A few weeks ago I wrote this piece about the real reason personal boundaries are powerful: Because they help us define who we are. Boundaries also are “as much about what we let in as what we keep out,” according to psychologist Sherry Walling, Ph.D, in the same article. Which is a great perspective to have when contemplating what decisions to make and how to live our lives.
That is, we can turn that sentence into two simple yet significant questions that we can ask ourselves regularly: What do I want to let into my life? What do I want to keep out?
Journal your responses to each question. You might come up with abstract terms, concrete objects, rituals, people and places. You might think about what boosts your energy and nourishes you. You also might think about what drains your emotional energy and dampens your mood. What feels like a weight. And what feels wonderful.
Here are some examples of what you might let in:
- People who really listen and genuinely want what’s best for you
- Weekend adventures
- Empowering stories
- Messy truths (and if so, you might be interested in this class from Mara about telling ourselves the truth—a class that looks incredible)
- Creativity, art-making, baking, dreaming
- Laughter—lots of laughter
- Quiet time
- Heart-to-heart talks
- Fresh foods
- Favorite restaurants with favorite people
- Every emotion
- Daily celebrations
Consider what you’re currently letting into your life that you don’t even want. This can help you respond to the second question. And here are some examples of what you might keep out:
- Commitments that aren’t meaningful (and only take away from meaningful activities, even if and especially if those activities include curling up on the couch with a good book and exhaling)
- Mindless TV and violent movies
- People who tear you down (in both blatant and subtle ways); and magazines that do the same
- Busy—just to be “busy”
- Rushing around
- The identity of martyr
- Scales and calorie counts
- Diet books
- Diet talk
- Staying silent
It might help you to picture your life as a circle. You are in the center of this circle. Then consider the things you want with you, inside your circle. Consider, too, what isn’t worth your time, energy or attention. As I’ve mentioned before, after all, these are finite resources, so we want to make the most of them. Because that’s how we build a healthy relationship with ourselves. And that’s how we build a fulfilling life.
What do you want to let into your life? What are you letting into your life right now that you’d rather keep out?