Rule #9 on Being Lovely: In an argument, fess up to your transgressions. Make no excuses. Retract claws. Resolve conflict. Crisis averted.

Rule #9 on Being Lovely: In an argument, fess up to your transgressions. Make no excuses. Retract claws. Resolve conflict. Crisis averted.

Once again, and as always, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago has managed to oversimplify a very complicated concept: conflict resolution.

If you haven’t picked up on this throughout my previous rules (or for those just joining us at Rule #9), I’ll spell it out very plainly for you: I tend to avoid conflict.

I truly loathe it.  Molly-Ten-Years-Ago, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years, Molly-Today.  Historically, I have never enjoyed conflict.

In fact, I used to dislike it so much, that I actively avoided getting in trouble, or doing things wrong, or hurting someone else.  Learning I had done these things was debilitating to me. We can call it perfectionism, but Young Molly associated each of these things, not with being human, but with being The Bad Guy.

And with regards to this rule, she associated having a disagreement with being in the wrong.  The other person was right and good, and I was wrong and bad.

So, while it was easy for her to write this rule as a simple step-by-step, even Molly-Ten-Years-Ago went above and beyond to avoid hard conversations.

Is it any surprise that Adult Molly felt such discomfort in addressing her negative feelings to someone else?  Especially if that someone else was the perceived cause of the negativity.  Is it any wonder that Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years allowed so many others to violate her personhood?

Thankfully, I have since accepted that having these dialogues is not only important for interpersonal connection, it’s important for uncovering our true selves.  Which is a great thing!

Through conflict, we learn where our boundaries lie; we learn what we are passionate about and why; we learn what we need to educate ourselves about; we learn how to solve problems together; we learn how to speak tenderly to each other in tense times; we learn how to apologize.

So, let’s discuss how Rule #9 is actually about incorporating all of our previous rules.  Because this rule is about those hard conversations we have in order to honor and defend ourselves and our boundaries.  To honor and defend those we care about.

Or maybe we’re defending ourselves to those we care about.

And sometimes, we raise our voices to defend those we have never met, whose voices have been silenced.

However, before we can resolve conflict externally, it’s important to resolve it within ourselves.  How do we achieve peace internally in order to have healthy dialogue with others externally?  How can we convey, in a productive manner, what we feel, if we go off half-cocked?

As I began writing this post, I had to ask myself a few questions:

How often do I identify myself, not as an individual person, but as my emotions, or my preferences, or my passions, or my interests?

When I could not separate myself from these things, how often have I felt attacked when someone disagreed with me about them?  How often have I felt hurt when someone disregarded one of my boundaries?

Moreover, how many times have I lashed out against someone else, because, instead of seeing them as an individual person, I identified them as The-Human-Manifestation-Of-These-Things-I-Don’t-Like?  Or The-Thing-They-Did-That-Hurt-Me?

Our first step in conflict resolution must be to remove a very specific impulse: to label either party as Victim or Villain.  We simply cannot attach such stark labels to anyone and still expect a productive or candid conversation to take place.

Let’s take this one step further and really tear the mask off what is happening with these labels: (more often than not) we have created a dishonest portrayal of events in our own minds.  This defense mechanism allows us to hide from the fact that we may have contributed to whatever caused us pain.

The truth is: I am not victimized because someone has overstepped a bound.  Or because someone’s mindset differs from my own.  And no one is a villain for not clearing the bar of my standards.

If we want to embrace loveliness, we must move past the point where we’ve given anyone the power to devastate us in these ways.

As an adult, I’ve worked hard to arrive at the point where my immediate impulse is to analyze.  Analyze the full situation.  Honestly.  Analyze the reasons someone may have acted a certain way.  Honestly.  Analyze what has happened or what will not happen.  Honestly.

Maybe this takes a few days, maybe I have to address this all in a few moments.  Regardless, in the midst of the action or the tension, I attempt to gain some clarity for myself. I try to be quiet and sit with my emotions before I continue to engage with the other party.  Doing so helps me to realize what I want to achieve through resolution.

In an effort to grow, we need to get into the practice of analyzing the emotions we feel within the context of a specific situation.  At the same time, we need to practice understanding that we are not the emotions we feel.

