We are on our final step in our 3 week series of dealing with conflict and difficult people. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two steps, you can find them here:
And now my favourite, the 2 questions most of us aren’t asking ourselves when creating healthy boundaries needed for our own mental and relational health.
I have discovered in my 20 years of resilience work that a lack of boundaries is the culprit for almost every mental health issue I see. Please note I said, “almost”. The reason I have the boldness to make such a claim is because people affect us deeply.
You’re having a great day and then people happen, right?
We may be born with a genetic story of anxiety or depression, but our environment and the people in it will either blow it out of proportion, or give us good soil to keep it from getting out of control.
Too many of us walk around like victims allowing others to affect us in unhealthy ways. We forget that WE teach others how to treat us. We are not victims. Every relationship in our lives right now are there because we have allowed them to be there, both positive and negative relationships. The exception is children who cannot just leave a family or a classroom that is destructive.
No matter how old we are, relationship ruptures rattle us internally. At times they even shake the very core of who we are inside.
Whether you are a dependant or an adult, it is important for us to determine these two aspects of creating boundaries when we are faced with accusations, bullying, or conflict with others.
Here are the two questions you need to ask yourself.
You’ve just encountered one of the following by a family member, friend, or coworker:
A wrongful accusation
Being blamed for something that you did not do
There are always two sides to a story. The first question you must ask yourself in any of these dealings is, “What’s my part to own here?” You have played a role in the story, what is legitimately yours to own?
Before you answer that question, you need to discover something important that shapes your ability to do this. Your pain determines your perspective. That one incident of being wrongfully accused or bullied by a coworker often is much more than that alone. The natural shake-up we experience with accusations and bullying cause us to question ourselves: our motives, our abilities, and our heart. The present experience often reminds us of every time we have been falsely accused or bullied. And what do most people do when they feel they are constantly being misunderstood and falsely accused? They put a wall of defence. The accuser or bully becomes the “enemy”. I now must protect myself at all costs.
We see the world through the lense of our heart wounds. This means we need to be able to discern through the accusations what is truth and what perception we have adopted that has been distorted by our past painful experiences.
When looking for what part we own in a conflict we often:
- Justify and excuse ourselves
- Wallow and shame ourselves to the point where we don’t empower ourselves.
- Take on the role of a victim
If we choose to be defined by our pain and our defence we won’t be able to see the part we play in our interactions. That would mean giving power to the person we now label as “enemy”. That would mean they are “right”. But owning our part doesn’t mean anyone is right or wrong, it just means we are looking at the part we played. Until our perspective becomes unclouded by looking at how our past experiences have influenced how we see our present conflicts, we will be stuck in a rut.
We must heal our pain in order to create healthy boundaries rather than walls
Remember, your pain is only one aspect of you. It isn’t all of who you are.
When you are experiencing big emotions – only one part of you is experiencing that for a moment – not all of you.
You can own that one part of you instead of taking it on as your identity. Instead of saying:
“I am an angry person.”
“I am anxious.”
“I am oppositional.”
“I am depressed.”
You can say:
“A part of me is feeling (angry, anxious, oppositional, depressed) at the moment. I am brave enough to let that part communicate what this is really trying to tell me.”
How do you feel towards that part of yourself? What’s underneath that feeling? What’s underneath your anger? Opposition? Anxiety? Depression? Emotions tell us a story. Don’t bury the emotion, explore it. Get curious. These hard emotions have good intentions. They are protecting something. What is it trying to protect?
Once you’ve been brave enough to get clear on this and own what is yours you can now ask the second question.
What’s not mine?
Something is always stolen from us in an accusation or bullying experience. Our identity and motives are put on trial. This incredibly painful experience can lie to us about who we are and how much responsibility we are meant to take.
What beliefs, feelings have you taken on as a result of painful experiences with people?
I am a nuisance
I am stupid.
I am not a nice person.
My motives are less than worthy.
I am a fake.
After taking ownership over what you DO own and getting a right perspective, you must now ask,
“What beliefs have you taken on that were never meant to be yours?”
Every time I personally experience a rupture in relationship: whether it be a conflict or someone has overstepped their boundary, it feels like the foundation of who I am gets shaken. The reason is because we give meaning to every experience. The good times, the disappointments, the grief. We pick up things we were never meant to carry from the heart wounds and experiences of others. It’s hard to differentiate, especially when we have a conflict with someone we love and admire.
We find ourselves in toxic friendships or damaging relationships when we don’t know how to let go of what isn’t ours. We think we must be the problem so we adjust ourselves, learn to show up and become what others want until we don’t even know ourselves any longer.
Now we’re resentful.
We’ve then CREATE situations and relationships we’ve want to avoid. We remain in the abusive marriage. The bully at work walks all over us again. We believe every accusation, never learning to respectfully advocate for ourselves.
We can’t move forward until we have figured out what’s ours, make peace with our own story, and then bravely face what isn’t ours and let it go. We often don’t do this because it’s overwhelming. We often want to avoid these painful feelings. We may even numb the feelings with substance.
We need to bravely make statements over ourselves despite what opposition others are creating for us and declare over ourselves:
I am courageous.
I am stronger than I think.
It may feel uncomfortable, but I know if I press through there is freedom for me on the other side.
I can face myself.
I am beloved.
You’ll still feel shame, fear, and all kinds of discomfort while you replace your thoughts. Keep speaking them out loud over yourself anyways.
You teach others how to treat you
You teach others how to treat you by how you treat yourself and walking through these 2 questions:
What part is mine to own?
What part isn’t mine?
I own my part and drop what’s not mine.
When you do this YOU rewrite the story because guess what? YOU get to write the ending. If you haven’t explored your heart wounds, you may end up writing a vindictive ending. Facing your heart wounds and coming into this step with healing and compassion is absolutely crucial. (read that line again)
You can kindly and with clarity ask for what you want or need in a conflict. If it isn’t heard or respected, instead of wallowing, becoming a victim, or yelling at the other person, you calmly and kindly state what you are going to do.
“If you speak to me that way, I will leave the conversation and we will revisit the matter later.”
“If you continue to treat me disrespectfully, I will be asking to change offices.”
We think creating boundaries is telling others what we want them to do. That’s not boundaries, that’s called “control”. Boundaries are explaining to others what YOU are going to do in response to their actions and then following through.
More on this next week. In the meantime, ask yourself:
- What’s mine to own? Are there experiences I’ve faced that are distorting my perspective?
2. What part is not mine to own? What boundaries do I need to put in place to protect my heart and my relationships?
3. What do I need to do to step up and be brave in this?
More on my YouTube Video on this topic.
I want to help
Are you experiencing relational ruptures at your workplace or home? I would love to coach you how to get through the hard stuff, or come and do one of my workplace workshops. My honest strategies get to the root of issues so relationships and environments can thrive. You can reach out to me here.