How often do you go along for the ride, keep quiet, or commit to something you aren’t sure you want to do just because it is easier?
If your answer is “occasionally”, this is completely okay especially when it is something you don’t totally despise doing or you can see the benefits of going along with it outweighing the suffering.
If however, your answer is “waaaay too often” and you have a pang of dread when you think about how often you don’t stand up for what you want or need, I have the recipe for change…the recipe that allows you to stay true to you.
The recipe involves only three ingredients and one acronym – B.I.G.
Before I dive into the recipe, let me set a scene that will allow us to take the living BIG recipe into action.
Scenario: A house guest — a distant relative, someone you don’t know overly well — has been staying with you and your family for 5 days and has 4 more days left of her time with you at your house. She has been spending 1 1/2 hours getting ready each day in the only bathroom you have. You and each of your 5 family members need to use the bathroom before work etc. and you’ve had to limit your time significantly; sacrificing showers, rushing through your routine, etc. to accommodate your guest’s excessive time spent in the bathroom. You are getting annoyed and feeling resentful towards your guest, yet you haven’t said anything to her directly about how you feel.
The living BIG recipe
B – Boundaries – Simply put, boundaries are WHAT IS OKAY and WHAT IS NOT OKAY. If it is so cut and dry, why is boundary setting so hard?? Well, there are lots of beliefs that get in the way. Some might include…
1) we don’t want the person we are setting them with to feel bad
2) we may have convinced ourselves that saying no or “rocking the boat” gives the message that we don’t care about them
3) we may aim to please or perfect because we don’t think we are good enough. We feel it is necessary to say yes or not make waves because we might just feel like we are good enough if we stay small and compliant – (see my blog about shame for more about this).
However, setting boundaries can reduce feelings of resentment and empower us to stand up and stay true to ourselves more often. Setting boundaries is actually the most compassionate action we can take, both towards ourselves and others. And, boundaries can be successfully set and delivered in this compassionate way when we add the other two ingredients to living BIG.
I – Integrity – I love Brené Brown’s definition of integrity (so much so, I had a cartoon created of myself with the definition, check it out below). Integrity is choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast and easy and choosing to practice our values over simply professing them.
Putting INTEGRITY in action using our house guest scenario can lead to the following internal thought process:
“I really value being honest with people and integrity is a value I want to align myself with too. If I’m going to stay true to my values, I need to say something to my house guest about what is bothering me. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to feel uncomfortable BUT I need to be courageous and speak to her if I want to move forward without feeling resentful. Courage over comfort…courage over comfort…courage over comfort…”
G – Generosity. This is a helpful ingredient to be mindful of when you are approaching someone you need to set boundaries with. If we are generous with ourselves and assume that, for the most part, “people are doing the best that they can”, we can approach difficult situations with people from a place of generosity. This is a topic that I have helped people rumble with (and have rumbled with myself) over several conversations. So, it’s completely normal if you are struggling with the belief that people are doing the best that they can. Something that might help to tack on the end of this statement is… “with the tools that they have”.
Think about it for a moment:
People, in general are doing the best that they can with the tools that they have…
It isn’t about letting the other person ‘off the hook’. It’s more about being able to recognize their limitations and where you might need to set boundaries for yourself.
Let’s look at how putting the GENEROSITY of assuming people are doing the best that they can into action, through the lens of our house guest, can result in having the following thought process:
“The house guest doesn’t have a large family to share her bathroom with where she resides. In fact, she’s an only child who never really had to share much of anything. I need to remind myself that it is possible that she doesn’t have the awareness, without it being pointed out to her, to notice how much she is inconveniencing the rest of us by taking a long time in the bathroom. She may also be overwhelmed with living in a household with 5 others, who she doesn’t really know very well.”
Putting the ingredients into action.
Pulling all of the ingredients together can lead us to take action and set a boundary that comes from a place of integrity and generosity, which can look like this:
“It’s not okay for you to take 1 ½ hours to get ready each morning in our one bathroom and several occupants. I understand that sharing a bathroom with 5 others is new for you and living with us has been an adjustment. That cannot be easy for you. We would greatly appreciate it if you could spend no more than ½ hour in the bathroom and spend the remainder time you need getting ready in the guest bedroom.” – I would leave time and space for her to dialog with you and answer any questions she may have.
The next time you recognize the need to Live BIG ask yourself the following question that helps puts all of the ingredients on the table:
What boundaries do I need to put into place to stay in my integrity and make the most generous assumptions about others’ intentions, behaviours and choices?