Sarri Gilman, the author of Transform Your Boundaries, presents Good Boundaries Free You at TEDxSnoIsleLibraries event (Transcript)
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Sarri Gilman – Author of Transform Your Boundaries
Everyone is in the middle of a life story, and your story is being shaped by what you are saying yes to and what you are saying no to. Your Yes’s and No’s are what boundaries are made of.
So what are boundaries? How do we build them? How do we heal when our boundaries are violated? And how do we push through boundaries? These questions have been the center of my life and my work.
When I was a little kid, and my world was just my family, I was pretty sure we were the only ones struggling with those questions. And then I grew up, and I became a family therapist. And I saw lots of people struggling with these questions.
And when I took a detour and ran nonprofits, I saw communities and leaders struggling with these questions. So now I teach workshops and wrote a book to help people answer these questions. And as people answer these questions and learn more about their boundaries, I’ve watched hundreds of people make the journey from being overwhelmed, and exhausted, and stressed out to people who trust themselves, and are decisive, and are committed to healthy relationships.
I’m going to share some stories and some tools that you can use to strengthen your boundaries. Let’s begin with the most essential boundary tool that everyone has. Take a moment and visualize a compass in your hand. It looks just like this. It has two words on it, yes and no, and only those two words. You use this compass to make your decisions, figure out your relationships, and set your boundaries for your whole life.
Today I’m going to talk about how you can use this compass to place boundaries where you need them the most, lower your stress, and figure out your life’s purpose.
Now the key to placing boundaries where you need them the most is tolerating stormy emotions. I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather had one way of doing things: his way.
And when I was 24, he came to me, and he asked me to be the executor of his will. And I asked him, What was it he wanted me to do after he died? And when he told me, I got all this stress inside because there were things I didn’t want to do to other family members on his behalf. And I really wanted to please him, but I couldn’t say yes to all this stuff. So I told him, “No,” I couldn’t be his executor. And he did what most people do when you tell them no. He got angry.
You know, when you listen to your own yes and no, other people are going to get angry, or they may get disappointed. Boundary setting will unleash emotions, and yes and no are not feelings. So I couldn’t let my fear of my grandfather’s anger nor my desire to please him determine my boundaries.
Now, sometimes, your compass is clouded over, and you can’t see if something is a yes or a no for you, and this happens if you’ve been ignoring your compass or arguing with it because you don’t like what it’s saying.
Years ago, I wanted to be a writer, and I was very busy working, and I couldn’t figure out how writers made time to write and earn a living. So I took this yes, and I shoved it to the side. Those are the writers that are here. And my daughters and I were attending this writing camp, week-long thing for middle schoolers, and I got to go as a chaperone.
And one night, this real writer got on the stage, and he told us how he made time to write, what he said yes to with his time and what he said no to in order to complete his books. He lived very cheaply, and his sole job was writing. There was my answer.
So for two years I saved my money, I lowered my expenses, and then, when the time came, when I had my money saved up, I devoted myself to writing. All that work, and in, like, just a few short months, my yes became a no. Writing is a solo sport; you sit alone all day. There I was, talking to my dog. Oh, this is not the move for me; I’m a people person.
So I listened to my no. I went back to working with people, and I saved some of my time for writing. That was a much better fit.
Now if you pay attention to this compass, it just gives you the basic guidance, the yes and the no. It doesn’t give you any details. You have to figure out the details.
But the thing is, you can trust this compass, because it’s only trying to do one thing, and that’s take care of you. And if you allow your compass and your boundaries to take care of you, it’ll mitigate stress, and stress is a very serious issue. According to the American Psychological Association, 50% to 58% of us — I’m not going to say who — are suffering from high stress. That’s kind of a shocking number. And employers who are listening may want to pay attention to this and think about how important is decision making on the job, because this compass is highly sensitive to stress, and stress clouds over your compass.
I teach people boundary skills so that they can reduce and prevent their stress from accumulating. The challenging thing, though, is that setting boundaries is just a little stressful. Right? It’s brief stress, though. Like, once you get over that brief stress of actually doing it, you feel all this relief, and I call that brief stress “sweating”. You’re going to do a little sweating when you set your boundaries. I sweat, and I teach this stuff.