In a recent GOOP newsletter, an anonymous woman asked the following question: “Why is it important to have personal boundaries and make sure they are not crossed? More importantly, how can we keep them while coming off strong and not strident?”
She pointed out that because we are often expected to be agreeable and amiable, speaking up for oneself can label a woman, in particular, as “difficult.” She said that she has struggled with establishing boundaries, and speaking up for herself.
GOOP founder Gwyneth Paltrow invited four experts to respond to the subject of boundaries and the art of establishing them, as a woman, without coming off as “strong and strident.” Writer and guide Monica Berg, in particular, focuses on the issue of re-establishing what is important to us, instead of what we believe is important to everyone else.
[Women] have a great capacity for compassion and mercy, and as young girls we are brought up to nurture and take care of others. Most of us learn to become excellent multi-taskers. But at some point we get the message—Sadly enough from our own parents or peers—that we need to excel at everything. Academics, career, mind, body & spirit—and we’re expected to keep it all in perfect balance.
She continues on to point out that this pressure to excel at everything creates an impossibility, and, with it a fear of action. She writes that many of us are trapped in prisons created from certain beliefs, such as our fear of disappointing our families, feeling as though we must be perfect all the time or the anxiousness surrounding being labeled as “difficult.”
This unconscious image of perfection is, in fact, at odds with how the human soul actually experiences growth – which is through being free, making mistakes and being able to express itself fully, according to Berg. She points out that once a woman realizes her harmful tendency to focus on what everyone else wants, it’s important to move herself into a new way of thinking about her life. She explains it this way:
It’s important we see how our seeking for approval gets in our own way. Once we become more aware, it’s then important to set a mandate by which we can live, a certain line that we draw, a set of rules to place for ourselves. This means creating a personal credo that speaks to our soul aspect.
Berg lists several values that can replace the drive for perfection, among them believing that we deserve to have good things come our way, as well as the experience of true love and simple happiness in this lifetime. In order to work towards these realities, however, it is necessary to establish boundaries, and grow beyond the fear of appearing strident and into a motivation to establish a new kind of healthy living.
When our core beliefs are clear, we find that we no longer worry about coming off ‘too strong’…In fact, we often become aggressive or act in ways not in our integrity because we react to things and people that we find threatening.
The next step in establishing boundaries, she writes, is to create compassion for ourselves, and dig deep to find what it is that we deserve and need, rather than what everyone expects of us.
If we cannot give & be kind to ourselves, we can never love ourselves enough to believe we deserve to be unconditionally loved, truly heard & treated with human dignity. Putting ourselves first isn’t selfish but a necessary step in our life’s growth. When we have appreciation for ourselves, others will too. Because we teach people how to treat us.
Read more about the steps to establishing boundaries, and why they are so important.
Photo: Bethany Cissel Photography. Used with permission.