CREATING BOUNDARIES IN MIDLIFE

I've learned to define my boundaries by a) What I'm responsible for and b) What I'm NOT responsible for and I thought I'd share how I'm breaking that down at the moment. It's where I'm drawing my line in the sand.

LEARNING TO CREATE BOUNDARIES

Boundaries were a whole new realm for me when I discovered them a few years ago. I think most of what I've learned has come from BrenĂ© Brown and her thoughts on having the courage to draw a line in the sand and say "No" - even when we know it will disappoint others. To place value on our own needs and health for a change.

I've learned to define my boundaries by a) What I'm responsible for and b) What I'm NOT responsible for and I thought I'd share how I'm breaking that down at the moment. It's where I'm drawing my line in the sand.

I had always believed that pleasing others was the ultimate goal and if that came at a cost, then so be it. Understanding that there are areas of my life I'm responsible for and others that are not mine to carry, is still a learning curve. Working for approval and to make everything "good" is a hard motivator to give up - but I'll get there.

I've learned to define my boundaries by a) What I'm responsible for and b) What I'm NOT responsible for and I thought I'd share how I'm breaking that down at the moment.

Daring to set boundaries and disappointing others - Brene Brown

WHAT I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR

MY HAPPINESS
The idea that my happiness depended entirely on me was a huge concept to wrap my head around - releasing other people and their choices from the equation of what "makes me happy" is really hard for me, but so important if I want to find a centred contentement that isn't buffeted by the whims of others.

SAYING NO 
The people pleaser in me feels compelled to say "Yes" to everyone's request - to find the extra time, to make the sacrifice, to do things that aren't convenient or appealing. But, the more confident "Me" is learning to say "No" if I need the space and it is an imposition. Finding the balance between not being selfish, and looking after myself is the line I'm juggling at present.

MY CHOICES
I choose my story - I choose whether I'm going to look for the positive in a situation, or whether I'm going to let the rain clouds win. I choose whether I take offence or let it go. I choose whether to say "Yes" or "No". I choose how I spend my time and what I invest myself into. I choose who I surround myself with - and who I cut loose. My life, my choices - and it's liberating to have the courage to choose what's best for me over what looks right to others.

MY REACTIONS
Good and bad things happen to everyone, how I react to the good and bad in my life is up to me. If I look for the negatives I'll always find them and that will colour my world view. If on the other hand I make a point of focusing on gratitude and how full my glass is, then I view my situation in a completely different light. It all boils down to how I react to the situation I'm in - and looking for the positives is the first step.

WHAT I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR

OTHERS CHOOSING TO BE OFFENDED
I've struggled at times with people taking offence. It seems that the people who we are closest to are the ones who read motivation into our interactions that was never intended to be there. I can be genuinely sorry they are upset, but I can't live my life tip toe-ing around on eggshells, second guessing every word that comes out of my mouth. Ultimately they make the choice to be offended and I need to offer an apology if it's warranted and then leave the ball in their court.

FIXING EVERYONE
This is a big one for me - I think it's the oldest child syndrome coming into play. I want everyone to be happy, I want misunderstandings fixed, I want broken relationships fixed, I want emotionally messed up people to be fixed, I want things to be simple and "good". But, it's not up to me to fix everyone - I'm not Dr Phil - and even he doesn't have a 100% track record. It's not my job to fix everyone and everything - (note to self!)

EVERYONE AGREEING WITH ME 
I like to think I'm right - I genuinely believe that I'm right - but that doesn't mean that I am. And even if I am right, it doesn't mean everyone will hold the same opinion as me. The world is full of shades of grey - and it gets greyer as I get older! Everyone interprets things based on their own back story and even black and white can differ from person to person. I have to accept that often people will disagree with my point of view - and that's okay.

EVERYONE APPROVING OF ME
This is another big one for me - I am such an approval seeker! I want to be liked, I want people to think I'm a good person and that I have value. But I can't control how others perceive me. Once again, it comes back to their own world view, their own history, their own split second judgement of me. I can only be myself, authentically true to my own beliefs and values and leave the approval in the hands of others - scary but liberating too.

WHAT ABOUT  YOU?

