The gifts of setting healthy boundaries from a recovering people pleaser.
At a time when there’s increased blurriness between home and work, between our own needs and the needs of others, I’d like to send out a reminder about all the benefits of setting healthy, self-compassionate boundaries.
Setting a limit is not just healthy for ourselves it also improves trust and creates a more truthful relationship with others. It creates the space for something new to happen.
I love this Brenée Brown quote which turns on its head the cultural idea we receive about saying no:
“The most compassionate people are the best at boundaries.” Brenée Brown
What Brenée is talking about is that real compassion is giving willingly and lovingly and fully. Not half-heartedly and resentfully and unwillingly. I confess that I have been guilty of this many times (and even now I sometimes only notice afterwards that this is what happened).
What is Compassion?
We tend to think that compassion is saying yes and always looking after the needs of others before our own. When this is our default system, this idea is really unhealthy. At the dinner table as a child were you taught to offer round the last roasted potato to everyone at the table before you were allowed to eat it yourself?
When we try to look after the needs of others without considering our own it can drain us and put strains on our relationships. And when we sacrifice our own well being we are even less able to show up for others. This is my favourite part though. When we say no to something we don’t like, it opens up the space for a new request or experience instead.
A Relationship Transformed
A few years ago I was sitting with my mother in Covent Garden drinking coffee. We don’t see each other very often now she lives far away. As we sat with our drinks she was talking to me about everything that happened in her little Welsh Village since we’d last met. Although I love her, I wasn’t enjoying her talking, it felt like a barrage which I did not want to endure. When I realised this I interrupted and made a new offer – “Mum I’d love us to sit with each other without talking for a moment, would you be open to that?”. My mum is amazing, and immediately agreed. We sat there and in that silence, we really saw each other and something almost mystical happened. The mother-son relationship dissolved and I saw her as a completely independent soul.
I experienced a new appreciation and quality of love for her. She enjoyed it too. When we began speaking again, it had a different, heartfelt quality to it, which was lacking before.
So here’s to setting boundaries and the gifts of saying no. This is a diagram I share with students outlining some of the benefits.
Adam Wilder is Adam Wilder is a trained counsellor and founder of the Togetherness movement. He is a passionate advocate for meaningful human connection, and combines therapeutic training with past experience as a comedian and clown to create rich and playful learning experiences.
In 2019 he created the House of Togetherness pop up in central London and hosted the largest ever mass spoon. Ge gathered 1,447 people spooning to promote touch for wellness at Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire.
Adam is also known for creating Shhh Dating, the world’s first silent speed dating event which helps singles find love through eye gazing and non-verbal flirting games.