Yeah, yeah, Molly.  I’ve analyzed.  Now what?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

Remember the Wheel of Emotions from Rule #7?  This next step is all about understanding why we are feeling the emotions we identify.  When you analyze the full situation, what emotions does each successive detail evoke?

You may have seen red at the outset of your conflict, but which shade of red?  Ask yourself what iteration of angry or sad or bad the violation of your boundary made you feel:  Did I feel tricked?  Did I feel taken advantage of?  Did I feel betrayed?  Did I feel provoked?  Did I feel dishonored?  Did I feel jealous?

With this introspection, we next get to examine what these emotions are teaching us: What could I have done differently?  What was the other person trying to achieve, and how could they have done so differently?  What will I look out for next time, to prevent this from occurring again?  How can I help the other party to avoid hurting me or someone else in the future?

Once we’ve worked through these questions, our final step is presenting these reflections to the proper party (not the third parties we may be venting to, though their input is much appreciated!).

So, what does this look like in action?  How do we start this conversation?

Well, let’s start with What-Not-To-Do.  I’ve learned to avoid using unnecessary and emotionally-charged words to describe the situation, nor should I over-describe what happened.  I no longer use hyperbole, as it discounts the credibility of everything else I want to say.  And the hardest thing I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t make accusations.

These all add insult to injury, and they do so needlessly.  So, what do these Should Nots sound like?

“You made me [insert adjective]…”  “I am so [insert adjective] that you [insert action]…”  “Obviously, you did [insert action] on purpose…”  “I hate that you always do this…”

Notice how the syntax of these phrases is attacking and counterproductive.  More than likely, commanding your feelings to and raising your voice at the person you are speaking with will prevent them from hearing You.

Additionally, we get to leave our mean, snide and sarcastic comments and/or tones of voice at the door.  Just because you choose your words wisely, does not mean your tone can’t undermine them. These are deflections we use to hide behind, and we don’t need them here.

What’s important to keep in mind is your intention in speaking with the other party.  Defending your boundaries should not look like tearing someone else down, or causing them their own pain.  If your mindset in speaking with your other party is to Go For The JugularTM, then I’ve missed the mark with my post.

So, to make the essence of Rule #9 perfectly clear, I want to share two of my favorite quotes on this topic:

“When you and [someone] are fighting, you both need to remember it’s you two versus the problem, not you versus [the other person].”

and

“With compromise, you both lose.  You must both collaborate on the best possible outcome.”

How beautiful are these quotes?  They show us that our disagreements or conflicts could actually be chances to team up and grow together.  To open our minds and create new possibilities.  To heal with more efficacy than to cause more pain.

Just like any other conversation, we start with syntax and tone.  We use active listening, and direct eye contact.  We ask probing questions.  We give the other person a chance to confirm their side of the situation.

We should practice the following phrasing when helping others to understand how their actions affected us:

I felt + [insert adjective] + when + [insert your understanding of the situation].

I’ve found that this style of phrasing helps to de-escalate tensions when they are running a little high.  It helps both sides of the conversation to see the person, not the emotion. This particular formula eliminates the opportunity for you to hide behind the identity of an emotion, and also allows you the opportunity to share your perspective of the event-in-question.

When we start our confrontation with simple phrasing, the opportunity to address the subject at hand becomes much more feasible, and less daunting for both parties.

As you move through the conversation, you can ask questions to help you understand the full situation.  Taking conflict resolution in baby steps actually moves you forward, instead of being held back and mired in negativity.

Though collaborative resolution is beautiful, you can expect it to be difficult to face.  But that doesn’t mean conflict is something to avoid. 

This rule is about practicing it anyway.  This rule is about how you will become stronger.  

This rule is about how conflict resolution will never be easy, but you will become better at it.

Rule #9 is no longer about achieving conflict resolution.  It is actually about striving for collaborative resolution.

Where both parties can conclude a hard conversation with peace, instead of pain.

Where your discussion can soothe the full spectrum of emotions you felt.

Where what is broken through human nature can become beautiful through reparation.

So, let’s wrap this up:

Do you find that you lean in to conflict resolution, or do you find that you try to avoid it?

