Setting boundaries

In the last few months, I was brought to a realization that I’ve never been very good at setting boundaries. I like to think of myself as an independent, assertive, confident woman…but there are some situations and people that make all of that go out the window and I give in too easily — to myself, to others, because of fear, because of wanting to be liked or loved or accepted.

And what is the outcome of this? By not setting boundaries for myself and others, I become way too vulnerable, and end up hurt way more than I ever could have imagined. This isn’t to say that being vulnerable isn’t okay, or that giving people a second chance or a third chance isn’t a good approach either — within reason. It’s easy to get into a pattern of letting yourself go along with things that you really aren’t comfortable with, all in the name of wanting to please others, or not wanting to be a burden or to miss out, or lose out on a relationship.

But there comes a time when it’s important to look yourself in the eye and ask, is this what I really want? Is that what I really deserve? Who am I doing this for? Why am I doing this?

And if the answers to those questions make you uncomfortable, you’re not holding yourself accountable, and you aren’t setting the right boundaries. Where to start, you might ask? You start small. You start by saying no to a group happy hour invitation and sticking to your plan of going home or working out or whatever else it is you would actually rather do. Then maybe you acknowledge hurt or confusion a friend’s actions may have caused, but then determine how to discuss it with him or her and get back on track. In a tough situation where you feel pressured to do something, you remember what you’re made of, and you go with your gut, instead of just going along with it.

As humans, we want to be loved and liked and accepted and respected. We want people to be our friends because they want to, not because it’s convenient, or not only when the going gets tough. And others want that from us in return…and I’ve come to realize that in order to respect and love and accept myself, and to get others to perceive me this way, I have to follow through on my end. I have to act in a way that creates respect, I have to stick to my boundaries, and hold myself accountable, or no one else will. I have to be stronger, for me.

In the coming months, setting boundaries and holding myself accountable will be something I focus on — how do you do the same in your daily life?

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27 on 11/11/11

Sugarloaf Hike: thanks Kim for helping me cross of an item for my DC 5th year bucket list AND my 11/11/11 list!

So, it’s finally here: 11/11/11.  I’ve made it a pretty big deal – the birthday piece of course, but also my list of 11 things by 11/11/11. Many of you have been a part of this little two-month experiment, either by sending me recipes, receiving my letters, or taking me to new places. Thank you to each of you — what good is growth and attaining happiness if you can’t do it with others?

And now for the big question — did I actually achieve my 11 things by 11/11/11? Here are the results:

1.   Try 11 new recipes.
I can’t remember all of them, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made more than 11 new things, whether they were recipes or impromptu ingredient mashups. Favorites were an apple crumble and a chicken and tomato crock pot creation.

2.   Give a handwritten note to 11 people.
I believe the number is about eight.

3.   Run at least 11 miles each week.
Some weeks this happened, many I wasn’t even close. I’m running a 10k on Sunday, so I’m feeling back on track.

4.   Write 11 blog posts.
Eh…only banged out five.

5.   Do something nice for 11 people.
I didn’t really do a good job at keeping track of this – but I’d say it happened – all the little things add up.

6.   Do/visit/eat at/try 11 different places, restaurants, or things to do.
Absolutely happened. Can’t even remember them all, but they were all fantastic! Seeing my first TEDX, going to Churchkey, hiked Sugarloaf…and lots of other things.

7.   Reach out to 11 people not expecting to hear from me.
Didn’t do this that well, but did make a few phone calls that were great!

8.   Read 11 books.
Somehow, I thought I would fly through this, but not so much. I read four books. Two of them I read in a day each, the other two I let drag out.

9.   Meet 11 new people.
Hmmm…I suppose this could be true from various meetups and things. I couldn’t name them all, though.

10. Learn 11 new things.
If you count random wikipedia lookups and all the things I read for work on a daily basis, then most definitely yes. But I didn’t learn anything new that was tangible, like knitting or skateboarding. This is probably one of the biggest things I want to work on.

11. Be happy with who I am.

So all in all – it was a fair shot, but nowhere near “successful” if I go by the raw numbers. But the bigger picture here is that #11 seems like it is contingent on the other 10 things, but it isn’t that straightforward. There are so many factors that contribute to our happiness, but as Gretchen Rubin realized for her First Splendid Truth: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

That means there are good days, and bad days. That some things make us really happy, and some only moderately so. There are things that should make us happy, but all we can do is think about the things that make us sad. But to get to happiness, you’re constantly growing, and working toward things that you choose for you. For me, it’s reading more books, and cooking as much as I can, because those things make me feel the most at peace, the most me. It’s avoiding things and people that make me unhappy – not always an easy task, but within our control for the most part.

On 11/11/11, at 27 years old, I know that today isn’t really the deadline for this list and more – it’s just the start of the journey.