When we think about creating good boundaries, most of us have an idea that “strong” boundaries are fixed boundaries – this idea is woven into the mainstream culture, a sense that who we are is mostly static and so things that we like stay that way, things that we don’t like stay that way. Once a vegetarian, always a vegetarian. Once a Republican, always a Republican. Once committed to something, it is seen as a virtue to carry it through to the end, no matter what. But this type of boundary can become stale and flat over time, a rote answer to life instead of a fluid, flexible, living relationship with who we are, what life means to us, where we fit in the world in a given moment.
Intuition, on the other hand, is a completely un-fixed sense. It moves entirely with the moment, without any preconceived notion of how things ‘should’ be. Maybe this is why so many people are afraid of it, as it does challenge the boundaries of who we think we are and it does not follow a rote, prescribed path. Many times we can’t access our intuition because we can’t let ourselves out of the box of the idealized Self, where we’re always a ‘good person’ and have to say nice things and be polite, for example, or where we’ll just keep pushing ourselves to do more until collapse.
Most of us regularly bypass our intuition due to outer pressure (it’s easier to give in and tow the line than be myself), convenience (it’s often much easier to stay in a dysfunctional pattern than change it), or fear (of being ourselves and standing out). To start to come out of this trap, first its important to start to track – when do I feel pressured or fearful in my life? Are there certain groups of people who trigger this is me, or certain topics where I just feel I can’t share myself because I’ll stand out as too strange/too unique? Start to notice how the pressure feels. Do I contract my shoulders, do I quiet my voice, do I withdraw deep within myself? Do I just give up and feel hopeless? Do I decide other people are a bunch of idiots, not worth my precious time? Mapping these responses is the first step to choosing another path.
The happy no.
What if saying ‘no’ or disagreeing with someone didn’t have to lead to contracting inside of yourself? What if sharing your perspectives and differences could become a celebration of uniqueness and individuality? For many of us, the experience of having different views or different needs than others has been difficult, scary, confrontational, unsafe, not fun. We may desire to avoid disagreeing, standing up for ourselves, or saying no altogether because of the fear of the fallout from exposing our true feelings.
We are in a climate right now in the world where these kinds of fallouts and confrontations over differing perspectives are wildly inflamed. In many ways we are collectively losing the consciousness that contrast and individuation is part of the unity frequency. “We are One.” Does not mean “we are the same.” To make a change in our own lives towards greater authenticity, we first have to align with our true self and believe in our own perspective as equally valid to any other perspective in a given moment.
When we do align with ourselves, believe in our perspective, and give ourselves permission to set boundaries based on our authentic needs in the moment, the chance of confrontation and fallout actually reduces. If we aren’t contracted, nervous, or conflicted about who we are, then usually it is much easier to present our perspective well, to come across without defensiveness. This kind of clarity of perspective and ease of presentation creates safety for us even if the other person reacts negatively to what we’re saying. We remain safe because of the self-assurance that’s present in our system.
On the other hand if we lose our individuation, if we drop our perspective because it’s too inconvenient, if we try to control ourselves into conformity with what another wants or needs from us, we are really in trouble. Think of nature and its diversity – what would nature be like if there were only a small number of species? The vast biodiversity of nature is what gives nature her brilliance and enchantment, and I believe that is true of humanity as well. When we lose uniqueness, we lose beauty, we lose purpose, and we lose love.
To paraphrase the I Ching, the capacity to hold inner truth and perspective has four important components:
- To possess inner truth you must know yourself. Then, you can trust your instincts in any situation.
- To possess inner truth means that you have personal integrity, a stable center, and a core of beliefs and principles to which you remain true. If you lack these things, your life will be shallow and unfulfilling.
- Inner truth means inner confidence. To possess inner truth you must have faith in yourself. If you are conflicted and uncertain, this will be reflected in your behavior and people will lose confidence in you.
- To possess inner truth means to be honest with yourself. You cannot be true to others if you are not true and honest with yourself.
(The Laws of Change, Balkin, 2002, p. 580)
With all of this in mind, I hope that despite outer pressure, you’ll take the time to pause and feel into a decision or a boundary before going forward with your typical, knee-jerk reaction. The knee-jerk reaction, though different for each of us, will usually come from the idealized self image – a fixed idea that I must be the good one, the conformist, the one who can’t rock the boat, the nice one, or perhaps the one who must hold power and not show weakness, etc. Staying in this idealized self image will only perpetuate the suffering of not being truly aligned with yourself. As you pause and give yourself permission to feel what you really feel, you may start to notice a different answer or different option to the challenge at hand.
If you can in a given moment let go of the person you’ve been groomed or pressured to be or think you should be, instead stepping into who you really are, this is where quantum leaps of growth can happen and a new, more authentic self can be birthed from. And a more authentic world will follow.