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Compassionate Boundaries

On Compassion and Boundaries

“Are people doing the best they can?”

This is one of those podcast episodes that hit me hard this year. While talking about what it’s like to Live Big, Brené Brown shares a story of her therapist challenging her to assume positive intent with others.

“I really do believe that most of us are doing the very best we can with the tools we have. I believe we can grow and get better, but I also believe that most of us are doing, really doing our best.”

Initially, Brené rejects this message. But over the course of her own research and interviews, she comes back around to the same conclusion that people are doing their very best most of the time.

Brené then unpacks what it’s like to live from this compassionate place:

She finds that people are able to focus on what is, rather than what should or could be. Their quality of life and inner pieace improve significantly as a result.

She also finds that the most compassionate people tend to also have the most well-defined and well-respected boundaries. They ask for what they need while acknowledging reality.

That last point is surprising and important: Compassionate people aren’t people pleasers. They aren’t exhausted fighting for their worth. They aren’t burning out. Their cup isn’t empty from giving endlessly to others.

Compassionate people set boundaries by asking themselves questions like:

“What boundaries need to be put in place for me to be in my integrity and be generous towards others?”

This includes boundaries with family, friends and colleagues. For high-performing leaders, this also includes boundaries with demanding bosses and demanding jobs.

To summarize the key take-aways:

  • People are doing the best with the tools they have most of the time. This is not just a compassionate view; it’s also often true.
  • The sooner I can accept this, the sooner I can assess the reality and what my choices are in that.
  • My compassion towards others includes myself too. I establish boundaries that help me stay healthy, in my integrity, and generous towards others with what I can offer.

Standing from this place, I have found myself becoming more understanding and patient with myself and others.

We are all doing the best that we can.

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