How often do you find yourself creating a dishonest portrayal of a situation that upset you?

What tactics do you take in resolving conflicts with those you care about?

How has your approach to collaborative resolution changed over your lifetime?

Rule #8 on Being Lovely: “Clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”

Rule #8 on Being Lovely: “Clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”

So far, I’ve been enjoying each week’s exposition on the variety of angles we can take for introspection.  But I’d say it’s about time we take a look at how our internal reflections begin to manifest themselves externally.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years has learned to be unabashedly open to what she loves.  Since middle and high school, she cracked a very critical code:

People are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well be purposeful about and proud of yourself and your preferences.

With that lesson learned, Molly-Today loves feeling beautiful.  I love it.  This has not changed over the past 30 years.  I’ve just learned to give myself permission to feel my own form of beautiful.  Every day.  To love dresses, and make-up, and long, flowing hair. To love singing, and writing, and learning, and talking.  Because that makes me feel beautiful.

I’ve also learned to give myself permission to derive beauty from feeling powerful and strong.  To love black, and wearing clothes that allow me to test my physical limits, and tying my hair back to concentrate. To love nature (even though I do not care for bugs or their bites), and climbing rocks, and WWII narratives, and campfires.  I love it all.  Because I love it.

With regards to Rule #8 in its present state, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago probably picked this Marilyn Monroe quote because she loved the idea of being ladylike.  She loved the concept that “The magic is in the mystery.”  She loved modesty and dressing like a casual young royal.

And if someone else loves that same thing: great.  And if someone else loves the exact opposite thing: also great.

So maybe this specific quote works for the people who want That Same ThingTM. But Molly-Today understands that this is likely a small subset of the population.  Certainly not the whole.

However, I want this blog about being lovely to apply to anyone who reads it.  I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be feminine.  I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be masculine.  I want it to apply to all of the people that want to be anything.

So, here’s how Molly-Today thinks Rule #8 should read:

“Your clothes should fit however you want them to fit, and should make you feel however you want to feel.”

And what’s important to note is that you may feel two, or ten, opposing ways about yourself…and that is fantastic!  Because, just as we discussed in Rule #1, you are You.  Your personality is not mutually exclusive from day to day, or moment to moment.

Neither do your descriptors exist in mutual exclusivity.  You do not have to be “Delicate and Feminine Only” on one day, so that you can choose to be “Fierce and Force-to-be-Reckoned-With Only” on another day. You never have to be “Intellectual Bookworm Only” one day, so that you can be “ATHLETIC AND SPORTY ONLY” another day.

That’s simply not what the Spice Girls would have wanted.

These tropes are cliche, and limiting, and unfair. A while ago, I stumbled upon this quote, which really solidified how I felt on this topic:

We are dynamic beings, with a multitude of contrasting factors to us!  All of these feelings we hold occur in varying levels of our lives, and we get to figure out how to portray that to the world.

How creatively wonderful!

It should come as no surprise to you that, though I will be talking about both of these things, this Rule is actually nothing about clothing or makeup.  Rather, Rule #8 is all about taking note of what you love about yourself and presenting that to the world.

I’ve learned that most of life is about taking the time to learn what we love and what we love about ourselves, and giving ourselves permission to emphasize those items together.

I firmly believe that we know what we love by a very young age, but taunting and teasing throughout our adolescence make us conform away from our true selves. How many interests and traits have we hidden throughout our lifetimes, in an effort to gain external acceptance?

So, Rule #8 is about rediscovering what we may have pushed aside many years ago.  And being so confident in your own interests and personality that you wear them with pride, literally and/or figuratively.

This rule is about turning what we love into the rituals we use to face the world.  Because this mental uniform we don is our armor.

I think about the time I spend executing the exact same make-up routine every morning.

Or the time I take to curl each strand of hair on my head.

I also think about the formula of clothing I use each day.

All of these steps I take every morning? They all prepare me to face each day authentically and without added self-doubt.

**Me, walking into work with my black-on-black pencil skirt and heels**

But I also think about how many years it took me to get to this mental outfit.  And how much courage it takes to get to this point of acceptance.

Because, in all honesty, Young Molly was never comfortable with her outward appearance. Molly-Today still struggles with it.  I’ve always felt that I had awkward features, and my fine motor skills just did not know how to work with that.

