One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable. I know it sounds strange, but I believe that understanding the connection between boundaries, accountability, acceptance, and compassion has made me a kinder person…
During the interviews [I did as part of my research], it blew my mind when I realized that many of the truly committed compassion practitioners were also the most boundary-conscious people in the study. Compassionate people are boundaried people. I was stunned.
-Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection
In my last post, I wrote about being compassionately selfish, and how it is a totally necessary component of having full and nourishing life.
I spent some time thinking about what I’d written, and realized that what I was actually talking about in some ways was taking my power back.
Power is another loaded word. we “fight the power”.
We “speak truth to power”.
People in power are the enemy because they hold the rest of us back. There’s a definite ‘power’ stigma happening.
Noticing how much of my power I give away in everyday life is quite astonishing.
I want to be compassionate, I want to help people who ask me for help, or to talk, or are even just around. I genuinely enjoy having the “well, why do you think you do that” types of conversations that many of my friends have come to rely on me for (leading, somewhat unfortunately, to have a few remark “why should I go to a therapist when I can just talk to you!”)
Even my path forward has been hindered by ‘what if it’s not the right choice’, I give my power away to uncertainty.
No, let’s try that sentence again.
I have hindered my path forward by allowing ‘what if it’s not the right choice’ to rule. I give my power away to uncertainty.
It’s no wonder that sometimes I feel really stuck and like I have to wait for some external force to pull me forward!
It’s time to take the time to shore it up and put some appropriate boundary walls around.
Set better boundaries.
Boundaries that allow and encourage me to be more of my full self.
Here’s where fear and resistance shows up. The fear says “People rely on you to be available to them. This is what friendship is. If you say ‘no’, then you will be alone and you’ll just sit in your house and talk to yourself all day.” The fear says “This is just shutting people out”. The fear says “You’ll never be able to stick to it, you need someone else to make you do stuff”. The fear says “You’re being ridiculous, just stay as you are.” The fear says “You’re talking about control, and everyone knows that nobody actually has any control over their lives.”
“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.”
― Carl Sagan
What if “intuition” and “common sense” are other words for fear? What if the less automatic choice is the more loving one?
And what’s wrong with being selfish? We answered that already. It’s essential.
One day at a time.
- Also essential reading on this topic: Megan Elizabeth Morris’ “Nothing Motivation“