Good boundaries free you | Sarri Gilman | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries


Translator: Ken Harvey
Reviewer: Denise RQ Everyone is in the middle of a life story, and your story is being shaped by what you are saying yes to
and what you are saying no to. Your yeses and noes
are what boundaries are made of. So what are boundaries? How do we build them? How do we heal
when our boundaries are violated? And how do we push through boundaries? These questions have been the center
of my life and my work. When I was a little kid,
and my world was just my family, I was pretty sure we were the only ones struggling
with those questions. And then I grew up,
and I became a family therapist. (Laughter) And I saw lots of people struggling
with these questions. And when I took a detour
and ran nonprofits, I saw communities and leaders
struggling with these questions. So now I teach workshops and wrote a book to help people answer these questions. And as people answer these questions
and learn more about their boundaries, I’ve watched hundreds of people
make the journey from being overwhelmed,
and exhausted, and stressed out to people who trust themselves, and are decisive, and are committed
to healthy relationships. I’m going to share some stories
and some tools that you can use
to strengthen your boundaries. Let’s begin with the most essential
boundary tool that everyone has. Take a moment and visualize
a compass in your hand. It looks just like this. It has two words on it, yes and no,
and only those two words. You use this compass
to make your decisions, figure out your relationships, and set your boundaries
for your whole life. Today I’m going to talk about
how you can use this compass to place boundaries
where you need them the most, lower your stress,
and figure out your life’s purpose. Now the key to placing boundaries
where you need them the most is tolerating stormy emotions. I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather had one way
of doing things: his way. (Laughter) And when I was 24, he came to me, and he asked me
to be the executor of his will. And I asked him, “What was it
he wanted me to do after he died?” And when he told me,
I got all this stress inside because there were things
I didn’t want to do to other family members on his behalf. (Laughter) And I really wanted to please him, but I couldn’t say yes to all this stuff. So I told him, “No,”
I couldn’t be his executor. And he did what most people do
when you tell them no. He got angry. You know, when you listen
to your own yes and no, other people are going to get angry,
or they may get disappointed. Boundary setting will unleash emotions, and yes and no are not feelings. So I couldn’t let my fear
of my grandfather’s anger nor my desire to please him
determine my boundaries. Now, sometimes,
your compass is clouded over, and you can’t see if something
is a yes or a no for you, and this happens
if you’ve been ignoring your compass or arguing with it
because you don’t like what it’s saying. Years ago, I wanted to be a writer, and I was very busy working,
and I couldn’t figure out how writers made time to write
and earn a living. So I took this yes,
and I shoved it to the side. Those are the writers that are here. (Laughter) And my daughters and I
were attending this writing camp, week-long thing for middle schoolers, and I got to go as a chaperone. And one night,
this real writer got on the stage, and he told us how he made time to write, what he said yes to with his time
and what he said no to in order to complete his books. He lived very cheaply,
and his sole job was writing. There was my answer. So for two years I saved my money, I lowered my expenses,
and then, when the time came, when I had my money saved up,
I devoted myself to writing. (Laughter) All that work, and in, like,
just a few short months, my yes became a no. Writing is a solo sport;
you sit alone all day. (Laughter) There I was, talking to my dog. (Laughter) “Oh, this is not the move for me;
I’m a people person.” So I listened to my no. I went back to working with people, and I saved some of my time for writing. That was a much better fit. Now if you pay attention to this compass, it just gives you the basic guidance,
the yes and the no. It doesn’t give you any details. You have to figure out the details. But the thing is,
you can trust this compass, because it’s only trying to do one thing, and that’s take care of you. And if you allow your compass
and your boundaries to take care of you, it’ll mitigate stress,
and stress is a very serious issue. According to
the American Psychological Association, 50 to 58% of us
– I’m not going to say who — (Laughter) are suffering from high stress. That’s kind of a shocking number. And employers who are listening
may want to pay attention to this and think about how important is
decision making on the job, because this compass
is highly sensitive to stress, and stress clouds over your compass. I teach people boundary skills so that they can reduce and prevent
their stress from accumulating. The challenging thing, though, is that setting boundaries
is just a little stressful. (Laughter) Right? It’s brief stress, though. Like, once you get over
that brief stress of actually doing it, you feel all this relief, and I call that brief stress “sweating”. You’re going to do a little sweating
when you set your boundaries. I sweat, and I teach this stuff. So let’s go back
to this compass in your hand that is only trying to take care of you and ask yourself this question: are there ways
that you could improve your self-care? And when I say self-care,
many of you may think first about what you eat
and how much you exercise, and those are really important, but even people who do those really well are going to have high stress
if they aren’t managing their boundaries. Self-care is a much bigger landscape
