We all live with rules and expectations that come from our parents and family, our schools, our faith communities, and other important people in our lives. Some of these rules are healthy and some are not. Regardless, though, until we convincingly decide the expectations that we want to incorporate into our lives, this pressure continues.
Over the past couple of years, this has been a prominent theme in my life. Looking back, I realize that much of the stress and anxiety that we experienced over a dreadfully important stint in Asheville was the result of a definition of me that I did not own. No one was actively living vicariously through me, but all of these voices from my past decided that Asheville would be the site of an epic battle.
Taking an overly guilty conscience, riddling it with long-standing rules and regulations, separating it from everything it has known and everyone it has loved, and clouding its sense of purpose is not unlike leading the perpetrator to the end of the gallery, placing a patch over his heart and a hood on his head, and starting the final countdown. It is an emotional firing squad. It is the moment of truth.
A couple of weeks ago, a pastor of mine spoke about boundaries – and the importance of defining them. In context, the talk was about living in romantic relationships with others – defining who you are, what you value, and how a clear definition of your self will help spawn healthy relationships with others.
Of course, it goes much deeper than this, too. I would argue that really thinking about what we value as individual people, really putting in the work to decide for ourselves what is important to us – in other words, defining who we are – leads to a basic sense of self-awareness. We will know when we’re moving into arenas that we may not want to be in. We may be OK with taking a pencil from work – but money from the cash register may be a bit of a stretch.
When we look inward, when we decide who we are, when we determine what is important to us we contribute to a deep sense of self-confidence. Some people would say that confidence leads to healthy boundaries and a healthy sense of self. While that may be the case – for me, it seems to be happening in reverse order. As I’m defining who I am and what I value I am becoming a much more confident person.