“To what extent do you say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no?” I asked my community this week.
“Always!!” Most replied.
Really? I wondered.
“Great”, I said.
“But – really?”
It’s not that I doubt the integrity of the people in my community.
What I doubt is most people’s perceptions of what boundaries are really all about.
And the hundreds of ways we fail to set them in our daily lives in big ways and in small ways, depending on what we choose, either consciously or consciously.
As a mentor to change makers who want to create a thriving life and legacy through their businesses, I teach what I call Conscious Entrepreneurship.
Conscious Entrepreneurship is about becoming intentional about what we serve people and the planet with, but also how.
It’s about cultivating our ability to lead with better awareness and greater flow. Because better awareness and flow equals greater impact and income too.
And having greater awareness around where we are not consciously honouring ourselves by failing to set healthy boundaries, where we translate internal yes-es and nos to external yes-es and nos, is at the heart of conscious entrepreneurship.
Boundaries come from our sense of worth and ability to know and act on own needs.
This takes skill.
Because so many of us are recovering co-dependents.
Essentially, the more co-dependent we are, the fewer boundaries we have.
Co-dependency is a way of relating to ourselves and other people that holds the belief that other people’s needs are more important than our own. Subsequently, our lives become pre-occupied with making sure other people are ok, or trying to ‘fix’ other people.
It goes without saying that many people in professions that directly relate to the wellbeing of others have a co-dependent past.
We develop co-dependency in family systems where there are dominant people such as narcissists, people with mental health issues, illnesses or addictions. We tend to learn early on that there is no time or space for our needs – that our needs are not important – so we forget that we have them, or come to believe that it is wrong of us to have them. Our focus is on other people’s wellbeing, not our own.
As an individual, we don’t really exist for our own sake, instead we see it as our purpose to keep the peace and make sure everyone around us are ok.
It’s a way for us to feel in control in a situation that feels deeply unsafe.
The less safe and worthy we feel the more we give. We give to get – get love, get attention, get approval, ‘get’ safe.
Deep down we give from fear. A fear of being all alone in the world.
It’s also likely that we learn to anticipate other people’s needs or become enmeshed in other people’s emotions.
Enmeshment means that we feel other people’s emotions as though they were our own.
Sadly, many people wrongly describe this as being an ‘Empath’. Contrary to empathy, which is feeling with someone, enmeshment means that we can anticipate other people’s states of minds and energy, which means that we can second guess and adapt in a way that will make us feel safer. We might for example be able to re-direct conversations that could turn into scary situations.
The love that we experience in co-dependent family systems is often conditional rather than unconditional.
Therefore, prioritising other people’s needs becomes a way for us to earn our right to be here – to be useful – to be enough, and reduce the risk of both being rejected and neglected.
At its core, co-dependency becomes a survival mechanism.
When we come to understand love as conditional, we tend to have very few boundaries.
We also tend to have a very strong fear around vulnerability.
Even though deep down we want to be seen and loved for who we are, it’s also our greatest fear. We believe that when people see us for who we are, they will come to know that we are unlovable, after all. So we shield our hearts and become fiercely independent.
Conditional love brings us no boundaries, instead great shields.
Whereas boundaries support our flow, shields block our flow.
If we attempt to serve in our business or project from this place inside of us, or set out to create a thriving life or legacy, we are not going to get very far.
For starters, we are not serving the world from a place of Love.
We are serving from Fear. Fear of rejection and loneliness.
We also tend to not serve from a place of not being our true selves.
Mostly because we don’t know what that true self is.
When we bring this state of being into our entrepreneurship, the lack of boundaries mean we leak our energy left, right and centre.
We over-give, undercharge, adapt to meet our clients’ needs, compare ourselves to what other people are doing, are unsure what our message and purpose are all about.
OR we become entitled, selfish and assert ourselves with aggression.
At the same time, we are wondering why we are not getting paid enough or not attracting the right clients or failing to create a thriving life and legacy.
The answer is very simple: our hearts are shielded and we have no boundaries.
We are not connected to ourselves, our inner voice, our needs.
We are not connected to Love.
Which means that energetically, we are closed for business.
Closed for receiving.
People respond by either taking us for granted, not value our time or contribution, or we push people away by our ‘sassiness’.
It’s not uncommon for people to move from “My needs and feelings are not important” to “Other people’s needs and feelings are not important”, as an extreme reaction to the trauma of co-dependency.
Being a Conscious Entrepreneur is being in the Business of Love. Because it’s only when we serve and lead from Love that we can create any real change in the world. That change begins with ourselves.
And that means we take responsibility for where we are not showing up from a place of love. The big ways we are not, as well as the small ones.
When we become committed to creating a thriving life and legacy through our conscious entrepreneurship, we, in the same breath, commit to setting better boundaries. Committing to healthier boundaries means committing to recovering from co-dependency.
Co-dependency is an addiction and takes time to heal.
It shows up in obvious ways as well as in subtle and almost unrecognisable ways.
It’s forever work in progress.
Always saying yes when they mean yes, and no when we mean no, would mean that we have a perfect thriving life and legacy.
That we always honour ourselves and show up true to ourselves, listening and acting on our needs in every moment, whilst serving others in integrity.
This sounds like utopia rather than real life.
Healthy boundaries, in their purest form, are an extension of loving ourselves more.
Of knowing ourselves. Of accepting and claiming who we are in the world.
Believing that we are worthy and enough just as we are.
That our needs matter.
That we matter.
This blog is based on the training with the same name in the Wish Tree community Time to Shine
Time to Shine is a diverse, inclusive and vibrant global community of people who identify as change makers. Space holders, heart-led business owners, creatives, activists and social innovators, here to lovingly disrupt the status quo by identifying the gaps and creating solutions to close the gaps! In Time to Shine, you are lovingly supported to thrive as a change maker & conscious entrepreneur. We help you to gain clarity, confidence and inspiration, so that you can take action on your purpose with passion, integrity and peace. When you thrive, you shine, and that’s when you make your greatest impact.