than eating and exercise. Self-care is how you treat yourself. It’s how you find enjoyment, play, happiness, balance, rest,
and companionship. I’m the first to admit, though,
that self-care can be really hard, and it took me a long time
to learn how to do it. In the past, and I like saying “past”, I was a workaholic caretaker. And back then, I was running an agency that was serving teens who were homeless. It was an agency that I started,
and I was deeply committed to. And over the years,
as the organization grew, it needed more and more from me. So what if I was up night after night
trying to make that budget work? – and I couldn’t, a lot of the time. So what if I was on call
7 days a week, 24 hours a day, year after year after year? So what if I was getting sick
from watching so much child abuse? So what if I actually had
post-traumatic stress from it? I ignored my own care, until one day, I was sitting
in this dark movie theater, and I was crying and crying. I broke; I couldn’t stop crying, and I realized something inside
was trying to reach me. And as I listened to my tears, I understood that I couldn’t
keep running this organization that I started and that I loved. My compass was saying no
for my well-being. That was really hard to take. My well-being, up against
all these kids who needed help? So I dug deep with my compass
about my purpose. And I understood that maybe it had been
my purpose to start the organization, but ten years later, the community loved
and could care for this organization. And so I spent a year
with my board of directors, and we transitioned leadership
to new leaders for the organization. And I want to tell you
it’s still standing, 24 years now, taking care of kids every day– (Cheers) (Applause) Oh, that’s to you guys! (Applause) –every day and every night, doing exactly what it was designed to do,
the way it was designed to do it. And I learned from my compass that other people
could take care of the kids, and the staff, and the organization, but only I could take care of me. And then I had to face my workaholic. (Laughter) Oh my. My workaholic, she’s terrifying;
she’s worse than my grandfather. (Laughter) My workaholic never says,
“Oh, take a break. You’ve done enough.” My workaholic is crazy. And she just keeps going
and going and going. And I had to intervene
with some care for me. And my care for me got better and better, year after year, step by step. Now I challenge myself every day
to do some of my work and then do something that I love,
that I can fit into each day. So I knit more,
I hang out with my friends. My friends are kind of shocked
that I have time for them. My husband and I, we do less chores, and we just have more fun. And my daughters and I are in this ongoing conversation
about healthy living, as they both grew up
and went into healthcare. Go figure. (Laughter) And this summer, on a hot sunny day, I was watching this eagle
soaring overhead at the beach. I remember everything about this day. It was a Tuesday, a work day. I had taken my lunch. I drove four minutes
from my office to the beach. And there I was,
taking a 45-minute lunch break, watching this eagle
and listening to the waves. Now that’s recovery. Now I need to warn you. Even if you’re doing
all the boundary pieces, like, you — you’ve separated
your feelings from your boundaries, and you’re doing some good self-care, and you’re really listening
to your yes and no, and maybe you’ve recovered
from workaholism or numbing out; even when you do all these pieces
really, really well, there are going to be some things that are going to challenge
your boundaries, and they’re going
to make things extra hard. None of us are immune to health issues, to a financial crisis, or to a family member
who has an addiction problem. And some of you are dealing
with those struggles every day. Some of you are dealing
with really tough challenges at your job every day. There are three things that you can do
to support your compass. First, increase your self-care. You may already be doing some self-care,
but you need to step it up. When your loved one has breast cancer,
what I always see is your care for you goes down
while you care for someone else. And taking that time to care for yourself may seem completely ridiculous
in the face of such a big challenge. But I want to see the care for you go up while you care for someone else so that you’re a stronger support
in the long run for you and for them. The second thing to do is to reach out
and build a web of resources. Your compass may not have
enough information to guide you through the challenge
that you’re dealing with. We’re not all experts in everything;
find people who have this expertise. Join a support group, see a therapist, take a class, reach out. The third thing to do is to really focus
on choosing your responsibilities and limiting your time during a challenge. During a challenge, we have,
like, tons of extra responsibilities just coming down the hill at us,
and you can’t do it all. You have to decide what you will
and won’t be responsible for, and you have to let go
of some of the rest. And nowadays, our technology
has created this illusion that you are all a device
that is always on. And now more than ever, you need
to be careful and be protective so that you have some time
to recover during a big challenge, and times when you’re not doing
ongoing problem-solving. All of you are
in the middle of a life story, and your story is being shaped by what you are saying yes to
and what you are saying– (Audience) No to. Sarri Gilman: If you shut out
the noise and listen, you’re going to find yourself
going through life with less stress and profoundly in tune with your purpose. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Good boundaries free you | Sarri Gilman | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries”

