A few months back I had a disturbing dream. In my dream a woman with stringy blonde hair rang my bell. She asked if she could come in. I didn't want to open the door. But I felt guilty about my reaction. So I let her in. She pulled out a hand gun and shot me. I woke with a start and a racing heart. I clutched my pillow and my life. My inner voice spoke immediately and sharply. "Politeness kills," it said.
This was an extreme way to let me know I had to honor my boundaries. I've never liked the word "boundaries." It sounds like barbed wire or armored trucks. But I do like the feeling of listening to my intuition, respecting my inner instructions. And it feels appropriate and sacred to be mindful of my gold.
I see many creative, incredible individuals who leak their strength and focus with amorphous personal boundaries. We want to be nice, helpful, and well-liked. But bear in mind that your time and attention are your personal reserves of oxygen and hydration. Time and attention create your life's dreams. Dreams keep your soul alive and contribute to all of humanity. I'd like you to create your life's dreams. That's why I'd like you to reflect on where you put your time and attention.
You have a Responsibility to Yourself.
You have a mission here. You have sacred work to do. No one but you knows what you came for. The people in our lives may not appreciate the work we feel compelled to do, the dreams we wish to give birth to. They may fling casual, loose, social standards your way, just like tossing horseshoes at a backyard barbecue.
I used to have a hard time saying no to lunch dates and coffee. People would often say to me, "You have to eat, right?" and I'd feel found out and exposed, like I was hiding time from this person. And then I'd eat with them--and eat my heart out at the same time. Of course they were wonderful people. Of course I got value out of the time together. But that doesn't mean anything. I'd get value out of reading about the history of socks, too. But I had something specific I yearned to do. I wanted to write a book. I ached when I did not write. Every time I said yes to a lunch date, I said no to my dream. That became too wounding. I learned to say "No."
It's not selfish to want to give time to your dream. Your dream will give love and energy into this world. I often think about the people I esteem in life. Mother Teresa had a guiding mission. Martin Luther King had a burning cause. They did not squander their energy or time by being polite. They gave in huge ways because they said no to little things.
It's not Selfish to be Honest
"I don't want to be selfish," said a client of mine recently who admitted not wanting to get together with a friend. "She needs me." Now there are times when someone needs us and we feel called to be there. That's wonderful. When we're called, it feels good to be there. It doesn't feel like an obligation. It feels like a secret mission or a privilege. But more often than not, someone "needs" us and we're afraid to decline.
Here's the thing though. You can't change your feelings. When you truly don't want to do something, it's not doing anyone any favors to lie. Your energy doesn't lie. If you do something you don't want to do, you may just end up being late, angry, sarcastic, withdrawn, and, in general, as mild-mannered as a jackal or a jalapeno pepper. That ride to the airport will be no joyride. And nobody will get what they wanted.
What if you could trust your feelings? What if you knew that if you honored your own needs, you would naturally increase your generosity?
What if it's okay to just love what you love and dislike what you dislike and gravitate where you are drawn? Why do we secretly think we are being ruthless? What if we are being elegant? What if we are daring to live gracefully by daring to listen to our inner voice? What makes you think that your persistent feelings are wrong? I trust that your soul is pure and precious and knows your highest purpose. And I hope you listen to its promptings more than some sick, guilt-inducing nagging, sagging voice that makes you feel burdened inside. One voice will make you feel heavy and one will make you feel light. One is thudding in the wrong direction. And one is turning right.
Your Real Relationships will Support the Real You
Often times we're afraid to honor our boundaries, because we don't want to upset the people around us. Indeed some people will balk at your limits and may even suggest that your decreased availability is the first sign of Satan worship or advanced Narcissism. But real relationships support the real you. I have no doubt that my friends would prefer to hear from me more often than they do. But they prefer my authenticity and happiness even more. That's why they're true friends. Some individuals who seem to demand the most of us are energy vampires. They feed on your warmth and pay no heed to your needs. They will demand that you be giving. And you will never give enough.
Recently while driving to Northern California where I had a speaking engagement, I decided to stop for a quick break. I chose to wander into a small boutique with painted scarves in its windows. When I got into the shop, the owner started telling me about the sales she had going. I nodded politely. She continued to tell me about the rugs she had imported from Turkey and I found myself hanging on every word though I didn't want any rugs or details of her trip. Her enthusiasm kept me paralyzed. I only had a few minutes to stop here and look around. Finally, I excused myself and walked away. The owner followed me and kept talking. She refused to give me space. That's when I walked out of the shop. I decided I did not need to indulge someone who was not respecting me. I breathed in the salt air of that gorgeous ocean town and skipped back to my car. I felt like a fly who had escaped a spider's web.
Always be kind. But think twice before you're "nice." Nice, is often a mask of pleasantness we put over negative feelings. Nice is often a form of self-rejection. Real kindness feels good. It's when we give because we want to give and we give in ways that respect everyone, including us.
If you want to give to others, give truly. Give the exceptional gift of taking care of yourself and tending to your dreams. Give the love that can only come from you expressing your unrivaled talents and devotions on this earth. Follow your calling and draw lines when you must. Doing what matters should never be sacrificed for a false idea of manners.
Tama J. Kieves, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, left her law practice with a large corporate law firm to write and to embolden others to live and breathe their most meaningful self-expression. A leading alternative career coach and best-selling author of THIS TIME I DANCE! Trusting the Journey of Creating the Work You Love/ How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All to Have It All! (©2003 Tarcher/Penguin), Tama devotes her dynamic energy to life/work coaching and to facilitating workshops and retreats throughout the country. For more than a decade, she has helped thousands of individuals unleash their creativity and their callings. Founder of Awakening Artistry, an organization dedicated to creating a global family of creative and visionary minds, her inspiring work has frequently been featured on T.V., radio, and in national publications. Learn more about Tama's workshops and coaching or sign up to receive her free inspirational e-zine at http://www.AwakeningArtistry.com