STOP! Making New Year’s Resolutions
We’re four days away from the new year. Soon we’ll move out of the old and into the new. Along with the parties and fireworks, this is an opportunity to reflect on life. To look at what is going well and what about ourselves and our situations is not going as we want them too.
Often I think we make a plan for how we’re going to change with the New Year through a list of resolutions. We sit down with paper and pen to jot down all the things we want to change, about ourselves and our life. But is that the best way to achieve our goals? Honestly that never worked for me.
To be truthful, I no longer make a list of New Year’s resolutions. For way too many years I set myself up declaring all the things I was going to change about myself, yet did not stick with them long enough to actually achieve the change I wanted. Then I would spend the next eleven and a half months beating myself up for not keeping the resolutions I made.
I learned it is super productive and also a real boost to our self-esteem when we narrow our focus. So this year join me in breaking the habit of making a long list of resolutions. Let’s identify one thing to concentrate on, one thing we can master to the point we make it a consistent part of our new 2018 life-style.
How about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries? I can’t think of a better resolution than that of bringing a higher level of awareness to the hurtful situations and negative behavior we tolerated from ourselves and others in 2017. What better time to begin the magical adventure of creating our best year yet, than learning how to say No to unacceptable behavior?
All successful relationships, whether they are friendships, family interactions, with significant others, or our fellow citizens have one thing in common. They are made up of people who have a clearly defined sense of their own identity. Healthy boundaries originate from our having a good sense of self-worth because we are able to separate our own thoughts and feelings from those of others. We take responsibility for what we think, how we feel, and our behavior. Boundaries protect us from mistreatment in relationships, whether that be ridicule, attempts to control, or abuse.
Personally I can’t think of a better way to embrace the vast possibilities held within each and every day of 2018 than becoming comfortable setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. So let’s begin building our courage, reinforcing our determination, and shoring up our self-esteem.
Let me assure you it is not self-centered to set boundaries. You are not acting selfishly by standing up to unacceptable behavior. In fact the very opposite is true. Saying no to unacceptable behavior brings a higher level of loving awareness to negative, objectionable situations. And, just because you shine light on unacceptable behavior does not mean the person who is treating you badly will change.
We don’t set boundaries to change other people. Yes, it would be great if by our saying no, people woke up to how they are behaving and our boundaries caused them to stop treating us negatively. But chances are that will not happen because you cannot change another person. However, you can stop allowing yourself to be treated in unloving ways. You can absolutely set healthy boundaries by following these four steps.
First, define acceptable behavior. Negative behavior is not love. We learn how to behave from family, friends, peers, and television. But that does not mean the behaviors we were taught or exposed to are acceptable. Hitting, screaming, inappropriate touching, humiliation, rage, dishonesty, recklessness, blame, jealousy, stealing, sexual, physical, or psychological abuse, projection, denial, chaos are not the loving behaviors that create a positive life.
Once we identify unacceptable behavior the second step is to accept that doing nothing is condoning bad treatment. Again some people will treat us as we allow them to. That means a situation will not change unless we change it by changing ourselves. People who have grown accustomed to treating themselves and other poorly will not change unless they truly want to and often not without professional help. To end our being treated badly we must change ourselves by setting a boundary to bring a higher level of awareness to the situation. If we do not say no and set a boundary, we are in essence telling the person who is behaving inappropriately their behavior is okay.
The third step in setting boundaries is to express our feelings calmly and clearly. Now I will stop and say if you are experiencing physical violence or feel the person abusing you is capable of harming you, call the authorities, a battered women’s shelter, etc. Setting boundaries will not work with someone who thinks it is okay to do physical harm. For other situations like betrayal, lying, stealing, etc. it is vital to communicate clearly and without blame (even if the other person is guilty). Remember you will respect yourself when you have communicated respectfully. So remain focused on sharing your boundaries with others in a clear, respectful way.
“When you steal, I feel betrayed, fearful and responsible. Please do not take things that do not belong to you.”
“I feel sad, blamed, and attacked when you speak to me disrespectfully. Please treat me with patience and respect.”
Your goal is to state how someone’s behavior makes you feel and how you desire to be treated differently.
The fourth and final step is to be comfortable with not being popular. You can become an expert at clearly stating your boundaries but unless you stick to the limits you establish you will not be taken seriously. When I quit smoking I continued to tell myself I could only have one cigarette. The boundary I established with myself was to NOT SMOKE EVEN ONE. So I had to overrule the endless rationalizations of my mind that I could have one cigarette. I had to uphold the boundary I set with myself.
The same is true of the boundaries we set with other people. Unless we are willing to follow through with the boundary we set people will feel free to cross those lines whenever they want. When setting boundaries it is vital to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you are not willing to leave someone who is cheating on you, then don’t say it. If you are not willing to stop paying rent, etc. for a drug addicted child, don’t say it.
It’s okay to say no. Remember all healthy relationships have healthy boundaries. Today begin thinking of the boundaries you need to set with others, and with yourself too. It’s a great way to begin 2018.