Everyone is busy: we are busy as artists, mothers, workshop facilitators, writers, wives, friends, and as multiple other roles. Consequently, it becomes very easy for us to occasionally give up the very thing that can keep us safe and sane—our boundaries. Boundaries are the limits we set for others, and ourselves in order to maintain our comfort, our safety and our dignity. I know that when I am tired I often say yes to people when intuitively I know that I should be saying no. We establish our boundaries by paying attention to our feelings. We respect our boundaries when we have the courage to speak or take action when our boundaries are transgressed. Sometimes letting it go when someone overuses your time or talents is OK and sometimes by not speaking up, you are violating your own need for respect, safety and space. You can tell if someone has crossed your boundaries by having physical symptoms such as headaches, stress, exhaustion or a churning stomach. You may feel fear, anxiety, anger, resentment, embarrassment or numbness.
Take this short test to see where you stand with your boundaries:
Are You Clear About Your Boundaries?
Place true or false in front of each statement:
____ I often feel angry but never know why.
____ I often feel other people take advantage of me.
____ I find it easier to feel other people’s pain than my own.
____ I often pretend to agree with people when I really don’t.
____ I am likely to change my plans to suit others.
____ I find it difficult to say no, particularly to my parents or children.
____ I often blame myself when things are not going well in a relationship.
____ I often feel responsible for the actions of others.
____ I find it easier to give support to others than to receive support.
____ I often wish the phone wouldn’t ring and people would leave me alone.
If you answered true to most of the above perhaps you need to clarify your personal boundaries.
How often do you say yes when you want to shout no? Do you say yes because you will feel guilty if you don’t? Saying no in an assertive, non-aggressive manner can be difficult sometimes.
Take a few minutes to do this art exercise. Get comfortable and relaxed and have a piece of paper and some coloring tools next to you. Do some deep breathing. Visualize the last time you felt pressured into doing something. Ask yourself, is this a reasonable request? Check your body. Are you breathing shallowly? Are you perspiring? Do you feel trapped, pushed into a corner? Is this a violation of your boundaries? Now, visualize yourself having the physical space, the mental space, and the emotional space that you need with this person to respond to their request. Now, see if yes is the right response or if you need to say no.
It few minutes and paint or draw the image of what it looked like when you visualized yourself taking the space you needed with this person and her/his request. Did this exercise help you get clearer about your boundaries? Healthy boundaries help protect our energy so we can be creative in the studio and our lives.
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