I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. As always, my self-help reviews are on Christian books/authors. As always, I searched to apply this post to Life.
Last month I read Setting Boundaries for Women by Allison Bottke (due out August 1, 2013). I requested this book because I've heard people talk about how they choose to participate in certain activities based on boundaries they've set for themselves. Previously, I never thought about this because I'd always done whatever I could whenever I could. I would even rearrange my calendar to help if I could, which I did often. And when I couldn't help (asked specifically or not), I'd feel tons of guilt about it. I'd even go out of my way to do things for others. But when others would immediately say they couldn't help or do something without a thought, second look at the calendar or slight switch-a-roo of the calendar, I always wondered why they weren't trying harder.
Eventually, I found myself resenting people for what seemed their lack of effort, while I was doing everything humanly possible. (Yea, sometimes people just weren't helpful or were lazy, but I don't think this was the case with most people.) Many things in my life began to feel one sided. So, while I realized this a few months ago, old habits die hard. But this summer I found myself with many worthy opportunities to volunteer my time for the summer and beyond; however, they often required me to be away from my kids, leaving them home alone often during the week. We just put up a pool, which requires free hours and adult supervision, and they have some things they'd like to do and it seemed very unfair to take away so much time from them. As much as I wanted to help everyone (which I technically could), I felt I just couldn't leave my kids so much. I was going to have to say no to some of the opportunities.
So seeing this book offered for review, I thought I could glean some wisdom on how this boundary thing works. The author uses the acronym SANITY to help you remember the six steps to setting boundaries:
S...stop your own negative behavior
A...assemble a support group
N...nip excuses in the bud
I...implement rules and boundaries
T...trust your instincts
Y...yield everything to God.
Although I read everything through the lens of myself as the one who needs to set AND respect my own boundaries, the author does speak at length about enforcing your boundaries when others push them. She even speaks to abusive relationships and mentions material from her other situation specific books on boundary setting, all of which are currently available. At some point, I will see how saying "no" to something that crosses my boundary affects others, but for now I have to get myself to stick to my boundaries.
So I've already done a few of those steps. I've identified the behaviors that put me in hard places or cause mixed feelings because I should've said "no." I've set some boundaries based on my examination of those behaviors and trusted my instincts in making half of them. Some are bigger and others seem simpler. For example, one of them is limiting my interaction on social media. I feel I spend unnecessary time on FB and messing with my cell phone in general. This is even more so in the summer when I'm not working. So I've given myself a boundary there...not complete cut-off, just way less! It's hard to explain the sense of living this boundary has given me...I have done so many things with family and friends throughout the past month without posting any of it to FB or checking into FB randomly and it felt like I was living in the moment. (Very Thoreau-ish, I know... "I left my social media because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." I am so using this as a fill-in-the-blank statement for my English classes next year.)
A step to help this boundary is that I don't carry my phone every step I take, which means I don't run to it when I hear a text or open up my email when the little red number count comes up. It's been very freeing, which means I was kind of a slave to my technology. Start of the school year will help too because I don't have my phone out throughout the day. This boundary thing can be challenging, but that's why the other step is so important.
I assembled a very small group of friends to support my efforts. This in itself was a boundary setting exercise because I had to really consider a smaller group as opposed to asking a larger selection of friends because I am, was, and/or want to be close to them. I decided anyone I chose had to fall into all of these categories:
Would be truly honest and hold me accountable.
Would speak with patience and caring, yet firmness.
Willing to take the time for me. When hard times or struggles hit, there's nothing like a friend who will do these things for you, even when you aren't sure of what you need.
Please realize this isn't about putting ups walls or being rude. It's simply knowing what you can and can't do and why. It isn't healthy or productive to run around doing everything that is asked of you. There is one other important detail the author makes along these lines. It's not just about saying "no," but also about saying "yes" when you know you should. I had a friend tell me this too. There may be something I'm asked to do and maybe I feel like saying "no," but I know deep inside I should be doing it. Setting boundaries allows you to say "no" to some things in order to say "yes" to the others in which you should be involved. Sounds simple right? Easier said than done.
In the end, I said yes to half of the opportunities laid before me. One of them did take more time away from my kids, but I knew it was something I was supposed to do. Another I said yes to fell through from the other side. And one I said no to, I was able to help in a different way. I feel like I've a good start! I think this book was good, but it may be because it was relevant to me here and now. If the topic interests you, check out Bottke's other books on setting boundaries. They are specific to situations in which you may find yourself.
Anyone feel me on this boundary thing or am I babbling as much as I feel like I am? I think it comes naturally to some people, so they don't even realize they're doing it. It makes sense in my head, honestly!