  1. Public school is where they teach you that you are not allowed to set boundaries. Try saying 'no' to a bully or an a$$hole teacher and see how long you last.

  2. what a truly inspirational take about interpersonal boundaries and intrapsychic boundaries. The importance of self-care, that we have the right to say no to the demands of everyday life and our family. I look at it this way there is only one of me. This has taken me a long time as my self -belief was about taking care of everyone else unmet needs rather my own especially when you have experienced developmental trauma. Thank you so much Sarri

  3. How do commitments factor into the compass of yes and no? What if you have a commitment but your compass keeps saying no. Or goes back and forth. Im assuming there needs to be some balance

  4. my compass has always been cloudy and i called it confusion since both the sides of a coin has its own benifits i thought it was called being understanding by listening to people that my choices took a backseat and i found my boundries violated as soon as i started college this year thanks for this amazing reminder

  5. I'm 22 self-teaching personal relationship boundaries. I had a negative, boundary-crossing environment at home. But I'm fortunate to say I am learning to listen to my own voice, create my own value system, set boundaries and respect the boundaries other people make. This stuff is incredible, and you get to practice it everyday.

  6. Boundaries are important, everyone needs their personal space, especially from work. Self-care also means letting go of those toxic people in your life, reducing all stress agents is vital for mental health. You many like me, try to eat well, work out but if you have all these negative spaces…your mind will not be one with you. Thus the need for that YES/NO compass. I love how Sarri brings it out.

  7. My x kept begging for cuddles and I said on one condition that she watched this video. She said the speakers voice was annoying and kept begging and shut the video off. Sigh. Dude …..

  8. I don't allow everyone into my life. When it comes to friendship,i am extremely fussy (picky). At the moment i don't have friends and i am happy. No friends,no problems .

  9. Thank you Sarri. Beautiful talk. I believe I have a great, happy and free life overall because I’ve been doing boundary work. Yep- not always easy (going with the ‘no’s are always accompanied by a degree of self doubt and deprecation), and thanks to your talk I can appropriate the challenging times to simply sweating a bit! And thanks to your talk, my courage to keep my boundaries/self-care has been strengthened.

  10. This was an amazing talk! I needed to hear this since I grew up in a narcissist family which I didn’t realize until 2016 even though I could see as a child that something was wrong starting with the horrible treatment to me from my mother and my father and my father’s wife and other toxic relatives. I’m struggling to set boundaries but it starts with my compass. I really appreciated this!

  11. both parents were narcisstic, did not know I could have needs. Did not know how to set boundaries, learning to say No and realizing people get mad when you do, calling you selfish and other choice words but it feels good to not care and finally start caring about me.

  12. I broke down this year at work. Didn't know how to keep up, and I loved my job and the importance of it. I lost my compass. I've since found it, and am trying self care every day.

  13. Sarri loved, loved, loved this talk. I can tell you were speaking from your heart and meant every word you said. Thank you.

