8. BOUNDARIES AND BECOMING MYSELF
Mary: I’m here with Jeanette and we are talking about boundaries. Hi Jeanette. Thanks for joining us.
Jeanette: Hey, Mary. I’m really glad to be here.
Mary: I’m so glad too. Tell me a little bit about you.
Jeanette: A little bit about me. Gosh, I just turned 64, so I’m very excited about that. I’ve made it through 64 years.
Jeanette: I am a mother of nine children. I’m a grandmother of eight children.
Mary: Nine children?
Mary: Oh, my family also had nine children.
Mary: What was it like having nine children?
Jeanette: It was not bad. I call it controlled chaos. It’s not the type of thing, with that many people in a family, you cannot control it. If you try, you will go insane. And so after five children felt like God has said to me, are you done yet? Because I was trying to control it and it wasn’t working very well. And once I did that, I really, really enjoyed having my nine children. I still really enjoy them. I love seeing them grow up and become their own people and it’s exciting to do that. And I wanted to teach and I was able to homeschool for about 22 years, so that was actually really cool too.
Mary: Wow, that’s amazing. What a cool life story. Well, tell us a bit about boundaries.
Jeanette: Well I grew up without boundaries. I grew up in a home where my mother was mentally ill, and basically I just figured out how to cope in that situation. And because of that, I really had no personal boundaries. I had no real abilities to say no, or I don’t wanna do that, or I don’t like that. Those were not words that were either common or really accepted in my growing up years. They just weren’t.
Jeanette: So my choices became to either say yes when I was there or to be gone. And so I really, really started on a crusade early in life of if you’re invisible, you can’t get in trouble. And so I became this invisible personality in my home, and I was there when I had to be, but when I didn’t, I was often gone; working, school, friends. I found a lot of different ways to get out of my house and not have to live in what I would call almost like a jail cell really. Of not being able to say no, or I don’t like that, or whatever.
Mary: Mm. It’s so interesting that not being able to say no or I don’t like that, or what you do like or need or want, feels like being in a jail cell.
Jeanette: It does. Yeah, it does. Although you know at least back then, I don’t think I really realized it. I realized I needed to take care of my mother. She tried to kill herself when I was eight, and at that point I talked her out of the bathroom and I became her caretaker, if you will.
Mary: When you were eight years old?
Jeanette: Correct. And so there were two things going on. One, I was trying to not piss her off because that’s what put her in the bathroom in the first place. So if you keep her happy, she doesn’t kill herself. And so that was item number one. So pleasing her was important and I think that’s where the people pleasing came in.
And then I also realized that not being able to say no or needing to be a people pleaser in order to preserve someone’s life can be like a jail cell and become resentful. Although I don’t, like I said, I don’t really think I really fully comprehended that at that time.
Mary: Right. Because you were so young. Well, how did that impact you as you kind of continued to grow up?
Jeanette: Well, as I continued to grow up, I was one of those model kids. I didn’t get in trouble often because I was a people pleaser, so people didn’t get mad, right? I overachieved. I was the teacher’s pet, which irritated a lot of my peers in school and went through life like that really until I went off to college. Then I went off to college, got away from my mom and that particular environment, and I started to sprout some wings, you know, and jump out of that jail cell a little bit.
I think it was almost a self-imposed jail cell in a sense, because it’s really hard if you spent a decade of your life doing something to just suddenly stop doing it. And so still I was in this mixed mash of people pleasing and rebelling at the same time. Go figure that one out. But anyway, that’s kind of what my college years looked like, a little bit of rebellion. And then eventually I figured out that there was a God in the universe that actually loved me, and that flipped my life upside down. And that was great. I was thrilled. I had been a church goer before, but never really understood how much God loved me, and that was a huge beginning for my healing in this area of people pleasing and the rebelling and all of it.
It kind of took the wind out of the sails of the rebellion and it started to help me understand that God loved me and I didn’t have to do everything everybody else said. Mm. So that was the beginning of that. But again, we’re looking at a seriously ingrained pattern. Mm. Then I met my husband, mm-hmm and realized, you know, in college, I didn’t have a lot of serious relationships, so I wasn’t forced back into that situation that I was in with my mom. But when I got married and my husband even much later in life said this to me, it’s like a switch flipped. And it did, because I think what I went back into was that mode of people pleasing. And he wasn’t asking me to do that. Wasn’t his fault. Mm-hmm. It was an automatic response to a relationship that was important to me that I, you know, I needed to save it, so to speak. Mm-hmm. and make sure it was okay. And I think I just walked right back in, again not knowing. That’s the weird thing about the whole thing, is just having no concept that this was actually really going on in my life.
