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Patience, Forgiveness, Boundaries

I spent about a year with a mentor reminding me every time I saw her that I needed Patience, Forgiveness and Boundaries.

I met her when I was about to embark on the most meaningful quest of my life. I had just spent four decades covering up the girl I was when I was born. Almost gone, it was time for me to dig deep within, to find that little girl, dust her off, stretch her out and inflate her back to normal size.

Society, parents, grandparents, teachers, institutions, partners, friends, mentors, bosses, coworkers - all of them assisted in shaping me. But at the end of the day it was me who allowed the shaping.

Humans are born for connection, interaction, relationship. How we shape those relationships is defined by how we feel about ourselves.

In the beginning, when we are young, we are molded by others. We are little sponges born to parents with this idea that they are going to make us into something great. But the reality is, once they show us the ropes, it is up to us to take over the reigns and continue to mold ourselves.

In the beginning, most of us build relationships based upon the parent-child model or student-teacher model because these are the important relationships in our lives. As kids we start to practice relating to people on an equal plane - playmates, teammates, classmates, siblings, cousins. But with our models being the unequal-plane relationships of parent-child and student-teacher, we often end up being either the giver or the taker in most relationships. The problem is, always giving or always taking can only work so long.

Equality in relationship is something we strive to achieve for the most comfortable and respectable fit. Equality makes for long term relationships. Sure, some days we give more than we take, but in an equal relationship, a partnership is developed where things flip-flop back and forth, and eventually even out. I found that my newer relationships were already balanced - I pay for lunch this time, you grab the bill next time.

How do we get those relationships, though, when we are already steeped into an unbalanced relationship with someone for decades?

Once we begin to heal our wounds and love ourselves, our self respect demands a change in our relationship dynamics. At first when we begin to create equality and respect, we are met with push-back, which is completely natural, by the way. If you are changing a relationship where you were the primary giver, the taker will naturally be offended that the free line of credit has suddenly come to a halt.

Can we save those relationships? You bet. But it does take work. We can ask our partner in the relationship to make changes with us, but ultimately, we don't control others. The best place to begin the work is with ourselves. By using patience, forgiveness and boundaries, we can alter the dynamics by our own self focused leadership.

Patience is a no-brainer: everything takes time, and patience will grease the wheels of change. Every time we feel impatient during the process, think of it as a place for a deep breath, a quick re-focus, and say something in your heart about having gratitude for the opportunity to learn by doing.

Forgiveness is hard work: we must forgive ourselves for over-giving. Then we must forgive our relationship partner for over-taking. This can be tricky for us, because we want to think the other person took advantage of us, and while this may be true, it only occurs when we allow it to happen. Which brings us back to self forgiveness. Yes, the non-linear healing process will loop you back to the self work. Remember, I said this was self focused leadership.

Boundaries: ah, boundaries. What the heck are they? Aren't they a control mechanism to make others treat us differently? Nope. If that's what you're tossing about as a boundary, think again. Boundaries are there for the self. We set safe boundaries in order to keep ourselves comfortable. For example: "If you shout when we are talking, I am going to leave the conversation and I will come back when there is no shouting." We can't make the other person stop shouting, but we can exit until it is quieter. The end result may be that the receiver of the boundary changes their behavior, but likely it will take you actually leaving the conversation a few times when shouting begins in order to show you mean business. Consistency is key to making and setting boundaries. The more consistent we are in maintaining our boundaries, the more they will be respected.

It's been over two years now since I began having the PFB conversations with my mentor. In the beginning I brushed the words aside and ignored the advice. Then I began thinking about them and writing them down in my journal. Eventually I looked back to see that these three magic words were the three things I needed to focus on in order to change my life. Some days the three words became a mantra I would chant over and over in my head.

Consistency is always important.

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