Can I share a true story with you about something that happened around boundaries?
Boundaries can be so hard to exercise if you aren’t used to it, but so important for self-respect and self-confidence in relationships.
I remember one year when I was acting professionally, I was in the middle of an important show run and a family member who I am very close with informed me that she was getting married and told me the wedding date. I was to be maid of honor and I was so excited…
United I looked at the calendar and realized, that was the day of one of the shows!
I felt my stomach tie in knots and my breathing turn very shallow.
I avoided everyone for a good week, obsessing about scenarios of what would happen when I told aid family member I couldn’t go…or thought about asking the show director if an understudy could step in (I currently didn’t have one).
Everyone was going to hate me.
I was going to be seen as not a serious actress if I asked for the time off.
And who would even do my part? They’d have to learn everything in like two weeks. Impossible.
And if I didn’t go to the wedding, ‘they’ would be devastated.
Whatever I decided, I felt like someone was going to be pissed.
So I did nothing.
Until I started to sort of tell the family member that well, it may not be entirely possible and I saw her face fall and my insides collapse.
And then when I sort of hinted to the assistant director that well, I may not be entirely sure I could do the show on X weekend, and saw their face give me the, “who do you think you are?” expression, I wanted to run away.
I acted like everything was fine at the theatre, but inside again, I was so so torn.
And then I realized something: I had never for even a moment considered, “What is it that if I could have it MY way, I would want to do?”
I was so worried about what everyone else was going to say I never asked myself this fundamental boundary setting question.
What. did. I. want?
And in quiet moments starting up at my bedroom ceiling, I asked the question in the dark.
And I started to cry.
What came out? I wanted to be at the wedding. I had to be there.
The show would have to go on somehow.
So the next day, I approached the director, who was super intimidating and I tried to avoid as much as humanely possible if we weren’t doing a scene and blurted out quite inappropriately, “I have to go to this wedding. It’s really important to me and I understand if you want to fire me, but I have to be there.”
My voice was shaking the entire time.
He didn’t say anything. Just stared at me which just made me feel more afraid and weird.
He took a long pause and then said, “I had no idea it was that important to you. Let me get back to you.”
And without making this an even longer story, here is what happened:
- A wonderful woman in the cast who had another smaller role, became my understudy for the weekend, and Goddess knows how she learned all my lines and cues in less than two weeks, but I got to go to the wedding AND resume the role when I got back. I heard she did brilliant and is now a hugely successful and sought after actress!
- I had a great time at the wedding and my family member was thrilled to be there and so was I as it was a very special time.
- I did what I though I couldn’t do-state what I wanted, even if it meant sacrificing something or someone’s opinion of me. I was staying true to me.
I’d love to tell you that setting boundaries and expressing how I feel became a piece of cake after that, but the truth is, it’s a process.
It’s also a muscle and the more you work it out the easier it becomes!
So, in short if you need to set a boundary with someone, keep these 3 things in mind:
- Get clear on what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Keep it simple when you tell others. No need to over explain.
- Remind yourself that boundaries are not walls-they are there to help you honor yourself, so others know how to honor you.
Q: Which tip spoke to you?
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