Creating boundaries: How to handle people’s expectations and opinions about your life.
I’m almost positive that at some point or another each and everyone of us has received unsolicited opinions regarding our lives and life choices. Life is hard enough without the people that you love and care about casting doubt on your decisions and the path that you have chosen to take. Life also doesn’t get any easier when the people you love point out and provide feedback to you on the areas of your life, that they see as failings. FYI there is no such thing as failing, there is only winning or learning. Go ask Tony Robbins, he’ll tell you all about it.
Unsolicited opinions, there is honestly a chance I may have done this myself once upon a time, providing someone with a less than helpful opinion about their life. I am so sorry if I ever did this to you and let me tell you, I stopped real quick once it happen to me. There’s a lot about my life that doesn’t sit well with those who live a more conventional lifestyle. I have not had a life path similar to that of my parents or brothers and it’s different to that of other family members and friends. Which is not unusual people!! Not a single one of us is meant to have the same carbon-copy life, desires or achievements. We may have similarities and crave common aspects of love, safety and security but we were all born to be unique and walk our own path.
People who don’t know you, don’t love you and don’t really have a whole lot to do with your life can give unsolicited feedback and it isn’t fun, but really, people like that come and go, as do their opinions. I can let that rest, at least for now.
What gets my panties in a twist is when people, specifically the people you love, decide to provide you with their feedback, opinions and suggestions about areas of your life that seem to be a little, off the rails, in their eyes. These people include, but are not limited to, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grandparents, god parents, cousins and other obscure, yet are somehow super-close-to-you, relatives and friends. (But you get to choose your friends, so if they are doing this to you… it might be time to find new ones.)
Sorry, let me just re-adjust my posture in my seat because this is something I have a serious issue with. Projecting your morals, values and expectations onto anyone else is not okay - not ever. I am not talking about constructive criticism, sometimes you need to hear the hard stuff but you don’t need the unhelpful stuff. We don’t ever need to hear that.
So let me start with this. If I (“we”) have not asked for your feedback or agreed to listen to it, it’s probably unwanted and unnecessary. There might be a chance that I’m already feeling anxious over the area of my life that you want to tell me I’m failing at OR I might actually be really happy with this area of my life and would rather not have you dump all over it. Now, this might seem a little crass to you dear reader and that’s fine, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions after all.
However, whilst each and everyone of us is entitled to our own opinions they don’t need to be forced onto anyone else, especially when there is likely to be a negative fallout. Think about it.
Actually, there’s a good point!
Before you speak, before you ever tell someone that they are failing or aren’t doing well enough in their life, think about it. I implore you to think about it.
Before you comment on someones life, their job, their house, their savings, their choices and their relationship status or lack thereof - THINK.
Think about wether you are speaking with pure positive intentions, because chances are you’re not. Each of us holds bias and as humans we are basically born to be a little self-involved. There are quite literally a multitude of reasons as to why the people that love us pick apart our lives and provide us with unhelpful feedback.
When it comes from your parents, it probably has a lot to do with what other people think about them.
And when it comes to siblings, it probably has a lot to do with the way people perceive them.
And when it comes to grandparents it probably has a lot to do with what their friends think of… oh wait.
Do you see the common thread?
A lot of the time when someone is giving you unsolicited feedback about your life, it generally has less to do with your life and where you’re at and more to do with their life and where they’re at. The truth is that you are on your own path and for that reason alone you’re always exactly where you need to be. I’m so sorry that so many people don’t understand this. But there are some ways to help teach them.
1. Having a chat.
There is always the chance that you talking it out with the person ‘giving you grief’ will be enough to call them out on their less than ideal behaviour. If you explain to them that their words are causing you pain and making you not want to be in conversation with them, much less be around them, they might very well understand and stop. People that love you are generally worth the benefit of the doubt.
We always hope that the people that love us, actually love us more than they care about the opinions of others.
2. Saying the following lines.
“I really appreciate that this is how you feel, however I'm not open to taking your feedback on this area of my life” (optional extra: “but when I am ready to talk about it or want your advice, I’ll let you know”).
“That area of my life isn’t something I want to spend all of my time focusing on or talking about. It doesn’t actually make me happier, I hope you can understand that.”
“I don’t want to focus on (area of my life) right now, I’d really love to hear how you're doing?”
If you are straight and honest with people about not wanting to talk or listen they just might pay attention - key word being might. Sadly, people that get off talking at others and pointing out ‘failings’ in other peoples lives aren’t that use to being told the truth. There is a chance you just might give them the shock they need to stop interfering but it means you can’t just cave and listen like everyone else. But it is a lesson that is worth learning .
I don’t know if you have heard of the saying, ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’, well as far as I am concerned we all live in glass houses and not a one of us should be throwing stones.
3. Saying one of the above lines before leaving the situation.
Honestly, say the words like they are on a god damn script if you must and then leave. If people want your time and want to be around you, they will soon learn the boundaries of conversation with you. Do you know why? Because every time they start on a topic of conversation that’s off limits, you’ll leave and they wont like it, and so they wont say it. Hazza!!
The creation of personal boundaries is an amazing thing and the people that love you need to love and respect where you are in life.
Personal boundaries also come in the way of giving a time limit to conversations. If you must make an obligatory phone call, put on a timer. Set yourself 15 minutes, if the person you are talking to crosses the line in this time cut the call short - what a shame you’re just about to go through a tunnel! Oh what, the postman’s at the door? Sorry about that, speak to you later! We might not be able to slam phones down anymore but we can totally say goodbye and hang up, that is still within your power.
Boundaries can also be made by putting self-care first. You might not be able to leave the situation all the time when it comes to your phone but there are other things you can do!
This may include your phone getting an earlier bedtime than you, don’t consume other peoples bullshit before you go to bed. Now I know this is hard but not looking at your phone first thing in the morning is really important, you should not consume before you create. Do not consume what other people have given you before you create the start to your day the feels good; eat something, drink some water/coffee, exercise or meditate. Create some boundaries around your life where the opinions of others no longer have any sort of standing. The opinions of others are none of your business and they definitely don’t belong in your mornings or evenings - that time belongs to you or you and your family. Don’t share it with anyone else.
4. Have you ever been to puppy school? Yes? Great!
During puppy school there are little tips and tricks regarding how to get your untrained puppy or untrained older dog to behave. My personal favourite trick is spraying the puppy on the nose when it does the wrong thing. It’s amazing and it works a dream, so the next time your mum and dad start to go on about how you haven’t provided them with a grandkid, you just get out that spritz bottle and go to town!
Just kidding of course but the methods I have provided are just as simple and should leave you with an element of a control. Remember you only ever have control over yourself and your actions, so make them count in the fight for your happiness.