Recently I listened to a client who is struggling in her marriage discuss how difficult it is to watch other happily married couples. I understand the feeling. I spent a lot of time in my first marriage wishing I had what others had and comparing myself to them as well as enabling bad behavior by making excuses for him. Then my third child was born with a developmental disability and I used to sit at playgrounds comparing her to them while somewhat insensitively pushing her and her therapists like machines because I became so outcome focused.
What I realized is that when we compare our lives to others and grasp at what isn’t ours, we lose sight of all the good things we do have and this strips our fulfillment. This “less than” focus keeps us from letting go of what boundary maven Dr. Henry Cloud calls ‘necessary endings’ to allow for things to bloom in our lives. A healthy rose bush needs to be pruned for new buds to grow. If not, scraggly stems shoot out in all directions bearing only thorns.
My marriage was intolerable, yet I looked the other way and held on because I couldn’t imagine my life alone. I had blindly affixed ‘purpose’ to rescuing him from himself to save myself from the false anticipation of abandonment. I wasn’t strong and covered that up by being overly direct, detached, an overachiever and guarded.
My daughter was struggling to talk and I spent more time on that than noticing how beautiful she was and how hard she was working. All I could see was how disappointed and alone I felt and how I didn’t want her to grow up and feel that way. So, I pushed her toward my metric of what ‘normal’ was or more accurately “perfect’ should be while I pushed everyone else away.
It is impossible to move to a more intimately fulfilling place in life where you accept yourself with all your imperfections without addressing negative influences that need to be pruned out of your life. Creating boundaries is the beginning. A boundary is nothing more than an invisible line between what you will and will not allow.
Boundaries force us out of denial and broaden our perspective to notice opportunities as well as aspects of our lives where we thrive – breathtaking things we can be grateful for such as children, pets, relationships, health, a home, careers, skills, values, character traits and more. Often setting boundaries nudges us forward to necessary endings that are imperative to preserve our soul and enjoy how rewarding the gift of life is.
I told my client the same thing I will tell you. Wherever you are people look forward to being with you so be yourself. Don’t dummy yourself down because of what someone else expects. Be the open person who always has the world by the tail. Be a leader who knows how to anticipate, visualize, plan, execute, fail, measure, relaunch and succeed.
You are not responsible for anyone else’s choices or happiness but your own. You need not rescue, enable, deny or defend anything anyone else chooses to do. Make good choices with strong and deliberate presence. Don’t be afraid to share your authentic personality or your warm, kind, open and welcoming soul. You have power. Draw that boundary. No one else will. You are worth it.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.