And it wasn’t until, it would’ve been 2020 that God began to reveal to me what had been going on all of that time, and I went, oh my gosh, look at that. I have been being invisible. I have been people pleasing all this time and I’ve not been being myself. And at that time, I really felt like God just asked me, he’s like, Jeanette, do you wanna keep doing this?
Mary: Did you?
Jeanette: No. No. At that point, I think I was like, well done with that. Mm-hmm. and decided, no, I really want to change. Mm-hmm. So the next year of my life was about coming out of the closet. And that’s not in the normal terms that people would use. I really started to be more visible as a person, and it was fun and it’s still fun and I’m still on that road of being more and more visible all the time. I’m speaking now, you know just being myself more and not backing down nearly as much. And that falls into that whole idea of beginning to set boundaries, not for someone else to stay out of my life, but for me to stop saying yes or that’s okay or yes I like that, when I really don’t. And you know, that sort of stuff to stop that people pleasing. So in a way, I almost had, and really this is what boundaries are about anyway. Mm-hmm. is setting a boundary for me.
Mary: Yes. They’re always for you.
Jeanette: That’s correct. Mm-hmm and saying, we’re not gonna do that anymore. Mm-hmm. You know, we’re not going to go around telling people that it’s okay when it’s not. Mm-hmm. We’re not going to hide anymore. We’re just gonna be ourselves. And if people don’t like that, then that’s okay. They don’t have to like that. But I don’t have to be someone different than I am to be able to fit into this world. And so that is for sure been a process.
And In 2021, I had a bad case of covid. I was in the ER twice with problems. And as a result my oxygen levels dropped at my home and in higher altitudes and when I sleep. And in the beginning I was maybe a little bit vain, but also not wanting to have to answer a lot of questions about why do I have oxygen on? And didn’t wanna make people uncomfortable. Mm. And I realized, oh yeah, here’s some more of that people pleasing going on. And I was like, wait a minute, I just need to put my oxygen on and keep it on. And if it offends people, then it will just offend people. And if it worries people, it will just worry people and we’re just gonna move on because I’m not worried about it. And I think the fact that I’m not worried about it lays a lot of fears for other people. But if they’ve never seen me with it on before, it can be very startling because they think, oh my gosh, you know, what’s wrong with her? But that’s another area where I’ve just had to step forward and just be me.
Mary: Yes. It’s such a great example of you like literally need oxygen to breathe and somehow still worry, like what other people are gonna think or feel about it.
Jeanette: Correct. Yep. And I did and I realized that was wrong.
I was like, That’s not what we should be thinking about right now. We should just be thinking about how are we gonna make this work?
Mary: Yes. How am I gonna breathe?
Jeanette: I mean I, it’s not funny, but it is funny. When you’re sitting in my shoes, you’re going, why would I be even thinking about that?
Mary: Yeah. It’s ironic. It is funny.
Jeanette: But in a way it is funny because it’s like, okay. This is just part of how I grew up. This is that piece of me. I’m just learning to accept it. You know, I think the neat thing that happened when I ran up against that, for me was, I didn’t go well, that was so stupid, why did I do that? I did say, why did I do that? That’s a common question that I asked myself is, why did I just do that? Mm-hmm. . And that’s actually not bad because I think it helps us to look inside and figure out what’s going on with us.
Mary: Well, if it’s done with curiosity, then I think it’s a great question. But if it’s done from a place of judgment or shoulding on yourself, then I don’t know that it’s a great idea.
Jeanette: I also agree with that, Mary. Absolutely. 100%.
Mary: I love that question with curiosity.
Jeanette: Yes. Well, because it’s really curious. I, I can tell you another story and I will in just a minute. But I think I realized, this is a part of me that I just need to accept for now. And work on being aware of it, but like you said, not shoulding on myself. I should not do that. It’s just one more thing of judging me. So instead of judging me, I’m just saying, oh, is that really what I want? Or is that who I wanna be? Do I want to respond like that? And so asking those sorts of questions and then coming up with the answers, either the answer is yes, or the answer is, no, I don’t wanna do that anymore. Or maybe I don’t have enough energy to deal with that right now. That’s also another answer I have sometimes.
Mary: Yes. I love that.
Jeanette: Another story though was I had a friend of mine who I was talking to on Zoom during Covid, and this was was right before I went through this transition of realizing that I was invisible. And this is a really great example where I actually stood up for myself, which I was really amazed I did. But this woman said, well, you know, you’ve been a caretaker for so long, you should just do that as your job. And I went, wow. And then instantly on the outside I looked at her and I said, you know, I don’t think I’ll be doing that. So I was polite, but I stood up for myself, which I was really proud of. And then the second thing that happened is in my head it was like, no! And I went, whoa, that’s like a serious response. So then that curiosity came up and I was like, why did I just do that? I wasn’t mad at myself, but I was like very curious as to why I had such a visceral response to what she was saying.
