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Last year I asked a question in one of my articles – “Can you really set boundaries without feeling like a bitch?

I had some interesting conversations with people after posing this question – and I also thought that badass was so much better a description than bitch. I’m not going to get into the gender debate that I believe lives in the topic of boundaries for today – but we’ll maybe come back to that one in the future!

What got me thinking about boundaries again was a recent family health situation – requiring much more reactive than pro-active boundaries.

I noticed that I could be a wee bit triggered under certain stressful conditions – probably a control thing. At times, it can feel as though I’m channelling Lady Grantham’s character from the Downton Abbey TV show. However, I remained very polite – there a definite shift towards frosty.

Once the immediate stress had passed, I got curious… What triggered me to get my Lady Grantham on? On a dog walk in the woods with my mind wandering, I had a lightbulb moment. In one of my most stressful life situations a few years ago, I recalled the baseline ask I put to my now ex-husband to help navigate the divorce. “There are only two things I ask of you: Don’t take me for granted, and be kind”. That was it. Not a huge ask – but they were table stakes. Absolute deal breakers.

It seems that these two asks are still my table stakes – in particular when there is a lack of kindness being shown by someone else. Whether intentional or not, a lack of kindness will set off all of my boundary alarms – particularly if I’m already at the edge of my stress capacity. Enter Lady Grantham!

Sound familiar? You will have your own “table stakes” – it’s a very personal thing. As long as you express them and ask for what you need, there should be no difficulty for someone with good intentions to respond and adapt.

There’s the key folks – good intentions. I’ve seen a mix when it comes to this. When I’ve had a friend giving unsolicited advice or guidance, and I’ve had up my hand to say, “This is actually making me feel worse, I don’t think this is what I need right now”… or know they are a real friend – a kind friend when their response is “I’m so sorry, what do you need right now?”

It’s one thing to know what’s needed, another to learn how to do that, but what happens when you try to put that into action?

Boundaries must have a purpose. When you have a clear ‘why,’ it makes the creation of boundaries far simpler -though not necessarily always easy.

You can create boundaries kindly – the earlier, the better. If you wait until you are frayed, exhausted and potentially resentful, then it can be a much less kind and potentially damaging conversation, and the intent is not to cause harm. In the same way that you don’t want to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm; equally, you don’t necessarily want to be unreasonable or rude with others.

I qualify that statement with the following caveat… If this is the umpteenth time you’ve had a conversation with someone to ask the same thing, and it’s yet to be respected, it seems that invoking a bit of Lady Grantham might then be the right approach, somewhat firmer and edgier than an initial request might be!

The relief at that moment is inexplicable – I’ve experienced it many times in recent years, which is when you KNOW how blessed you are with your loved ones.

Slightly more challenging is the hurt, offended reaction where it becomes all about the other person. That is not someone starting from kindness and doesn’t suggest they really care about you. Particularly in a moment, they KNOW is stressful. A polite closing of that particular call or conversation and simply stepping away is the best advice I can give you in that moment.

The badass boundary moment recently enabled me to deal with a very stressful and challenging situation. You get laser focussed on priorities when your loved ones are at risk and rely on you to be the strong and dependable one.

The trick is to look after yourself in the same way when you’re not in crisis. A little bit of Lady Grantham’s steely determination may be perfect for unlocking your own brand of badass.

So how well do you know yourself – for me, it’s “don’t take me for granted and be kind”… what’s you’re boundary hard line?

2 replies
  1. Sheila Champion-Smeeth says:

    My T-shirt today says “in a world where you can be anything be kind” and I wore it for a very good reason today as I needed it so much after a tough start to the week. I thought making it visible might help ?! Surely this is not too much to ask of people right now?! Thanks Jean so much for your words of wisdom as always ?❤️

  2. Robin says:

    Jean, love the article, for me I know I’m channeling the Dowager when I hear myself use the words, “I don’t think so.” I discovered it was ok to have boundaries as I started to “wake up” in my late 40s. Now I’m proud of them.


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