Have you figured out the concept of boundaries? Are you able to separate what's your responsibility out from the mix? Are you free from worrying about the opinions of others?


I've learned to define my boundaries by a) What I'm responsible for and b) What I'm NOT responsible for and I thought I'd share how I'm breaking that down at the moment. It's where I'm drawing my line in the sand.

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66 comments

  1. Nope, boundaries and I are at best waving acquaintances. I'm pretty good at the stuff that I'm responsible for ie my happiness, my choices, my reactions. I'm not at all great with the things I have no control or, rather, no responsibility for. There are times where it seems that I literally have little understanding of where I end and you begin...so to speak.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean Jo - it's a control thing for me - I want to line up all my ducks with everyone happy and doing what I think is right for them - still have a long way to go on this one!

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  2. For me, boundaries are often illusive. Just when I think I have them set, I find that I have placed them too close or too far. I'm still working on this.

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    1. My problem is that other people don't seem to notice the line in the sand and step over into the space I'm working diligently to create! Maybe I need to build some walls???

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  3. I have also realised the importance of setting limits and boundaries, from multiple personal examples. I too have a tendency not to hurt others, if not overtly please others. Sometimes, it comes at a cost, as you pointed out. Slowly I am realising that I need to set those limits, and ensure that I stick to it.
    Liked reading your post, because I can relate to it so very well.
    Thanks, Leanne, for sharing those points regarding what you are responsible for and what are you are not responsible for.

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    1. Hi Pradeep - it's interesting that boundaries are a problem for all of us? I think we all want to be liked and that causes us to blur the lines and often allow other people to take more than they're entitled to. Finding the balance is the secret.

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  4. I have been learning this also the last few years- and can identify with all you mention. I have had great support from our 'grown up 'children who encourage me to be true and say how it is for me - to say no this does not work for me right now... bless them. The other thing about boundaries for us to get is that they are not fixed in stone they can be adjusted . afterall we set them and so maintaining flexibility is very important - a rigid boundary is as damaging to self as not having any... I appreciate your honesty leanne for calling it as you see it...

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    1. You're right about flexibility Sandra - sometimes we have to stand firm, and other times we can bend if the situation calls for it. I think it's when we're constantly pushed and pulled that the stress really kicks in. You're very fortunate to have adult children who are helping you to be your best.

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  5. It's funny that you say as the oldest, you're the one trying to fix everyone. I'm the middle child and that's been my boundary problem for many years. But, I can say that I'm learning to give that up. I think it's because I've discovered how utterly exhausting it is to try to be the fixer. I've reached a point now where I say to myself, "You're on your own. It's your deal, not mine." You can wish and hope for everyone to get along, but ultimately, it's not your job.

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    1. Middle children are normally more laid back Jean - you must have a bit of oldest child in your DNA :) I know what you mean about how exhausting (and disappointing) it is to try to fix those who don't seem to want to be fixed. I'm finding that now I give it a shot and if I'm constantly back where I started from, then it's time to re-evaluate and some people just need to be left to deal (as you said!)

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  6. So relevant to how I am feeling right now. Starting to question how much I do for others with little in the way of support. Also realising I can choose to make new choices moving forward. I think I will be re-reading this again and again so thank you #AnythingGoes

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    1. Hi Kate - I think we need to keep making the choice - especially with difficult people - those needy ones who seem to suck us dry. After giving and giving I've found that my own well runs dry and I have nothing left. The mental drain is so wearying and I'm learning to put a stop to it before I reach rock bottom - it's been a learning curve for me over the last few years!

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  7. This is tough to learn but when one starts to realize that life years are becoming shorter in number, it is crucial to do. I think it is called the wisdom factor.

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    1. I like the wisdom factor - it makes getting older a little easier to bear - and if we learn and keep learning then it definitely gets easier as time goes on.

