Do you sometimes feel that you are running on empty, over committed and stretched too thin? Do you feel like you are exhausted just by looking at your schedule and losing your balance from giving too much? Research published Dr. Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong, identifies a strategy called “Living BIG” which can be used to help us experience more feelings of compassion in our daily lives by setting boundaries. This concept helps us look at our lives and ask the tough question: What boundaries will help me live a life filled with both integrity and generosity to others?
A boundary is a limit that we set to define what behaviors are okay and what is not. We often worry that we will disappoint others if we get clear and set boundaries, which can lead to stretching ourselves thin, committing to too many practices or carpools, too many after school activities or business meetings. We might find we are helping so often that we forget to take care of ourselves, setting us up for exhaustion and in turn, feelings of resentment and discomfort. Setting boundaries means getting clear on what you can or cannot do each day and on what you will allow yourself and others to bring to your life. It is not selfish to say ‘no’ to a request when you know, deep down that you cannot truly commit. Setting boundaries and saying no when necessary allows us to live a more compassionate life.
Dr. Brown defines integrity as “choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them (Brown, 123).” When we are living our lives with clearly defined boundaries, we are choosing to integrate our values into our daily practices. This means if honesty is an important value, we are not lying to ourselves or others, we are not repeating untruths or telling ourselves that we are not doing enough when we set a boundary or limit. We are honest with ourselves and others about what we need, what we want and what we are capable of doing, even when we find ourselves in difficult conversations. Choosing to integrate boundaries into our lives can help us stand with more integrity.
Generosity means extending the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others. When we practice generosity, we see others behaviors, words and intentions in a patient and kind light. We assume that the person who sped into our lane with no blinker, barely missing our front bumper, is truly doing the best that he can do in this moment with the resources that he has. We assume that our teenage daughter who forgot to take out the trash for the third time this month is truly doing the best that she can do in this moment with the resources that she has. Practicing generosity does not mean that we allow others to walk all over us, and this is why setting clear boundaries is important.
“Living BIG is saying: ‘Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable (Brown, 123).” When we set boundaries, we allow ourselves more personal freedom to feel compassion, not only for others but also for ourselves.
For more information regarding the concept of Living BIG or Dr. Brene Brown’s work, please visit: http://www.brenebrown.com
Brown, B. (2015). Rising Strong. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.