  14. Great talk! I love your calm, soothing voice. I am learning how important boundaries are. They help you learn who the good people are in your life. If you have narcissistic abusers in your life and you try and set boundaries, you will get gaslit, yelled at, thrown off the pedestal they put you on, and they will project all their stuff on you and blame you for any difficulties they are having in life. Walk toward people who respect your boundaries, and run away from those who can't.

  15. I CANNOT SURVIVE these circumstances WITHOUT VIABLE professional AND TRUE PERSONAL support ….. .. and I am the ONLY LIVING ENTITY who CAN SAY NO or YES when Tsunamis strike. Even during NDEs, individuals are faced with CHOICE ……

  16. Ahh such a soothing way of hearing what some would call ‘selfish’ behavior. I’m not a device. I will love myself. I will step away when my inner voice is saying no. Thank you

  17. Great message however degraded by her extremely obnoxious, distracting water drinking ettiquette My dog has more polite "table" manners that this extremely parched soft spoken but loud gulping thirsty lip smacking H20 guzzling super warm fuzzy rainbows and sugar cookie touchy feely lady

  18. Anyone else have a moment when you realised you previously crossed that boundary while writing them? I've had so many realizations. Why isn't this taught in school? This should be an exam 70% pass in health class just for truly finding your boundaries and knowing them.

  19. Does anyone hear that noise? Is that her mouth? I’m finding it very difficult to get through this Ted talk.

  20. The answer is clear. You know that you are not an extension of someone else and it's your job to avoid submission if that's what you seek. If you are fine with that, then apparently you have no problem. Again, there is a book to be sold. You don't need a book for this.

  21. Making boundaries with my mil probably saved my marriage.. she absolutely hates me now, but I have my dignity and my husband and I don’t really fight about her anymore. I wish our relationship could be better, but she’s a manipulative narcissist and I value my new backbone. I would actually wake up in hives the night before she would visit!

  22. Epic. I remember after living and working in NYC for 3 years, I finally realized I needed to learn to care for myself first, and that started a 12 year inquiry that has had me learn strong boundaries and self care. I very much relate to this talk. Thank you!

  23. Thank you for sharing your story, it's a helpful reflection and spoke to me. Delivered with authenticity, humility and grace.

  24. I have problems with your mouth-noises and maybe I can blame that on the sound-guy, but I'll sit this one out because the other noise coming out of your mouth seems to make a lot of sense.

  25. I have tried to set boundaries with my controlling parents but they have broken them over and over,I'm 38 years old and it has made me depressed,sad,no self worth,no self love, no confidence, drinking alcohol, doing drugs 😭help this is not me!!!

  26. I really enjoyed this. I would love to see a part two with specific tactics, words, phrases to use when setting boundaries and limits. Thanks for a great talk.

  27. Thank you! Thank you! I have to take space from my family again but this time for me and it's hard but I've no energy for trauma therapy and their politics, I can't do both even if I love them, I have to love me before I can love someone else.

  28. A small question. Isn’t a lot of the discussion about the crossing of boundaries something thats emerged out of technology being purposed to cross boundaries? What exactly are you supposed to tell tech that crosses your boundaries without you understanding it or where it’s hidden or it doesn’t even have a communication channel? Strikes me that generally, a lot of people have always been good at developing reasonable boundaries and that the whole area is more of an internal problem with technology that is kind of being expressed to the public at large as if they and not businesses were primarily responsible. This is only one very small thing.

  29. This was like a warm hug from my inner soul to myself. Thank you for being such a kind discerning person to be able to convey such meaningful ideas and thoughts. I just set a boundary with a friend who was draining me daily and I feel so free. Now I can be a better mother, wife, sister and friend. But most of all, now I can be the best for myself. To myself, from myself. This was like a love letter to my heart. Thanks!

  30. On the topic of people reacting to your boundaries, it's helpful to remember that it is not your job to relieve uncomfortable emotions in others. It's hard to be present in that discomfort especially when you're a caring, empathetic person, but ultimately they have to deal with their emotions for their own growth. Knowing that relieves a bit of the guilt

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