For the past ten days, I have been part of an online challenge with other mothers, focused on tapping more into our intuition. I’ve enjoyed connecting with others, reflecting on the questions set for us (such as ‘what would your ideal life look like?’ and ‘what are the words that your inner critic says to you?’).
The question that impacted me the most was ‘where have you been criticised as a parent and what did you do about it?’. I reflected on the criticism I received from someone about my choice to co-sleep with Jenson, a choice which we intent to make for the foreseeable future.
I don’t think it was meant purposely to hurt me – I imagine that it was a throwaway comment that the other person made but it has stuck with me and influenced how I feel about them.
It made me retreat, trust them less, not want to spend as much time in their presence.
And that also makes me sad.
As I reflected on this in the group, the facilitator asked me what it would take to restore this relationship.
Straight away, I knew what it would take.
And in knowing that, I was made aware that it’s not really anything about them.
It’s more about me.
Knowing what my boundaries are and respecting myself by sticking to them.
And really when I think about it, there’s only one boundary –
I listen to myself and respect my wishes and limits
It’s so simple.
And yet so hard for me as someone who has lived so many years living for what I think other people need and hasn’t listened to my own inner compass.
So I’ve taken some time to ask myself what I need to put this boundary into practice in my life…
Listen to my body
Often I’m not sure what I want, but I’ll feel some resistance in my body if what is going on isn’t right for me.
A tightness in my throat, an unease in my tummy, a quickening of my pulse.
My body knows before my consciousness does that I’m stepping outside of what is right for me and I need to learn to listen to it.
An example of this is something that happened at work on Thursday, when I was speaking to a senior leader. We were discussing something to happen in the future and what was agreed didn’t sit well with me. My throat went tight and I went a bit hot.
So I listened to what was going on and spoke up.
It turns out I had reason for feeling as I did and, as a result we changed our plans.
Take my time
I’m so unused to listening to myself and my desires. And as such, I acknowledge it’ll take time to understand what is going on for me.
It’ll take time to listen to my body and translate what I need – whether that is to be heard, to listen to myself, to do something different, to acknowledge and communicate a need I have.
And that’s ok.
With any new skill, it takes time to master it.
So I need to give myself that time.
The scariest thing about having this boundary of acting in the way that I need is speaking up for myself.
But it is possible.
An example of this which springs to mind was when I was going to London to meet my mum a few weeks ago.
It was a belated mother’s day present to spend the day together but I was on my knees with exhaustion. We’d made plans to visit a graveyard that my mum wanted to see and had talked about doing a number of other things together. But I knew that I needed a relaxing day without jumping from plan to plan to plan, and so I spoke up and said that.
Knowing she might be a bit disappointed that her day was being monopolised by my needs.
But I also knew that I was likely to crack if we spent the day running from one thing to the next and so I spoke up.
I said that I needed us to take a more relaxed pace.
And that’s what we did.
She heard me and, as we took it easy, I was able to be fully present with her.
I didn’t have to contort myself into the Amy who was ‘fun’, ‘up-for-anything’, ‘without a care in the world’ – the Amy I wasn’t at that moment.
And it increased my level of trust in and love for her. Knowing that she is willing to meet my needs. Seeing that she is able to hear me and meet me where I am.
No other option
It’s a scary thing to vocalise what I need instead of pushing my needs down to accommodate others.
But the truth is that this isn’t a choice any more.
I’ve ventured into the realm of speaking my truth and, like a butterfly who has burst from its chrysalis, there’s no going back.
There’s no way that I can contort myself into having no needs.
There’s no way I can live to just please other people.
And so on I will go – setting my boundaries, stumbling and getting things wrong but then getting back up again and moving forward.
And I hope the relationships that have been broken or damaged because of my lack of boundaries might be built back up.
I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I can only try.