Boundaries – part of the Borders, Boundaries and Barriers Series – by Chris Yeomans

This week, we begin a new series of posts on the theme of Borders, Boundaries, and Barriers. Our first post is by Chris Yeomans who writes about the dilemma of knowing when it is good to set boundaries and look to our own needs.

When I saw the headline in a Sunday supplement ‘Ten Ways to Improve Your Life’, I immediately turned to the article. I’m always up for ways of making things better.

The central advice seemed to be to learn to say no, or, as the author put it, to ‘focus on your non-negotiables.’

It sounds so easy. Ring-fence what is important to you and don’t allow others’ demands to impinge on those things. But the reality is that I struggle with this. I struggle to work out exactly what is important to me and whether it is worth making a fuss about. Is it more important to finish something I’m doing, or to go and help my husband sort out his computer muddles? Would it be good to cook something I like for dinner, even while knowing that other members of the family like it less?

Of course, what eventually happens is the build-up of resentment, which results in irritability or bad temper. It is all too easy to think ‘What’s good to do here?’ but to ignore the fact that meeting my own needs might be just as good to do as meeting the needs of other people.

Then there is “Do the next thing’ or ‘Do the work that comes to you.’ And this encouragement seems so often to be calling upon me to be endlessly unselfish and compassionate and to set my own needs and wishes aside. Because when I look at them closely, often what I want doesn’t really seem to matter that much. It doesn’t much matter what I eat, if my television programme is turned off or if I am interrupted in a task. In the big picture, none of it is really that important. Or is it?

So then we come to boundaries. I’m not sure that I’m terribly good at keeping my boundaries. I try so hard to be accepting, to be tolerant, to work on my ‘opinions’, to try not to have expectations. These are all good to do, of course. These are all fundamental to our practice.

But sometimes, perhaps I could reflect that, in order to be able to keep on giving out and doing things for others, I need occasionally to do things for myself. To feed my soul maybe. To give myself the strength to keep on keeping on. “Always going on beyond…’


3 Replies to “Boundaries – part of the Borders, Boundaries and Barriers Series – by Chris Yeomans”

  1. Chris – your blog certainly struck a chord with me. I find that boundaries, and where the line really is, are very subtle. In my willingness to “help”, I often cross that line, and that ultimately helps no one. I have to listen very carefully to what is “good”. By doing this, I often see hitherto unlocked solutions to problems that are good for all concerned. As you say, always “going on beyond “. Nice one, Chris.
  2. We often believe compassion means being compassionate towards others, but it has to include both self and other hasn’t it. Relatable struggle Chis.
  3. Hi Chris, I too struggle sometimes with the balance of doing the ‘right’ thing for others. Reflecting back to my working days both as a nurse and then a psychotherapist/group worker I often overworked and didn’t consider my own welfare. This was encouraged by my managers who needed to meet what was expected of them. I’m improving in my elder years, but need to be diligent to keep a balance. Thank you for your honest reminder which is helpful to ‘keep on keeping on’.

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