I looked forward to this yoga class for days. I rarely find myself free on Saturdays from teacher training and work and toddler-duty. But last Saturday, I waltzed into the yoga studio fifteen minutes early. I even remembered my favorite mat, a chilled bottle of water, and a zen state of mind.
To be that calm and that prepared and that early makes me a unicorn, in my book.
The studio was not ready.
The greeter at the door informed me I would need to wait. So, I waited patiently (see: zen state of mind). I felt patient for fourteen minutes and finally turned to ask the front desk, “Is it okay to go in, now?”
“Sure,” the smiling woman said to me. She had a zen state of mind, too.
I strolled in.
Staff members cleaned the floors. One of them looked up at me. “Please wait outside the studio until we’re finished preparing for class.”
“Okay…” I felt a little annoyed.
So, I strolled out.
Class was supposed to start, and I had a firm two-hour window for yoga before I needed to be home and relieve my husband from baby-duty. Late-starting-yoga-class did not fit into my plans.
I waited outside of the studio.
I love this yoga studio, I thought. One reason I love this yoga studio is that they sell all of these cool yoga shirts outside of the studio with slogans like “high vibe tribe.” I thought, what if I had my own cool yoga-shirt fashion business? So I tried to think up slogans for my own fantasy yoga t-shirts. I couldn’t think of any. I decided not to start a yoga t-shirt business.
I decided to try the studio again.
I walked in and class was starting. What?!
I felt annoyed, again, that none of the employees who I’d encountered that day thought to mention that the studio was ready.
I let it go. I loved the sequence and the class, and the instructor. We chatted afterwards.
As I walked out of the studio, a woman approached me. “Please note that going forward, we’ll be enforcing a five-minute rule. You won’t be allowed into class late.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked her. “Do you think I was late to class?”
Why am I being reprimanded?
“Well, you were.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Oh, no. No, I was not.” I felt angry. “I was early, and the studio was late.”
And then, I immediately felt guilty for contradicting this woman with Gods-honest truth and not meekly apologizing for something I didn’t do.
The most interesting aspect of this encounter is that I did not apologize to this woman for being late, but felt angry and stood my ground. And then felt manufactured shame for not apologizing obsequiously.
So, I’d rather not shame myself for standing up for myself. In fact, I find it intolerable and I refuse to do that, anymore.
I think we could all use a tune-up on boundaries. What are they? How do we have boundaries? Why do we need them?
Take the BOUNDARIES Quiz
Check all that apply to you. DO YOU:
- Trust the opinion of others more than your own
- Share a great deal of info to someone you don’t know
- Have difficulty asking for help
- Go along with people/partners to avoid conflict
- Give what you cannot afford (versus, here is 4 drops of energy that I have overflowing)
- Adopt thoughts and feelings of those around you
- Do stuff you don’t want to, like eat/drink stuff you normally wouldn’t
- Expect others to just know your needs
- Avoid activities or places because you are afraid you’ll take on energy that is not yours
- Avoid conversations because you are afraid you’ll take on their beliefs
- Compartmentalize groups
Boundaries are an issue for you if you checked any of the items on the quiz. I know – yikes. I checked many of these items, too. This work is stuff we never finish. Just when we think we’re solid on boundaries, life gets harder and our new challenges test us in unexpected ways.
6 Mantras to Strengthen Your Boundaries.
1. Boundaries are your truth. First, the most common issue we have with boundaries is that we don’t know what they are. Instead of rigid rules that we set out of fear in an attempt to control the outside world, which is futile and exhausting, boundaries are flexible and come from self-knowledge and self-love. Boundaries move and grow as we mature and change.
2. Boundaries are neutral. Do you feel like the bad guy when you disagree with someone’s opinion? Do you feel ashamed when you become angry, like I did? A boundary is completely neutral. One person may respond to your differing opinion with curiosity and another person may find disbelief. Either reaction is a reflection of the other person – not you.
3. Feelings instruct boundaries. Boundaries are a body practice and a heart practice. Meaning, you must be willing to feel your authentic feelings to begin to know what your boundaries are. Take me, for example. I felt angry when chastised for being late when I was early and the studio ran late. That’s authentic. Over time, I’ve learned that the shame that followed (“feeling bad” for telling the woman the truth) is manufactured shame. The feeling is real, as I truly grew up believing that contradicting an authority figure was morally wrong, but it’s not true, as I no longer give anyone authority over me, and telling the truth is never, ever something to feel ashamed of.
4. Intimacy requires boundaries. As yogis, we tend to shy away from boundaries. We see separation as “bad” and feeling connected with everyone all of the time as “good.” While on a soul-level, the feeling of universal connection is true and awe-inspiring, on a physical level, we are actually physically separate bodies, with two sets of lungs, two brains and different heart-centers and histories. Merging into one, known as “enmeshing,” actually prevents real intimacy with our partners, our students and our teachers. If I’m not showing up as my unique self authentically, and instead adopting your beliefs, opinions and direction, I am unable to genuinely connect with you.
5. Boundaries require anger. Anger is the raw material for boundaries. And anger, when allowed to flow healthily, looks like a simple “yes,” or “no.” Does this work yoga mat work for me or is it too thin? Do I want a smoothie bowl for lunch today or would I prefer veggie stir fry? Or, both? Big, loud anger is actually rage. Healthy, flowing anger is our safe container for our psyches, and informs us when someone has crossed the line with us or with someone we love. It indicates our preferences and guides us toward authenticity.
6. Weak boundaries forsake authenticity. If being genuine and living an authentic life is important to you, then boundaries need to be the top priority. Boundaries means knowing who you are, what you’re about and what motivates you. Knowing your truth is knowing your boundaries, and your authentic life requires this of you.
Ultimately, when we practice boundaries, we find that they require work, aren’t always popular, and they make us very strong and capable leaders and doers.
Everyone in our lives benefit from our truth-telling, just like everyone benefits when we learn to communicate our preferences and maintain healthy boundaries. Everyone doesn’t have to like it, but everyone benefits.