Mary: The question I like to ask myself in those situations, like my self talk I say… what’s the matter love?
Jeanette: That’s a good question
Mary: Because it’s a question that I ask other people that I love, right? It’s a question that I have asked my kids. It’s a question that I’ve asked to other friends and family, and I was thinking about if I’m feeling some kind of negative emotion. And instead of judging myself for feeling a negative emotion, then I work towards, and I try to remember to ask myself just like I would, you know, when my kids come home and they’ve had a bad day, I’ll say, what’s the matter love, like that? So that’s usually my go to curiosity question when I’m noticing that I’m not really being myself.
But I wanna get back to that journey to becoming yourself. Can you tell me a little bit more, like, what did you find out about yourself? I can totally relate to this. Like I needed to get to know myself, and it really increased my awareness around what did I like, what did I want? What did I need? As I was like overcoming people pleasing and starting to learn boundaries. So tell me, what’d you learn about yourself?
Jeanette: Well, I mean, the first thing I learned obviously is when God really showed me that I’d been invisible for 54 years. and was I interested in staying that way? The answer was no. Then looking through that lens and looking back, I realized, I could see places where I had started. Like I have a pair of leggings that have bright peacock feathers on them and I bought them after my husband passed away and I was like, oh gosh, what are people gonna think? I’m like, it doesn’t matter. Do I like these? So it was one of my first steps into, this is what I like and I love them. As a matter of fact, I love them so much that the one pair was starting to wear out. So I ordered another pair. So I have pairs of peacock legging, and it’s funny because I wear them and people are like, I love these pants.
But I think some of the reason Mary, that they love them is because I love them. They can feel my energy. So I think I found out about myself that I am more outgoing than I had originally thought I was. I love to speak and love to teach. I’ve learned that when I’m forced up into a situation where I have a choice between being visible or invisible, that I’m still having to make a conscious choice of I’m choosing to be visible. I’m choosing to be myself of what I know of myself. I also know Mary, that I don’t know everything about myself yet. I’ve been at it for about a year and a half now. And on an active, ongoing, intentional basis. I think before I would, I’d have breakouts where I would break out and suddenly find out something about myself. But I’ve been working at it for about a year and a half, and I’m getting better. I have people say, well, gosh, you should turn your basement and rent out your basement and that’s a way you could make money. And I’m like, I don’t wanna do that.
Mary: I’m not interested.
Jeanette: Right, exactly. I’m not upset that they put the idea out there, but I’m like, no, I don’t think I wanna do that.
Mary: Nice. Nice.
Jeanette: You know, just recently I realized I am a communicator. I like to communicate, I like to make sure people are all on the same page. You know, to the best of our ability. Obviously we’re all coming from different places, so we can’t completely be on the same page, but close enough. And I realized I had a boss that I was really struggling to communicate with and I was really concerned about talking to her. And it was a big step for me to say, we need to talk. We really need to talk. And she’s like, you’re not feeling appreciated. I said, no, I’m not. And so for me to stand up and say I’m not feeling appreciated, that was huge. Because that’s not something that would’ve happened in my people pleasing days at all. I would’ve just lived with it and been frustrated.
Mary: Pretended that you felt good.
Jeanette: Correct. Yeah. I would’ve resented it. And now I don’t live in resentment. I’ve talked to her and we’ve worked it out and that’s great.
Mary: Yes. And that’s the beauty of overcoming people pleasing is that we also overcome resentment.
Jeanette: Yes, ma’am.
Mary: and that peace and contentment, it just feels so much better. Yeah.
Mary: so what’s been the hardest part or, what can I help you with in terms of moving you forward on your boundaries journey?
Jeanette: You know, if you, It sounds like you’ve been where I am. And you’ve done the journey of trying to figure yourself out. So if you have any ideas or things that you did that were very helpful to you to help you just figure out, who am I? I would love to hear those.
Mary: Well, I love a T chart is what I call it. a T chart. So just like a line down the middle of a page and a line over at the top of the page. So let’s do it together. So on one side I’m gonna write, Jeanette is, and other side I’m gonna write Jeanette is not. And let’s start with what you do know. So tell me what you are, it could be things you like, things you don’t like, character qualities about you. It could be like, how would your friends describe you? The people who know you best?
Jeanette: I would say kind, loyal, generally happy, a lover of God. A good mom, and a good grandma. I don’t know. I feel like I am a good communicator, a good teacher. I love doing jigsaw puzzles and anything else that even resembles a puzzle, like cross stitch. Legacy is important to me.
Things I do not like or that are not me is I do not like maintenance. And I don’t know how you would say that in an I am statement or an I am not statement.