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  8. Hi Leanne, this is such a difficult thing to do and I waiver between getting it right and getting it horribly wrong. We all need to set our boundaries and I know the younger generation are much better at doing this than I am. It is hard when you want others to be happy and want to please others. Lately, I've just had to start being rigid in setting my boundaries because I wasn't happy and I was overwhelmed with organising my MILs home for sale. I felt pulled in all directions and just had to say 'No' which again isn't easy. Of course, once I took control, I felt guilty at first but then after working through that, I felt a huge sense of relief. We set boundaries for our children when they are growing up as we teach them about life, but we sometimes forget we need a refresher course in setting boundaries for ourselves. Thanks for the reminder. xx

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    1. You are so right about the guilt and then the absolute relief when you stop, draw the line in the sand and say "no more" Sue. I've had to do it a couple of times and when I finally get brave enough to do it (usually when I'm at the end of my tether) I always wish I'd done it sooner and not allowed myself to get so far down the slippery slope of putting my needs last.
      I think there's a lot more information today on self care and self worth - we might be late to the party - but better late than never!

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  9. Oldest child syndrome - that's me alright! Thanks for this, Leanne. We can't hear it enough - BOUNDARIES!!!!

    Deb

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    1. We should start the "Oldest Child Club" Deb - there's a lot of us who have the classic symptoms of being a fixer and wanting everything sorted and tied with a bow!

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  10. Leanne, I always love that we have so much in common. As the oldest child I'm also trying to keep everyone together and happy. I think boundaries are important and as I get older I'm better at setting my own boundaries. I like Sue's thoughts that as we teach our children about boundaries we should also refresh our own boundaries as we age. I really enjoyed your post and can relate so much to your thoughts.

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    1. Hi Deb - you might like to be another member of the "Oldest Child Club" I'm thinking of starting - we are classics aren't we? I can't believe how laid back my kids are about things compared to me. But I'm getting better - I haven't asked anyone what their plans for Christmas are this year - that's amazing for me to not want to know what's happening - and then to get stressed when it doesn't line up with what I had in mind! Now I'm just opening my hands and saying "whatever!!" I'm becoming a late in life Millenial!

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  11. Oh yes this one is a tough journey but once one understands how much it benefits, its a wonderful thing to adopt. I have become this person who loves to do things for herself and by herself. I dont need company to go to a movie or shopping or a cafe. I have discovered a whole new facet of myself through just loving myself!

    People pleasing never appealed to me but keeping the peace did - now I am off that too! Hopefully will conquer some of the self doubts too!!

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    1. I think you belong to the generation who woke up to things a little bit earlier - each decade seems to bring with it a more definite idea of "self" and what we don't have to put up with - I'm still catching up (but getting there!!)

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  12. I love these pointers so much - why is it we only learn these later on in life?! It feels so important to be liked as a younger adult. Midlife comes with it's silver linings, doesn't it!? xx Maria

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    1. You're so right Maria - we try so hard to keep everyone happy (but was that our generation and the Millenials don't feel the same need?) it's nice to be able to let it all go and start pleasing ourselves for a change isn't it?

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  13. Boundaries is something in adult life that really has to be worked and re-worked and re-evaluated and re-worked again as life changes. Good for you!

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    1. I completely agree Haralee - especially if we're dealing with difficult people because they always push the line - being strong and confident in the "rightness" of the boundary we create helps us to hold firm (or readjust if necessary).

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    1. Thanks Diane - it's something I've put a lot of thought into over the last few years.

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  15. Hi Leanne, just popping back as we co-host the #MLSTL this week. I'll be sharing your post on Social Media and have a beautiful day my BBB!

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    1. Thanks for the lovely share on your Wellness Wednesday and your Facebook Live mention Sue - it's so wonderful having you as my BBB x

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  16. This is a big one for me Leanne! The second guessing, other people choosing to be offended, trying to fix everything, worrying about what 'other people' think. Setting healthy boundaries for myself has given me confidence and peace in my life. A lot of people don't understand that it's a positive thing. I'll be sharing this on Facebook and Twitter for #MLSTL.
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/2018/11/02/me-in-the-middle-of-memories-candy-stripers/

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    1. It's interesting how this is such a big area for a lot of us Mary Lou - I think we were conditioned to it from a young age - all the apologizing and letting others always have first bite of the pie. It's good to be in a place where we can learn to let some of that go and create a space for ourselves that we deserve.

