This is, by far, the most important thing that enabled me to go from having no boundaries for 50-something years to building healthy boundaries:
I came to care more about what *I* think of me than what other people think of me.
That doesn't mean I don't care at all what others think of me. Of course, I want others' approval. I just make sure I have my own approval first!
Here’s what I mean by that. I used to be so focused on others’ opinions of me, that I didn’t really give much thought to my opinion of myself. I threw my integrity out the window by saying yes to things I didn't want to do because I cared so much about what other people thought of me. That’s called being dishonest. I didn't understand that at the time, however. I see now that I wanted people’s approval and I didn’t want them to think I was a bad person. To me, that meant someone who says “no” or is unhelpful. What I thought at the time was that I was “nice” and that’s why I was so helpful all the time.
Recovery got me to see that my helpfulness was more about appearing helpful than about actually being helpful. It’s not that I didn’t want to be helpful, it’s just that when I really examined my motives, it was the perception of being helpful that was more important.
That means I’d lie and say yes when I wanted to say no. I’d say no to things I really wanted to do, either because I was afraid others would judge me (i.e., I cared more about their opinion of me than my own opinion of me) or I didn’t have time to do things I really wanted because I was over-committed doing things for others. This got me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and with a sense of urgency all the time because I was so involved in a bunch of other people’s lives rather than just my own life. Building healthy boundaries was the most important thing I did to stop my people-pleasing ways.
Once I’d gotten pretty good with boundaries, I realized that to know when and where to set my boundaries was by knowing what was important to me. That is, by getting clear on what my values are. That way, I could set boundaries in such a way that I lived in alignment with my values: I more frequently said yes to things that light me up, which meant it became much easier to say no to things that don't. This is why I start all my coaching clients off with the process of determining their top five values. It’s really helpful to know that before building boundaries.
Living in alignment with my values really shored up my integrity with myself. Before I was really fixated on being in integrity with others, but not with myself! Once I got into alignment with my values (i.e., into integrity with myself), I started to feel a lot better about myself and my life. Who wouldn’t enjoy their life more when they’re doing things that light them up and being in integrity with themselves?!
When you’re in alignment with your values, no longer doing things that drain you, and your life lights you up, then it’s a lot easier to like and love yourself. And it becomes much easier to stand up for yourself when you like yourself. It’s difficult to live your life on purpose when you don’t really like yourself or think you’re worthy.
So when I say, “I've come to care more what I think of me than what other people think of me” it means that I care more about being an honest woman of integrity than I do about getting the approval of others. I’m no longer willing to throw my personal integrity out the window for the chance to get someone’s approval.