Throughout my school career, I didn’t wear makeup. Mostly because I didn’t know how.  Each attempt at masking my face was laughable at best.

This discomfort in my own skin persisted until several years after I graduated college, when life presented me with an opportunity.

We shall name this opportunity: Kristen and Jenna.

Kristen and Jenna were two of my coworkers when I was working overseas. Everyday, I would catch myself staring at them out of envy…and confusion: how can these ladies look so ethereal and natural and make it look so effortless?

I was very tempted to cross into the dangerous territory of Horizontal Comparison, which we will discuss in a later rule.

Instead, in the spirit of Rule #4, I worked up the courage to ask them if they would mind spending time doing my makeup one day, and teaching me any tips they had.

They were so kind and so willing to share their knowledge with me!

Kristen and Jenna shared with me that makeup is not about hiding yourself. At all. Rather, it is all about art theory: identifying your facial structure, understanding where light naturally falls on your face, and utilizing the color wheel. It should be fun, not frustrating.

Throughout their time with me, they would say things like:

“I imagine the sun would hit you here, so we’re going to keep this area lighter than the rest of your face…but the sun would also cause you to have a hint of color here, so let’s put some blush in this area…

Their makeup session was very much like a session with Bob Ross.

When they were done, I remember looking in the mirror, and feeling astonished at how Me I looked.  But emboldened.  The point of our session wasn’t to mask my face behind a plaster, but to draw attention to it.

These ladies introduced me to such basic yet profound principles of seeing myself as a work of art.  They hadn’t changed anything about my features, they hadn’t made one single negative remark.  They had only enhanced the features of my face.

From that moment forward, I made an effort to stop being shy in the mirror.  I made a point to learn my own features.  To understand the geometry and topography of my face, and learn how to appreciate the facets that, before, I had allowed to make me feel inadequate.

After enough time, I found that gratitude was growing where awkwardness had lived for so long.

I may still struggle with moments of self-criticism. But when I look at myself in the mirror now, with or without makeup on, I no longer feel awkward. I no longer lend negative energy towards what I don’t like.

I simply study what I see.  I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the light hits certain angles.  I’ve learned how to emphasize spots that I like, in an effort to enhance those that I should like.

And the same thing happened with my body and my wardrobe: I no longer needed an array of wild items to create my daily look and disguise my body. I became comfortable with wearing basic pieces that didn’t do the work of my personality, but provided a clean and simple canvas for my personality.

This rule is not about asserting that someone should or should not wear makeup or a certain style of clothing. In fact, all of these rules will always be about adapting what we learn from our own experiences into helping others embrace themselves.

Rule #8 is about learning your unique facets, and embracing what you may not have always been comfortable with. This rule is about forgiving yourself if you aren’t at that point yet.

This rule is about drawing strength from your interests, and celebrating yourself in front of others.

This rule is about adorning your body with gratitude and appreciation, each day.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What are things you love and how do those items translate externally in your life?

When do you feel most beautiful, and what factors contribute to these moments?

Have you ever struggled to accept some part of your appearance?

What are ways you have worked to embrace what you have struggled with?

Rule #7 on Being Lovely: Stop cursing. Be vigilant and intelligent about what comes out of your mouth. Give respect and you get respect.

Rule #7 on Being Lovely: Stop cursing. Be vigilant and intelligent about what comes out of your mouth. Give respect and you get respect.

Young Molly used to curse.  A lot.

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This may be surprising to those who know Molly-Today.  Or even Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.

So, I think about this rule and I remember my days in high school, where my career in using profanity began.  I remember how it made me feel heard and powerful in my adolescent years.

What an alluring feeling.

Perhaps I have an addictive personality, because once I started cursing, I did it all the time.  So much so that I couldn’t even tell when I had done it.  These expletives creatively seeped into all parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc…

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And these speech patterns persisted, almost unknowingly, until a close friend gently called me out.  Did I realize how I sounded?

I remember, in this moment, how my train of thought completely stopped.  I’m sure I responded with something defensive, that brushed the issue aside.  But after our phone call was over, I realized that I couldn’t even remember saying these choice words.

