Say it with me. Healthy. Boundaries.

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The Irish-American actor and writer, Malachy McCourt, once said, “Resentment is taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

I don’t know about you, but damn it all to hell if the other person never dies. Forget about dying, they are actually laughing, living happy lives and wouldn’t think twice about you waiting over in the corner ready to punch someone.

Maybe you resent your husband’s obsessive compulsion to never leave one dish in the sink, leaving you feeling guilty that you didn’t get to them fast enough. Or is it your resentful motherly duties, the driving all over town and staying for hours of kid activities, the task-master you’ve become after you abandoned your own dreams for theirs? Or maybe it’s your daughter duties, that narcissistic dad that expects you to call often, so he doesn’t call you out of spite, or the passive-aggressive mom who expects you to mind-read her silence.

It can happen with your friend duties, as well. Did you offer to throw her a baby shower that cost you time and money that she didn’t even say thank you for? Do you feel used? Are you giving more than you’re getting in return? How about on the job? Does your boss email you at all hours expecting a response? Did you agree to less pay?

If you regret saying yes the second you say it, if you are doing what you’re doing out of being pressured, pushed, shamed or guilt tripping yourself, then you are opening the door for a resentment disaster, which isn’t good for anyone, especially you.

Being resentful steals your ability to be more compassionate. You want to be one of those random-act-of-kindness people, but when poisoned with resentment, you instead find yourself flipping off a tailgating driver or feeling irrationally weighed down by the daily steely-eyed stares of a disapproving herd of mean moms with unreasonable expectations of how much you should volunteer or participate or fully agree with all their herd bullshit, and then shun your kid if you don’t. Utter misery.

Resentment is heavy, and unnecessary. It is a form of self-suffering. The answer, my friends, is boundaries. It’s a struggle for sure. Say it with me. Healthy. Mother. Fucking. Boundaries.

I read something recently by Brene Brown, a writer who researches shame, guilt and vulnerability, that struck a nerve. In her book, Rising Strong, about how to get up after we fall, she writes:

“The most compassionate people I interviewed also have the most well-defined and well-respected boundaries… They assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don’t put up with a lot of crap… Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun and flexible… Compassionate people say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

If you are drinking the resentful poison, before you blame the other person, ask yourself, what are you saying yes to when you really mean no? What are you guilting yourself into? What are you compromising of yourself for approval or because it’s easier than doing the right thing for you?

When you make these kinds of compromises at your own expense, it will turn out bad every time. In work. At home. In friendships. Your resentment of the situation will cause you to behave in uncharacteristic ways. It will make you feel like you aren’t yourself. It will burn bridges.

I spent my entire life walking around with a people-pleasing-gone-wrong flamethrower strapped to my back, ready for the inevitability of leaving black ash remnants of incinerated relationships behind me. When I look back on every one of those controlled burns, I can link each one to me compromising my values, my experience, my preferences, my time, my money, my beliefs in what is right, my emotional pain thresholds. I could justifiably point out the error of the other person’s ways in each case, but the reality is, I am the one that put myself in situations that made me resentful, angry, hurt and disappointed – because I didn’t set boundaries.

Setting boundaries is not selfish. It’s necessary. It does not mean you are an asshole. Barring purposeful, unapologetically mean behavior, not compromising yourself for the sake of something causing you pain or stress or conflict, is called living with integrity.

In her book, Brown explains that “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.” It’s very uncomfortable to draw boundaries, to speak up when they aren’t going to like what you have to say, to be disliked, to not be understood when you know and enforce your own thresholds, and to have to stand alone, an outsider from the pack, because you know it’s the right thing for you.

I had to do exactly that recently when I finally, after five years of compromising my own values and threshholds, eliminated a pack of moms that were ripping my insides to shreds. It’s not necessarily their fault. They were simply not my people. It was my fault. I was trying be one of their people, for the sake of my child. I was trying to foster mom friendships I found to be inauthentic, where I felt used, weighted down with expectation, unable to be myself, where the personal stories and beliefs I divulged in confidence were, in the end, used against me – all simply so my daughter would be invited to parties and included in the social structure.

Try cutting out pieces of your life in order to set healthy boundaries for yourself that ultimately impact your kid and see how it feels. It SUUUUUUCKS! But what are you teaching your child if you don’t?

As incredibly hard as it is, eventually, with some practice, abiding by your healthy boundaries becomes empowering. It begins to work its way into your head and your heart when you have the courage to stand in your own convictions, within your own boundaries, even at the disapproval of others. It becomes rewarding. You begin to draw people to you that respect you for having those boundaries.

When you begin to operate with less resentment, there is more room to be compassionate. When you say no to the things you don’t want to do, there is more room for the things you do want to do. When you become empowered by your courage to stand alone, what other people think of you will become irrelevant.