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  17. Setting boundaries is tough Leanne but so important for wellbeing. I started working on this when my life changed in my 50s. I think I'm pretty good at it now but it's been a long and constant struggle. By the way I also have oldest child syndrome so I get it

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    1. Should have added #MLSTL Shared on SM

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    2. 50 seems to be a turning point for a lot of us Jennifer - it's like we wake up and realize how much we're missing out on and then look at ways to reclaim our lives before we're too much older. I'm so glad I woke up and started living - many don't.

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  18. Oh Leanne, I can so identify with this post. When I got married (at age 22), I had a really difficult time setting boundaries with my MIL. It's taken the better part of 25 years...pretty much my entire adult life. But I'm finally getting it. Now I need to reset some boundaries with my grown kids...even harder for some reason. Sigh.

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    1. I got married at 21 Leah and just flowed into keeping everyone happy - changing and reducing myself to fit the "good wife and mother" model. It's been so lovely to finally open my arms and say "this is me - take me or leave me!" but you're also right about the boundaries with adult children - it's been a difficult journey for me in that area too.

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  19. I sure am a lot further down this path of discovery and learning thanks to Brene Brown and others. My husband is a very wise person and has counselling qualifications so at times when I go down the 'people pleasing' path, he asks me "who are you doing this for?" interesting to re-frame reasons.

    Great reflective post, Leanne and one you would not have even considered writing when I first began reading your blog.

    Denyse x #mlstl

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    1. Brene Brown opened a lot of doors for me too Denyse - just re-framing how I look at the world and my place in it. My husband is a counsellor and he woke me up to the fact that I'm responsible for my own happiness - something I'd never understood - I tied happiness into the idea that if others were happy then so was I. It's a killer and my heart has been broken many times because of it - now I'm getting the hang of losing the expectations and just living with life as it is - and it's a tough thing for me to do!

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  20. Boundaries? I'm glad you've written a post about them Leanne! I need constant reminders! Like you I'm a fixer and I can go into a dizzying downward spiral if I'm not fixing everyone and everything. I'm also a people pleaser and feel devastated if I offend people. But deep down I know I'm responsible for me, my actions and my happiness, and as you say even Dr Phil gets it wrong sometimes!

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    1. Why is it so hard for us to let other people deal with their own messes? I think I have the idea that they just need a helpful nudge or suggestion from me and it will all be good - wrong! Some people just wallow in mess or like to live chaotic lives - and I need to leave them to their own devices. I also need to learn that my happiness isn't based on other people being happy - two different concepts but for some reason I tend to always tie the two together (hence the people pleasing problem!)

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  21. After 57 years of putting other people first, I'm slowly learning that it can be my turn!

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    1. Me too Jennifer! It feels a bit selfish at times, but that's because we need to get over the conditioning from childhood and come to terms with the fact that we're allowed to have our place in the sun - we've earnt it!

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  22. Took me YEARS! to figure this out. Even now, when I draw my proverbial line in the sand, I often need to remind myself it's self-care, not selfishness. In reality, I think most people respect knowing exactly where the boundaries are. I also think Brene Brown is right on the money with her concepts.
    I'm the youngest child and always wanted everyone to be happy, and get along, and I tried sooo hard to fix it all! Puzzle me that!! :-)

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    1. Agnes putting others first is definitely something that women of our generation (and the generations before us) have done without thinking. The Millenials don't do it - they put their own needs first every time. I think we're waking up to the fact that we're allowed to make our needs a priority and if someone encroaches on that, then it's okay to say "No" and to hold the line. Tough at times, but so good for us to do.

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  23. Okay, you just described me to a tee--things I've struggled with and things I'm learning and practicing. Thank you for laying it out so clearly. I've definitely made a lot of progress, but still have a ways to go. #MLSTL

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    1. It was important for me to recognize that you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater Christie - we don't toss away all our responsibilities, but we recognize what's ours to carry and what we can leave behind. I carried way more than necessary for a very long time and it's nice to know that I don't need to do that - it's not my burden and I'm foolish if I keep picking it up and weighing myself down.

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  24. This is a biggie for me as well and I take on others' responses all of the time. And often it's not their responses to my behaviour but that of others. I'll see that someone's taking offence at what someone else is saying and I'll try to reword it or I'll make excuses for them.... just so they don't end up feeling like crap. But it can be exhausting. I kinda grew up managing my dad's responses / reactions / feelings in some way - or at least feeling responsible for them and it's hard to let that go.