But I knew that I had.

Did I realize how I sounded?

Had I realized that my brain automatically filled space with words I’d grown accustomed to using?  Did I realize that my mind had become a series of basic knee jerk reactions to what was going on around me?

I recall in that moment feeling acutely disappointed in how much I didn’t pay attention to what I said, and decided to give myself a challenge: to stop cursing entirely.

I replaced my expletives with words that started similarly, but had innocuous meanings: “Sh…sugarlumps!” (Special thanks to Mom for that one!)  “F…fiiiiine!”  “God…bless it.”

Sure, I still slipped up every so often.

But soon enough, I was cognizant of what was coming out of my mouth.  And it became fun to catch myself, providing random words in their place.  This challenge brought me to see the magic of Rule #2, as I became more present to each moment.

This challenge helped me to control my reactions across the board, and in a way, to remain calm in times of stress.  I no longer even felt the urge to respond in anger.  I no longer felt the need to think of people in terms of such strong negativity.

Where once I felt powerful uttering senseless words, I actually derived a sense of power by calmly responding to someone attempting to get a rise out of me.

Because, as is always the case: our example becomes their permission.

I learned that the language and tones we use when speaking to each other are incredibly important.  Because the way we speak to others is the example we give for how others may speak to us.

I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t allow words to hold power over or against us.  Typically, this is followed by the idea that we should just say whatever we want, whenever we want.  That “It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”  I will address this sentiment in a later rule, but for now I would like to discuss the internal angle here.

I would challenge anyone pushing this concept to understand why choosing not to say certain words is a powerful statement, in and of itself.  And how choosing not to say certain words forces us to level up, in terms of our own emotional intelligence.

Because Rule #7 is about examining why we use the words we use.

Are we using our words to emphasize a point?  If so, why not find more descriptive words to paint the full picture of our story, stance, or statement?  Why not create a tone geared toward educating and/or informing, rather than attacking and/or defending?

Are we using these words to express anger?  If so, how can we work on the impulse to get a better handle on our negative emotions, instead of entertaining the impulse to lash out?  What methods can we use to mitigate our stresses?

Are we using these words to describe someone else?  Are we using these words to hurt someone else?  Are we using these words to tear someone down?

Rule #7 is about examining the intentions behind all of the words in our inventory, not just the expletives.

But Molly, why learn new words to portray extreme hurt or anger, when a solid “F*ck You” could convey this emotion in a fraction of the time?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

My answer is this: when we take the time to understand the intricacies of our own emotions, not only can we share with others how they may be violating our boundaries, we also help others to develop their own emotional quotient.

Just look at how many words we could use to label exactly which emotions we are feeling!  Think about how comforting it is to have exactly how we are feeling validated with a correct label.

Why limit ourselves to the first tier, with only six descriptors?  Why even limit ourselves to the second tier words, when we could dive deeper into our own minds?

For example, maybe your urge is to label someone derogatorily, but what really happened was they made you feel “provoked,” “disrespected,” or “overwhelmed.”  Instead of honoring the urge to dismiss these specific feelings with a quick and biting remark, we should understand how and why their actions may have caused us to feel a certain way.  And we should calmly let them know this.

In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #5 & #6.

Maybe we understand that we might feel “content,” but we want to feel “confident?”  Or though we feel “angry” at times, we actually feel “jealous” and not “betrayed?”

In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #1 & #3.

Simply knowing how you really feel to your core is the ultimate calm.  And achieving this serenity does not mean you never feel negative or positive emotions.  It just means you don’t allow these emotions to unseat you.

Think of Rumplestiltskin: once we can accurately name what we are feeling, we can start to understand and control our responses to these feelings.

How many times have we mislabeled what we were feeling because we didn’t have the word for it?  How many times have we been offered advice for the wrong emotion, because we didn’t have the word to express exactly what we were going through?  How many times have we felt frustrated when others simplified our feelings to the exact wrong conclusion?

This rule is about the inward growth that comes from elevating our lexicon.

Think back to Rule #4, to the story about my mental health struggles.  How isolating it was, to feel like I could only describe my mental pain as “sad,” or “bad,” or “angry,” or “fearful?”

None of those words fit right.  And none of those words do our own individual journeys any justice.

