were ever suffering from heart fatigue. As non-invasive adult personalities they generally have a good quality of intimate relationships with others themselves.
Why do you even need a BOUNDARY with them you may ask? Well because they are human and at times might need a subtle reminder.
Petunia People make requests in relationships, not demands. If we can’t meet their requests they are understanding and supportive as we are of them. It is a true partnership of loyalty, love and respect, a two-way street of give and take. These are often what I call primary heart relationships. If you are having trouble thinking of who your Petunia People might be, ask yourself this question.
Who would you allow to lay next to you on your bed, in your bedroom, and read a book or just chat with you? Those people you feel absolutely comfortable with in your PJs, without brushed teeth and tamed hair? These are your Petunia People.
Hedge People are not as intimately close to us, but are still consistently involved in our lives. These secondary relationships may include ex-partners who are parents of our children, colleagues, friends and social acquaintances. We don’t allow these people the same level of easy access into the emotional bedrooms of our private inner worlds. Hedge People must use the gate to enter our worlds, which involves making a time to see us, and understanding that some areas of our emotional lives such as our heart’s private bedroom are not available options for them to have access to.
To help establish who your secondary-relationship Hedge People are, think of those that you would prefer knocked before entering your home. Those that would be welcome as long as they didn’t get food out of the refrigerator or go and lay on your bed without asking.
For me a consistent Hedge Person has been my ex-husband, who is the father to my two sons. Over the years when my boys were younger I have memories of him standing at my gate, where I did have a hedge growing at the time when we had first separated. He is a landscape gardener and so while he was waiting to pick up the boys, if I was caught on the phone or the boys were taking their time to get their gear together, he would get tools from the back of his ute and clip my hedge. This is what inspired me to use this term. He was always respectful, as he knew he no longer had petunia access in my life, so he never entered my home unless I invited him in. My ex became a Hedge Person once we separated and later divorced, for he still needed to see into my life to continue his relationship with his sons, but needed to make specific times to do that, as I did when he had the boys in his home. It was understood that I did not invite myself over unannounced for a cuppa to his house, as I might a Petunia friend.
Palace Wall People are the last or tertiary boundary people. These personal BOUNDARIES are necessary for those who consistently arrive unannounced at inconvenient and inappropriate times at the emotional doors of our heart. They could be door-to-door salesman on a Sunday morning, or individuals that have shown us disrespect and invaded our sense of safety and privacy in the past. The intercom represents protection for us and for some this may translate in real life as a professional mediator or lawyer. For Palace Wall People clear restrictions about communication access via visits, email, telephone or letters will have to be addressed.
I have needed to construct Palace Wall BOUNDARIES in my life for individuals who could not respect my new recovery BOUNDARIES and complained that they no longer had free access to my private world. Some became very angry and abusive, and even though it saddened me, it was essential to preserve the beautiful new world I was creating for myself. There were times I sat on the other side of the wall and cried as they yelled abuse and criticism into the intercom. They felt betrayed by my change in lifestyle and relationship choices and I often reminded myself of that wonderful line in “The Invitation” that asks …
“Can you bear the accusation of betrayal by another and not betray your own soul”?
The Palace Wall People eventually learnt that the changes in my life were here to stay no matter how much they huffed and puffed and tried to blow my wall down.
Palace Wall People have either not yet earnt the right to access into your life or have abused the privileges that came with being granted either Hedge or Petunia boundary status.
While these are challenging personal BOUNDARIES to install with family and friends, sometimes it is absolutely necessary for emotional survival. History and biology does not buy anyone the right to abuse you, consistently make you wrong and disrespect you. One of the hardest lessons with selecting the Palace Wall boundary is the reality that we can no longer betray ourselves in order to honour those who dishonor us.
After considering the three people you selected at the beginning, now choose what type of personal BOUNDARY you feel is appropriate to install in order to preserve your emotional health and wellbeing within this relationship.
Person 1………………..type of boundary ……………………………
Person 2………………..type of boundary ……………………………
Person 3 ……………….type of boundary …………………………….
If we don’t preserve our heart’s garden with effective personal BOUNDARIES we feel used, invaded, overwhelmed, powerless and become a helpless victim.
People that don’t understand what personal BOUNDARIES are and why they are necessary are of course the ones who cross the line the most. The young sales assistant is a perfect example. She was speaking intimately to me, but also disrespectfully to me as if she was doing me a favour by even taking the time to serve me. I would have betrayed my self-respect had I not spoken up. She thanked me as I left the shop and I will return there again as she was such a lovely young women once we got talking. I hope she now saves the “honey language” for her Petunia People and not to strangers in the workplace.
I truly do believe that self-respect is our ultimate currency, and we cannot build and sustain our heart’s wealth without robust and discerning personal BOUNDARIES.
Mahatma Gandhi reminds us also with his wise words …
“They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.”
Lotsa love Cynthia xxx
© Copyright 2016 Cynthia J. Morton Emotional Fitness™
This Word Vitamin is an excerpt from my latest bookset “The Four Seasons of the Heart”. If you would like to order your own full set of Daily Word Vitamins one for each day of the year, in book form for yourself or as a gift just click on the SHOP tab and place your order.