If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you may remember that I went through a major “decluttering” kick last spring. In my first of a three-part series, I wrote about getting rid of excess material stuff. The second article focused on the spiritual gifts which come when we give material goods away. The third article got really juicy for me as a therapist because it centred on the concept of ‘emotional decluttering.’ Here is an excerpt from that article to lead into today’s topic of creating boundaries through “Personal Policies”…
I started thinking about how great it would be to write a companion book to The Life-changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing by Marie Kondo about the “emotional decluttering” process. Then I started fantasizing about writing that book myself and thought I’d surf the web and see if anyone else had written anything like it. Low and behold, the adage, ‘There is no such thing as an original idea’ is indeed true! Someone else beat me to it! Because I am now doing my best to be a Buddhist, upon discovering this fact, I looked at her web page and said out loud: “Bless you sister for your ingenuity. What a fabulous idea you came up with! May your work be a blessing on the world.”
The book I discovered was this one: The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving a F*ck: How To Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have With People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do by Sarah Knight. I ordered it immediately and haven’t finished reading it in time to review it here, but I found a couple of reviews-this one and this one– you may want to look at to help you decide if it’s something you want to order yourself.
Personally, I can tell that I love the author already based on the title! My basic understanding at this point is that Sarah Knight read Marie Kondo’s book, got rid of all her stuff that didn’t ‘spark joy’ and then starting examining both those activities and people in her life which ‘sparked joy’ and those that didn’t. Thus, she was led to write a hilarious but extremely practical book to help others do the same.
Now that I’ve finished reading the book in it’s entirety and have done many of the life-changing exercises within it’s pages, I want to share my favourite bit of it with you which revolves around setting and instituting healthy boundaries with others. This life-changing book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do is a must-have so make sure you run out and buy a copy after reading this. The following brilliant boundary-setting tool is from the section of the book entitled “Personal Policies”- (pgs. 85-6)
Personal policies are an excellent way to conserve your f*cks swiftly, efficiently, and with an extremely low risk of hurt feelings…
Here’s how it works:
If there’s something I don’t give a f*ck about but that exists in that gray area of potentially hurting someone else’s feelings no matter how honest and polite I am, I simply chalk it up to a “personal policy.”
As in “I have a personal policy against donating to Kickstarter campaigns, because if I donate to one, I feel like I have to donate to them all. I just can’t afford it, and if I had to choose, I wouldn’t want anyone I love to think I value them more or less than anyone else.”
And as I said, you can include any/all charitable donations, pledges, and even cold-hard-cash loans in this category of f*cks, since they are typically solicited in the same manner, by the same people, and can be covered by the same personal policy.
Say it one more time, with feeling:
“I have a personal policy against ________________________, because if I ________________________ one, I feel like I have to _____________________ them all. I just can’t afford it, and if I had to choose, I wouldn’t want anyone I love to think I value them more or less than anyone else.”
I think Ms. Knight is definitely onto something good here. One of the most common problems clients share with me is that they have a difficult time saying no to people and events they don’t want to participate in. I often suggest the concept of ‘buying time’ whereby you don’t give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response immediately and ‘buy some time’ by saying “I have to think about that. I need to check my calendar and get back to you.” This can often get us out of some really ghastly events we’d rather avoid and can work wonders without offending the asking party.
But in my opinion, the ‘personal policy’ takes it to a whole new level and leaves absolutely no wiggle room for flip-flopping and saying yes when what you really wanted was to say no. It’s so simple and universal in it’s scope. To get you started on your own personal policy list, I’ll share some of mine with you to get the ideas engine up and running.
Esther’s Personal Policies
Answering the front door if I’m not expecting anyone when the bell rings– I am particularly fond of this one because it covers a few areas by helping me to avoid the following: annoying solicitors, getting into heated arguments about religion, ending up with boxes of cookies and chocolate with horrifying ingredients that no one in my home will eat, being interrupted when I’m on the phone, cuddling with my cats and/or husband, or in the middle of a sauna.
Attending bridal showers and baby showers- to be honest, I’ve attended MANY of these in the past and had a miserable time at each and every one, but because I’m now solidly in my mid-forties, I feel I’ve earned the right to pass on these forced obligatory events which, if we’re totally honest, no one enjoys (especially the bride-to-be and the newborn baby).
Professional Networking Groups- Again, something I feel that with so much personal and professional experience, I have earned the right to pass up. I’d much rather clean my cats’ litter box ten times in one day than to attend one more of these horrid events.
Now it’s time for you to write up your own personal policy list and start instituting it. If you feel like sharing what you come up with me and my readers, please send it to me at: estherATestherkane.com