It astounds me just how many of the words in the third tier of this chart resonate with how I felt for so long.  Is it any wonder that my own journey towards serenity was put on hold?

Finally refusing the impulse to brush these feelings off with a simple profanity, actually allowed me the space to grow into these new words.

Once I forced myself to eliminate the first-tier impulses of my vocabulary, my thoughts and speech became more descriptive.  I found that I had been using profanity as a crutch in conversation in an effort to emphasize a description, rather than finding the actual word to describe it. This effort had certainly backfired.

When we remove the habit of the same old words we always use to convey ourselves, we help others to understand us.  We might also help others to understand themselves.

So, Rule #7 is about controlling your response when the world around you tests your peace of mind.

This rule is about understanding that not everything or everyone deserves a reaction out of you.

This rule is about training your mind to react with a purpose.

This rule is about learning how to properly identify what we are feeling, in an effort to rise above the patterns into which we have conditioned ourselves.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What are reasons you use profane or powerful language?

What methods do you employ to prevent yourself from using profanity at the wrong times, or in the wrong situations?

How often do you use these words, rather than finding the true descriptor to convey your thoughts or emotions?

How often do you identify your feelings as those emotions listed in the third tier?

Rule #6 on Being Lovely: You’re a prize worth fighting/dying/waiting for. Act like it. You’ll spot and weed out bad eggs easily. Guaranteed.

Rule #6 on Being Lovely: You’re a prize worth fighting/dying/waiting for. Act like it. You’ll spot and weed out bad eggs easily. Guaranteed.

If standards are the gatekeepers for the castle grounds of our lives, then boundaries are the variety of protections that fortify this castle, and safeguard those within (read: You).

Like moats filled with alligators, or skyward towers made with thousands of bricks, the boundaries we set in place for ourselves are not for the faint of heart.

What’s important to understand is that your walls and defenses do not make you difficult to be around, and certainly do not make you hard to love.  Not by your partner.  Not by your family.  Not by your friends.

Your walls do, however, make you hard for abusers to love.

Your walls do make it difficult for someone only interested in a Get-Love-Quick scheme to stick around.

Your walls demand bravery and discipline to overcome, and force cowards to call their own bluffs.

And the ones who are worthy of you will not only work within the boundaries you set, they will hold you accountable to them.  Earnestly and compassionately.

The best part about this concept is this:

Each person who respects your standards and your boundaries, in essence, becomes a sentinel on your team.  The people we surround ourselves with create a powerful boundary protecting our boundaries!

So, Rule #5 discussed standards, which are the initial litmus tests for whether or not someone should have access to certain levels of our lives.

In this way, boundaries are guidelines which inform others how they may interact with us.  I see them as the red and green lights we use when engaging with each other.

For instance, with regards to dating, the initial boundaries we create at the outset of a courtship might look like this:

No, you may not contact me past midnight and expect a response.

No, I will not prioritize a date at the last minute over plans I’ve made with friends.

No, I will not play Caretaker to fill the office of Mother in your life.

No, I will not engage in sexual activity until a level of trust has been proven and verified.

No, you may not use subversive tones and/or derogatory terms in conversation with me.

No, I will not participate in a relationship with you while you are in a relationship with someone else.

No, I will not read between lines for your implications.

These are all basic examples of boundaries in romantic relationships, and there are plenty more that I am certain each of us can add.

We can simplify this list even more, based on what we are or are not comfortable with, in general.  In doing so, this list can be adapted for your dating life, for your friendships, and even for your work life:

No, my boss may not email or call me after-hours and expect action to be taken.

No, I will not accept the tasks my coworker wants to pass on to me, simply because he or she lacks the discipline to do it themselves.

No, I will not sacrifice a mental health day, even if it means missing out on my friends’ last second plans.

No, these people around me may not use words or actions that undermine my spirit.

No.

Can you already tell what Molly-Today is going to say Rule #6 means, at its core?

Rule #6 is all about the importance of implementing the word “No” in our lives.  Because by lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become desensitized and derailed.

By lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become overextended, overworked, and spread thin, to the point of breaking.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years did not like to say “No.”  Even at the risk of her own health and sanity.  She never said “No,” but she actually never said “Yes.”  She led something of a “Sure?” lifestyle.

