So many themes have surfaced this year that are directly connected to my favorite topics. Boundaries are one of them.
I’m going to use an example I’ve seen come up time and time again with clients, friends, and family since the pandemic started:
“So-and-so wants to see me, but I’m not comfortable traveling/visiting/seeing this person during COVID…but I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Maybe I’m overreacting…”
Then what follows is hours, days, sometimes weeks of agonizing, questioning themselves, hemming and hawing, and generally making themselves extremely miserable.
I’m about to spit some straight fire truth that will save you a lot of unnecessary suffering.
If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t feel comfortable.
End. Of. Story.
You don’t have to write a dissertation “Why I don’t feel comfortable” and defend it to a committee.
You don’t have to justify how you feel (nor should you).
You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Your boundary is that you don’t feel comfortable.
Some examples of boundary setting in this scenario:
- As much as I would love to see you and give you a big hug (assuming this is actually true – don’t say something you don’t feel), I’m not comfortable having visitors right now in light of the pandemic.
- It breaks my heart to say this…I love our family Christmases but I feel very uncomfortable with where things are right now. We want to respect our health and yours, so we’ll be staying home this year.
- I can’t wait until we can have a real happy hour together in person, but I’m playing it safe right now – it would feel great to have a phone call/FaceTime with you to catch up though!
- We’re not traveling this year out of an abundance of caution.
- I’m not comfortable right now (insert activity/situation) given where things are with the virus.
“Oh but I don’t want them to feel (fill in the emotion: bad, hurt, upset, etc)”
I’ve got another uncomfortable newsflash for you: you aren’t in control of how another person feels or how they respond. That’s their work to do.
More straight fire truth in 3…2…
You are responsible to other people. You are NOT responsible FOR other people.
What does that mean, Jen?
It means it IS your responsibility (whether you choose to accept it or not is another post or twelve) to communicate your boundary to someone else in a respectful way.
And you are NOT responsible for how that person reacts or responds to you setting the boundary.
I’m going to say that again so it sinks in.
You ARE responsible for how you communicate.
You are NOT responsible for how they react or respond.
You setting a boundary may hit on a trigger for them. It’s possible they could react poorly. They could say you’re over-reacting. They could get upset. Those are all possibilities.
If that happens, don’t argue. Don’t defend. Don’t make your case to an invisible jury. There’s no need.
Simply restate the boundary: “This has been a challenging year and I hate that we have to make these kinds of decisions. But my decision is made. Thank you for respecting where I am on this”.
If they continue to push or harangue you (which most people won’t), remove yourself from the conversation.
“I’m not available to discuss this anymore. Let’s talk about something else, or we can reconnect another time”
Yes, it’s going to feel uncomfortable at first – just like anything that’s new for us. The more you do it, the easier it will get. The more you do it, the more you send the message to yourself and others that you value yourself.
Because you are infinitely valuable, just as you are.
Start acting like it.