I’m doing the best I can at being comfortable with the uncomfortable boundaries I’ve learned to set. I’ve learned to recognize that when that feeling of resentfulness rears its poisonous head, it doesn’t mean some bad person is doing me wrong, or that something is wrong with me. It means I am not being true to myself. It allows me the chance to be the compassionate person instead of the angry person. Recognizing the things that cause me to feel resentful has given me an opportunity to react differently, more authentically, less flamethrower-y.

Just today, I got a call from a former employer asking if I want a job making half my regular salary working out of town on my own dime. There was a time I would have felt pressured enough to agree and suffer through it, just to be nice, just to be agreeable, just to maintain the relationship, which would all have left nothing but a smoldering, flattened bridge in the end. Instead, I said a slightly awkward, upbeat, and fully intentional, no.

Living in our own integrity and honoring our own boundaries provides an undeniable strength in self-respect, which is exactly what we want to teach our kids. When you know you are doing the right thing for you, it is easier to remind yourself in the exact moments of being disliked for your boundaries, that everyone in their intentions, motivations and behaviors, even those mean herd moms, your employers, your spouses, and your narcissistic passive-aggressive parents, are doing the best they can, too.

7 thoughts on “Say it with me. Healthy. Boundaries.

  1. Shannon, I felt a tingle, and a ‘yahoo, Shannon’ reading that one simple, two-letter word at the very end of the next to the last paragraph of ‘Say it with me: Healthy. Mother. Fucking. Boundaries.’ I felt in it your strength, and your lesson learned, all in that one-word reply. Now, it is MY turn to learn the lesson well.

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    1. No. Such a simple word, and yet so powerful. I actually like saying it now, because I know it’s good for me and setting a better example for my girl. Own your NO Mary!

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  2. Thank you Shannon! This is just what I needed to hear. I’m being pressured to remain the course in my current situation (job) and “suffer through” for my kids sake. The only career path for me at my current job is to be a tax collector or worse yet an auditor. I have fantastic people I work with but… you know I would rather wield a chainsaw any day than drain someone’s bank account because they got behind. I have always had a hard time with staying true to my path I usually cave to family pressure. I know in my heart the best thing for me and my girls is to move to Sacramento and get a better job with the state, plus I can’t sit idly by will our current administration messes with my Americorps. 😒 I will listen to my brain and continue forward setting some “Healthy Mother Fucking Boundaries!” 😁

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    1. Hang in there Dyana! I hope you get everything you’re after. Healthy boundaries definitely help reduce the clutter and give us energy and confidence to pursue what fulfills us. Xoxo

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      1. Thank you I am doing my best! It was perfect to read this after being around my family today! I always enjoy reading your articles. Thanks

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  3. Another thing: Besides saying “No” to things you don’t want to do, I believe Boundaries are also about what you will NOT allow others to do:
    1. In your house
    2. On your property
    3. In your Car
    4 . or to you, or your belongings.

    Examples: others will NOT:
    A) Smoke in my house
    B) Borrow tools or appliances and either take forever to return them or return them dirty or damaged
    C) Smoke in my car
    D) Eat in my car (other than a cup of coffee)
    E) They will not bring over their Dog when they visit
    F) if they are a passenger in your car, they will not tell you what radio station to listen to, or to shut your favorite music CD off
    G) if we go out to eat, they will not borrow money from me because they “forgot” their card or wallet. (This stuff grows if you allow it).
    H) you will take your shoes off and leave them by the front door rather than track dog-poop or Mud onto my carpet.

    They nsy call you a control freak. But stop and think how much more peaceful your own life will be if they respect your boundaries. And even if they complain or ridicule you, you are within your rights! Who is in charge at *their* house? If they say you won’t have any friends that way, they are simply wrong. And the “friends” who ignore and mock
    Boundaries areb’t worth having.

    Abd don’t let them slam you either bring a “control freak” because everyone us in charge:
    In their house
    On their property
    In their car. This is reasonable.
    #Boundaries #Manipulation #Assertiveness #Relationships

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  4. And 1 more thing, because this is also a way of violating your boundaries. Through so-called “sicknesses” or Ailments. Like: “Misophonia” which I guess is like severe over-reaction and “sensitivity” to sounds/noises.

    Yes, people can get sick. But some things may not be recognized as real medical or psychological conditions, even though they can be described.
    But people can use their ailment to get *you* to make all sorts of accomodations to cow-tow to them, restricting what you can and can’t do, because they are “sensitive” to whatever they might dream up.

    They can simply not be around me. No one is forcing them to be. But you shouldnt be manipulated by the latest fad disease. Or restricted by someone else’s ailment. Being “sensitive” or having an odd sickness is the new way of manipulating others to cave-in to them. And they love it! People cater to them—-and it’s the perfect incentive for them to never get better. And very very often, they don’t. Why should they? Life is “good” and everyone else is doing it their way. Because

    Enough is enough. Get out! Go away and “Go get well!!!” Somewhere else. Their sensitivity is not your restriction.

    #Boundaries #Manipulation #Relationships

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