A “Sure?” lifestyle is dangerous because it allows others into the driver’s seats of our lives.  In my life, this is what that looked like:

Sure, I will work overtime in my position, while covering my boss’s position and working overtime there, and not be compensated or recognized in any way for either?

Sure, I will push the limits of what I am physically comfortable with in our relationship, even though I absolutely know this could be a slippery slope leading to something I definitely do not want?

Sure, I will join my friends for a night of an activity in which I have no interest, even though I haven’t slept well in days and should probably use tonight for a quiet night in?

Sure?

Sure?

Sure?

But, Molly, your “Sure?” lifestyle was allowing you to spend time with your friends and dive into your career?  Aren’t those good things?

To which I will say:

Of course, it is important to spend time with those you love and care about; and of course, it is important to invest in your career path.

But not at the expense of your peace.

When we “Sure?” our way through life, we burn out by using our energy on things that do not serve us.  Worse, we allow ourselves to miss the opportunities to engage in what will truly fulfill us, as we use our time and efforts on the extraneous tasks that belong to others.  We use our bandwidths accepting burdens that dull our edges, instead of taking on projects and engagements that polish our finish.

But, Molly, if it’s good to spend time with friends and work hard in my career, how can I tell when I have crossed my own boundaries?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

The great news is that your body is your first, and most powerful, ally.  Our bodies can tell us when we’re not honoring our boundaries.  Here are some physiological responses we might experience when we allow our lines to be crossed:

When we are in a relationship with the wrong person, our hearts will feel anxious.  When we are working the wrong job, it will be hard to get out of bed in the morning.  When we want to do something new, our minds will be restless.

The sheer volume of signals our bodies provide us is innumerable!  But as easy as it was for me to type those examples, they aren’t easy lines to draw.  Because they take a lot of time to discover in the first place!

Most of the boundaries I have developed have come from A LOT of sleepless nights (much like the ones I described in Rule #4), pondering what is within my control that I am letting out of my control.

Predictably, after any amount of time burning the Proverbial Candle all over, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years used up her physical, mental, and emotional capacities.

She became tired and worn down, and she found that her only solution was to stop reacting at all.  The energy it took to emote on a daily basis just wasn’t there.

This is what a life without boundaries led me to!  I was very much, and very simply, a walking and talking skeleton, who moved through life as dictated by her schedule.

But that’s not what we are made for!  Though we are technically skeletons that can walk and talk, we are made to be so much more.

Without proper boundaries, I left no time to get to know myself.  I left no time to enjoy my own passions.  I left no time to process how I was doing.  I left no time to develop the life I wanted for myself!

Physically, I was across the world from my loved ones.  Mentally, I was exhausted and going through each day in a fog.  And emotionally, I felt nothing.  Except paralyzed.

My body was communicating.  My alarm systems were blaring.  I knew I wanted to make a change, but it seemed like everything needed to change.  And that thought was daunting.

The first thing I had to do was eliminate my knee jerk reaction to accept everyone else’s demands and requests.  As soon as I did this, I was shocked at how much time and mental space opened up for me!

As soon as I started saying No, I was actually able to say Yes.

Making this small change to what we know is negatively impacting us, amounts to honoring our own borders.  And the feeling of relief that comes with this simple action is immense.

As long as we ignore these signals, and honor the whims and preferences of others, we will find ourselves in discomfort.  And once we start defending ourselves, by making small but noticeable changes to our lives, we give ourselves room to grow.

Rule #6 is so important, because if there is one thing this world needs less of, it’s individuals who are so jaded from overextending themselves that they no longer feel passion.

Or worse: they no longer feel compassion.

So, Rule #6 is about saying No, when you want to say No.

Rule #6 is about saying Yes, when you want to say yes.

Rule #6 is about excising the impulse to accept what is not required of you, in an effort to accept more.

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So, let’s wrap this up:

What are some examples of boundaries you have instituted in your own life?

How often do you find yourself accepting the requests and responsibilities of others, that you should refuse?

When your boundaries have not been honored in the past, what signs has your body given you?

How can you honor the boundaries you have created for yourself?