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“
[…] I don’t have to live up to others expectations of what my life should be. I don’t have to give away my power to whatever I’m “supposed” to be doing. I can be a feminist and also enjoy checking out […]
Thanks for this post Jeremy. I’ve been struggling with a slightly different version of “what if it’s not the right choice,” and that’s the more forward looking “what is the right choice going to be?” Basically instead of fretting over what is or what was, I’ve been stressing about what *could* be. I’ve been working on letting go and dealing with things in the moment and stressing less about hypothetical choices I may or may not even have to make.
It took me some time to understand what exactly “my power” was. I had to learn that “my power” was not “power over others” or “power to force something” but an incredible depth-defying power to understand myself and my world, and to make my own decisions about everything. I became the final authority, and once I integrated that (and I only *think* I may have integrated it at this point, so who knows where I’m really at) — it seems to have changed everything. So little anxiety compared to before. Even discomfort is not as uncomfortable as it was before. It’s a very strange and wonderful feeling.
In my experience, fear sometimes masquerades as “common sense” or “intuition,” and my litmus test is whether I can find something deeper, something hidden behind the “common sense” or “intuition.” If I dig deeper, and I find something *else,* it was not really common sense or intuition. If I dig deeper, and I find the same truth from a different angle, it seems to ground me, it seems to put down roots. It’s either deep-seated, or something is hiding behind it.
I love your sentence reframes! <3
Thank you for helping to clarify what i meant in my original post. MEM.