So on top of being a recovering perfectionist, I’m also a bit of a recovering people pleaser. I was trained from a young age that the needs of others were more of a priority than my own, and this conditioning made me really good at meeting other peoples needs. After a while, I got so used to this that I didn’t even know how to articulate my own needs. I simply never asked what MY goals or MY aspirations were. They mostly boiled down to keeping people off my back. So I got good grades, got in to good schools, didn’t date any boys and kept my head down.
However, getting older brought with it the need to be clear about what I wanted and needed. But this muscle was sorely weak. As a result, I accumulated lots of bitterness and resentment towards others and felt like I was being “made” to do things a lot, and while this blame felt good temporarily, I finally grew to create my own process of creating boundaries. Saying “No”, firmly and with love. First of myself, then of the other person.
Thankfully motherhood made this a bit easy for me as my priorities had a chance to shift radically. My children can only get as much of me as is available — and I want a lot available to them. And even before then, I can only GIVE to my children once I have given to myself, so creating and managing boundaries is one of my most valuable everyday rituals.
No makes people uncomfortable. This is normal. I often say that the ability to be comfortable with discomfort is the REAL superpower. I’d rather have that than the ability to fly. But everyone doesn’t have a right to your time, energy, resources. These things are limited and you’re entitled to the cream. At our best, we give from the overflow, not from the necessities.
My Pie Metaphor for Creating Boundaries
Stay with me here people.
To protect both the innocent and the guilty, here’s my pie metaphor for how my life used to be. BEFORE:
I wake up early every morning. Already exhausted and bitter from how things went the day before. I check my wallet. A few dollars, but not enough for all the things I really want. Sigh.
I dress, go to the store and as usual, buy all the ingredients for my pie. Now, I don’t skimp, even though I’m a bit broke. Fresh fruit, premium butter, sugar, flour, the works.
I come home, unpack and get ready to cook…but wait…I have to first wash the dishes from the night before when I had people over for pie. The dishes are piled high in the sink. I do this, thinking of how pious and dedicated I must look to them. Wondering how long it will be until I earn my saint status next to Mother Teresa. But this is only half the time. The other half I’m bitterly cursing these mofos out in my head. Ahem.
Dishes washed, I make hella pies. Several different varieties, lattice crust, just the works. Yummy, fantastic, delicious. In fact, I’m so busy cooking that I don’t have time to eat any of my pie. So I’m starving. Just when I’m about to eat a slice…the doorbell rings.
Pandemonium as a bunch of people storm my house and start digging in to fresh pie. They’re very happy. Some have even bought friends over. Who I don’t know. “Oh, your pie is so great, I was telling them about it. They can have some, right.” I nod politely, gritting my teeth, thinking of all the people who will be at my funeral singing my praises.
Everyone stays just a little too long, except for when I finally tell them I need to clean up, and they haul ass outta there. But not before they get out the aluminum foil and take pieces home.
I’m exhausted, disgusted and pissed. But what can I do, I ask myself? Where will they go if I don’t feed them? They need me. My sense of self is all wrapped up in my ability to help them.
Here’s how the pie metaphor looks today. Not every day, but I do my best. AFTER:
I wake up early. I’m rested because I went to sleep early the night before. I check my wallet. Hmm. I take half the money out and stick it in a drawer.
I go downstairs and check my fridge. I had groceries delivered yesterday. Just one kind of fruit, but that’s OK. I get a mini pie pan out and I make myself my favorite pie. I put this in the oven first.
I spend my remaining time making just a few pies. I take my pie out when it’s done, put the others in and eat my own with coffee. Hot damn, I can make a real good pie.
Half the pies I put into the fridge to eat later this week.
I check my new “rule” sign before I hang it on the door. It says:
1. I only serve pie once a week.
2. On that day, remember that there is no pie before 10am and after 1pm. If you ring the door, you will be ignored.
2. No guests. If you have been invited, come alone or don’t come at all.
3. If you are invited (and come on the right day, after 10am with no guests), please wash your dish when you are through.
4. You are required to bring either fruit, flour or sugar when you come.
5. NO ALUMINUM FOIL ALLOWED. You eat here or you don’t eat at all.
6. Wash your dish.
7. Failure to comply will result in your access being removed. Permanently.
I gladly open my doors, where my guests file in politely. They leave their donations of pie ingredients and happily eat and wash their dish. Already full, I sit with them, connect with them. These are people I enjoy having over and they belong in the inner circle.
Everyone leaves at the appointed time, and I return to a clean, well stocked kitchen. I’m full, literally and figuratively.
So there’s boundaries with pie. Your boundaries are basically what is OK with you and what is NOT ok with you. And you build trust with people who see, acknowledge and respect those rules. If they cannot, that’s fine. Show them the door with love.
Do I do this perfectly every time, of course not. But I’m no longer content to grin and bear bitterness and resentment. There are some people who I have to patiently re-train, who are harder to keep out with signs on the front door. But that doesn’t mean I don’t work on it.
What can NO stop or save in your life right now?
The Anatomy of Trust by Brene Brown – This great Super Soul Session breaks down the components of trust (hint: respecting boundaries is one of them). Look at why boundary creation is so important from the master of courage and vulnerability.
Power Thought Cards by Louise Hay – Daily affirmation cards with inspirational messages. I love these things as a reminder. I pick one every day to hold on to, and sometimes the same one for weeks and months at a time. “I Trust My Inner Wisdom” is a great one for remembering that YOU MATTER.
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