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    1. It's interesting what you said about trying to smooth the waters for everyone else Deb - I do that too. I reword stuff and try to make sure that offence isn't taken (even if it was intended!) And I had a difficult father who I made excuses for too - seems to be a common denominator in this - an interesting thing to ponder!

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  25. I agree with all you've listed under both categories. I struggle with the 2nd category though. I have a thin skin and get hurt easily. I'm sensitive. I want people to like me. I also find it hard to say no, and the biggie for me .... is to quit being a FIXER. I want to fix everyone. I am sure I can make things better - even if I drain the life out of myself, I try! Wonderful post Leanne #TeamLovinLife

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    1. Hi Min - I think we both have a lot in common with this one - all those areas in the 2nd category are ones I've been working through and still struggle with at times. I'm in the middle of a resurgence because Christmas and all the family drama associated with it just does my head in - and once again I'm running around playing fixer - sigh!!!

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  26. It's still work in progress for me. I did set some boundaries a few years back and dis-attached myself from a couple of toxic friendships. I was actually really proud of myself for doing this, even though it was painful at the time. I've also learnt to say no a lot more so that I don't over-extend myself. But I'm working on the "having to be liked by everyone" bit still. I wish I could careless of what people think of me. #TeamLovinLife

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    1. I did the same thing with toxic and distant friends Kathy - it's a weight off to leave them behind, but I still struggle with the whole boundary thing and not feeling bad or worrying if I'm liked or appreciated (or even accepted!) It's a long haul for me!

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  27. As someone who is an Archetypal Caregiver, I often say YES, but when I recognized and embraced my power to establish boundaries, I now say yes only (mostly) when I really want to do so. Thanks for a great post -- reminders of keeping our boundaries is always important.

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    1. I'm trying to be like that Janet - being able to get my Yes and No right without feeling selfish is still tricky. I'm really working on owning my place in the sun and my right to put my needs somewhere near the front of the line.

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  28. I suffer from oldest child syndrome myself and it was a hard pill to swallow having to accept that I'm not responsible for everyone else's happiness, only my own. It was difficult getting to that realization but once I did I feel like it really liberated me. It opened me up to feeling comfortable enough to set my own boundaries and I'm really proud of myself that I can do that. Love this post! #anythinggoes

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    1. Hi Michelle - it definitely hits oldest children the hardest - and then you add some insecurity into the mix and the fixer/people pleaser is born! I'm hoping to one day be able to say that I've got it all right, but now I tend to swing from being okay to being a repeat offender :)

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  29. Leanne, well said! I've always, from birth, been in the Fixing Everyone category. But I'm happy to say, I am no longer in the Fix-It Business! #BloggersPitStop

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    1. Well done on getting out of people fixing Jean! I manage to stop myself now and then, but I get sucked into drama and my logical little brain starts solving everyone's problems (and that is such a waste of time!) I'm working on it though :)

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  30. I love your paragraph about "others choosing to be offended". People do seem to get offended so easily these days. I have had people get mad at me and be mad at me for months and I didn't even know why. I wish they would have just said something right away. What they assumed was not even correct. It's aggrieving. It's best to always believe the best of someone until you know otherwise.

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    1. Assuming the best saves a lot of heartache Amy - the trouble is that people often see things through their own perspective, assume the worst and don't bother checking our intent. Now I feel myself second guessing a lot of what I say so that I don't tread on toes - I just wish people tucked those toes away and engaged on a more positive level!

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  31. Oh wow, your timing was perfect with this! I have made some major life changes, and I have found that most people don't understand. I have been learning to listen to my inner voice and stop looking for "permission" from everyone else.

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    1. Well done Bethany! I feel the need to justify most of what I do and I hate that. I'm working on getting on with my own life and my own journey and leaving others to decide how they want to handle it - not my problem is becoming a key thought for me these days!

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  32. "MY Reactions" is something I'm very strong on. What I've worked most on teaching when bringing up my kids. We can't necessarily change what other people do, how the world is, how the day ultimately pans out, what others say, but we can be in charge of our reactions to each situation.

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