The Secrets About Boundaries and Me

I consider myself someone who is quite good at speaking up for myself in general.  As a result, I have spent years working with clients, supporting and encouraging them to find their own voice and risk speaking up even if it may create conflict in their most important relationships.

Truth is, surfacing conflict really did save my life.  So I have been passionate about it.  It’s not that I love conflict.  I don’t.  However, a lack of conflict and overly nice and calm is way more of a safety issue for me than loud and messy.


The easy answer is simple.  Not speaking up can and does lead to health issues.

Stay silent long enough and your body talks, in the form of headaches, backaches, joint pain, and even cancer.  If you want references check out Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When the Body Says No.

My personal experience is that my cancer began to resolve when I found my voice and spoke up.  I believe staying silent creates ‘dis-ease’ in you, negatively impacting your health.

But please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying if your are ill you must not be saying something.  It is not that simple!  However, speaking up and speaking your truth does help your sense of well-being and life energy.

But there’s more to it.

I’ve been in relationship now for over 16 years with a classic Conflict Avoider, CrisMarie. Yes, she has good reasons for having developed a super power in navigating and defusing conflict.  In many ways, it has served her well.  However, there has been a tremendous cost to her.  You can hear her story in our TED Talk, Conflict Use It, Don’t Defuse It.   It’s also been hard for me and our relationship.

See I do not pick up on her subtle cues. I am also the first to own up to being blunt, persistent and persuasive about my ideas.

As a result, I have gotten upset when I learned later that CrisMarie was quite uncomfortable with my strong debate style, but didn’t say anything at the time.

I am sad when I realize she was asking me questions and working to meet my needs without ever bringing up what she wanted.

I feel blindsided and betrayed  when she has addressed her unhappiness and even once thought she might want to end our relationship because she wasn’t sure there was room for her.


That particular situation was a horrible moment for me.  In my past, I would have quickly tried to change and  stopped speaking up.  Although, having done that before and knowing it did not work,  I chose I different path.

I stayed with me and my style, and I also encouraged her to do whatever it took to find her voice even if it might meant leaving me.

So far, that has not happened.  She’s been working on her own track for a while now and yes, it has impacted our relationship.  She is speaking up. We fight more or at least differently.

Things get tense we sometimes separate and each take space to settle ourselves.  When we’re with others she doesn’t often come to my defense when I get into my own reactive style. No, instead, she usually tells me what she really thinks.  Sometimes that stings.  Yet, I know I am getting straight feedback from her these days, and I like that – even when I hurt myself with it.

As a result, I have also discovered my own issues with boundaries.  For me, it’s not so much saying something I don’t like or think differently about. No. It’s often more about saying, “Ouch! That hurts.”

I tend to have a protective layer that can be more like a wall than a boundary.  I have a fight style that served me well in my past and now can be hard to dissolve.  So people may not know that they are having quite a significant impact on me, and my angry face or silence is a mask.  Underneath, I may be swimming in uncertainty or worse hurting myself with something they’ve said.

When I am at my best I drop the wall and stand forward in my vulnerability.  However, that’s at my best, and I am far from perfect.  I do still wrestle with my walls when I interpret an attack. It is often worse when I am blindsided by a situation where I thought someone was standing beside me, and later learned they were just too afraid to speak and tell me they didn’t like what, or how, I said something.

That moment.

When someone finally finds their voice after long time, and I didn’t know they were being silent to avoid conflict with me.

That moment.

When that truth surfaces, is the most painful for me and yet, the most valuable. It’s the reason I believe surfacing conflict, speaking your truth in real time and hanging in through the messy is so worth it.

I also know I have my own work to do.  Because when I don’t say, “Ouch!” or own up my wobbly vulnerability,  I am really just as dishonest and in avoidance for being real in that moment.

Walls are not boundaries.

Boundaries are not about defense but about self-definition.

Boundaries are for defining me and showing up – not about changing you.

When, and if, me and you ever learn that lesson – well may be then we can live in a more self-responsible relational world!

Do you recognize yourself in any of the above?

CrisMarie and I started Be BRAVE, a six week virtual program, because we believe that speaking up, learning to self-define and stay in your own shoes is critical for aliveness, health, success in business and in any significant relationship or partnership.

If you want to learn more join us for our FREE Training, September 14, How To Set Boundaries that Stick!

Also, we are so excited because we have added a 3-Day In Person Retreat for Be BRAVE!! It is right here in in our charming town of Whitefish Montana.

I’ll be working with you on boundaries using a horse in an arena! You’ll meet a real life cowgirl, horse whisperer, there will be a photo shoot with you and the horses, and mind-body work to help you settle your nervous system in the midst of conflict!

Plus you’ll be eating organic and gourmet food, staying in luxurious accommodations!

You just get yourself to Whitefish and we take care of the rest! Sign up now there are only 6 spots left!!

Check out our three options for Be BRAVE if you are ready to find your voice and speak up!