I thought being kind and having boundaries were mutually exclusive. I struggled to reconcile having my own needs met without making others feel like I’m being selfish and unkind.
We all want to be liked and we all want to be kind to others. It’s one of the best qualities of human character. We are taught from a young age that we must be kind to all of creation. Compassion and kindness becomes the yardstick by which society judges our humanness as we are growing up. Striving to cultivate this character trait is worthwhile as long as we remember to include ourselves into the equation. Just like we cannot truly give unconditional love to another until we love ourselves unconditionally, the truth is that we cannot truly be kind and compassionate to another until we are kind to ourselves and practice self-compassion.
True kindness and compassion to others can only exist in a relationship where both party’s needs are being met and healthy boundaries are in place. A relationship between two people have to be a continuous exchange of giving and receiving. If one party is a giver and the other is a receiver, the relationship is not healthy and there can be no trust built. When we are the giver and we deplete ourselves by giving, we are left with no reserves in our tank and eventually we will become resentful towards the receiver.
But how do we create boundaries when we have already set up unhealthy relationship patterns and how do we communicate our intention to maintain the connection in the relationship but still make sure our needs are met?
The short answer is that it’s a practice and the most difficult time is when we first start practicing setting boundaries. In the beginning, it will feel very uncomfortable for us and be very confusing and frustrating for the other party.
The trick is to keep the heart soft and the back strong and firm.
Resentment and the anger at the realisation of our over-giving can sometimes lead to us get tough and lash out at the other party. What’s happening is that we are feeling so vulnerable about having to set a boundary that anger feels more comfortable.
Kindness and boundaries must exist together in a relationship in order for us to be truly compassionate because we cannot be kind to others when they are taking advantage of us.
Setting a boundary with a soft heart and a strong back would mean that we have to be willing and vulnerable enough to say “I love you and I appreciate you and you are important to me but I’m going to have to say no because this isn’t going to work for me.”
Soft heart = I love you and I appreciate you and you are important to me
Strong back = I’m going to have to say no because this isn’t going to work for me
The follow up conversation will be to explore another option that might work better for both parties.
Practice doing this when you need to set a new boundary in a relationship and in time you will create a new relationship where your boundaries are respected and your needs are met.