Challenge #6: Healthy boundaries and your Lizard

Posted on August 22, 2011


So you’ve figured out when someone has crossed your line. You’ve identified situations where you realize one of your personal boundaries has been crossed. You’re starting to notice how very reliable that Body Compass is and have even gotten into the habit of gauging who and what makes you uncomfortable.

Great job. That was the first step. Now you’re going to need some strategies to help you communicate where that line is to others so that they stop crossing it. In short, it’s time for you to learn how to set some healthy boundaries. 

Setting a boundary is, in action, actually not that difficult. Where most people get hung up is on the inner talk and uneasy feelings that accompany telling someone else they’ve crossed a line.

Women especially seem to have a very difficult time setting boundaries with others because, in part, we’ve been so strongly conditioned (genetically and socially) to nurture others. Biologically and culturally women have been given about a bizillion messages (both stated and implied) that a woman should take care of the needs of others before she takes care of herself.

So if you find the boundary-setting process difficult, most likely your biggest obstacle is not the actual process of setting the boundary. Often that doesn’t take more than stating to another where your line is and the consequence of not honoring it. It’s all your lizard gunk that scares you into challenging your socially conditioned role as one who ‘should’ put others and their needs before your own.

Here are the three most common fears(aka lizard gunk) people harbor about setting boundaries:

If I set this boundary, so-and-so won’t like me. (Or I’ll do what so-and-so wants to earn his/her love and approval)

If I state this boundary, person X will abandon me. (Or To keep person X around, I must continue to do something even if I don’t want to do it).

If I set this boundary, I’m not a good person. (Or Only a bad person would say ‘no’ in this situation).

Your challenge this week is to identify 3 places where you would like to set a boundary and to dissolve the lizard fears around setting it.

Challenge #6: Clear your lizard boundary-fears. You’ll need to take the following steps to clear up those ugly little lizard fears around boundary-setting.

a) Grab a sheet of paper and divide it into 3 columns. Label the first column “Situation,” the second column “Fear,” and the last column “Turn-Around.”

b). Identify 3 situations where you feel your personal line has been crossed and where you would like to set a boundary. Write these 3 situations down in the Situation column.

c). Now, next to each situation, record the fear you have around setting the boundary. What are you afraid will happen if you set this boundary? See the list of most common fears about boundary-setting for some help if you’re stuck.

d). Once you’ve identified your fears, it’s time for you to do your Work. Follow the 4 questions of Byron Katie’s The Work to help make the cognitive shift you need to around each fear. Then, when you’ve completed this, record your Turn-Around in the third and final column.

Now that you’ve done this, you’ve tackled the biggest obstacle around setting boundaries-your lizard’s fear. In the next challenge, I’ll give you some of my most favorite strategies for what to say when setting boundaries.