Mary: What do you mean by maintenance?
Jeanette: I do not like routine maintenance. So for example, my husband had a dog. I inherited the dog when he passed away. That dog requires routine maintenance. I don’t enjoy that. I don’t like mowing the lawn. I don’t like cleaning the house. Just that sort of stuff. Routine, boring stuff. Not my thing.
And so one of the things I thought about doing was becoming a coach, but I realized with being a coach, it feels like maintenance and I don’t want to do that. And I think it’s because I spent so many years doing that, and taking care of other people and not taking care of myself. So, you know, I think I’m slowly but surely learning. So that’s what I mean by maintenance. I will look at everything through the lens of; is it more maintenance? And then if I really love it, I love plants, for example, I probably have at least 25 or 30 plants in my house and they’re large.
Mary: Well, that’s interesting because I think of plants as requiring maintenance.
Jeanette: They do. But I love them so much that I’m willing.
Mary: So maybe you’re a plant person and maybe not an animal person?
Jeanette: Could be. Could very well be.
Mary: like animals?
Jeanette: They’re okay. They don’t excite me, but I don’t hate them either. Does that make sense?
Mary: Yeah. You’re more of a plant person.
Jeanette: Yeah. If I had to choose probably between my plants and my dog, I would choose my plants.
Mary: I won’t tell.
Jeanette: She’s sitting right next to me listening.
Mary: Hey, what else do you not like?
Jeanette: Gosh. I don’t like canned peas. I don’t like people who are hypocritical. I don’t like hypocrisy. I like people to be straight shooters.
Mary: What do you like to do?
Jeanette: I like cooking, I like anything where I can kind of experiment. I do not like sameness, so I could not eat hamburgers five nights in a row, or even steak, and I love steak, but I couldn’t do it five nights in a row. I like variety.
Mary: Variety and creativity it sounds like.
Jeanette: Little bit. I’m still trying to figure out where my creative juices lie. I think some of it is in the area of speaking. Possibly in the area of writing, we’ll see. I like supporting others. And again, this is one of those things that I don’t know if this is part of the old me that I’m just so used to it and that’s why I’m really comfortable with it or if it’s really something I like. I think I do like supporting other people. I just don’t like it when they take over my life.
Mary: Okay. I have a question for you.
Jeanette: Go for it.
Mary: My question is, which of these things can you do from a place of love? It feels like it’s in alignment with you versus the things that might be people pleasing, might be resentment, might be because you feel obligated to do it. Because I think that that question might help you figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Because when you talked about the plants, it’s like, I love the plants. I don’t necessarily love the dog or not love the dog, which is okay.
Mary: But what can you do from a place of love? A supportive role, but not a caretaker role? Is that where your love line is?
Jeanette: Probably. Probably.
Mary: You like to help people, but you don’t….
Jeanette: I do like to help people, but I don’t wanna be in that caretaker role.
Mary: Okay. Caretaking is not you.
Jeanette: Although I’ve done a lot of it. That’s not who I wanna be now.
Mary: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Or being responsible for fixing other people?
Mary: That’s what doesn’t feel good to me.
Jeanette: Yeah. I don’t wanna be responsible for that. That’s actually a really good way of stating it, Mary, is that responsibility piece. I don’t wanna be responsible for their life. And for their choices.
Mary: Yeah. That’s a good boundary to have. Okay. What else?
Jeanette: Well, let’s see, what else do I like? I like people. I like being around people. I like being social. I like spending time with my family. I love listening to them laugh and, you know, laughing with them. I just like being genuine. I realize I like being homogenous, like, I don’t know how to describe it, but I feel like if you were to cut me open, I’d look the same no matter where you cut me. So I don’t look different on the outside than I do on the inside. And am I a hundred percent good at that yet? No, but that is one of my things that I do like, is that I wanna be that person. Where I’m the same, no matter what.
Mary: What do you like in terms of holidays coming up?
Jeanette: My favorite probably is Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday before that was my husband’s birthday and my birthday, which was right before Thanksgiving. We celebrated those and those are still my hardest times of the year. But they were just fun. We used to have fun at that time, and so just places where I can have fun with my family. Christmas is a little chaotic. So it’s not quite as much fun, but Thanksgiving I think is a little bit better.
Mary: Okay. Where do you like to live?
Jeanette: I love my home. I live in the mountains and I love the serenity here. I love my neighbors. They’re awesome. I have good neighbors. And it’s peaceful, it’s quiet. So actually, I guess I really do like the peace and the quiet. I just love my home. It was a gift to me. It suits me well.
Mary: It was a gift to you? Your home was a gift?
Jeanette: It was. I still have to pay for it. But back in 2015, I went through a learning phase with God, where I was looking for a car from my son. I put ads out. I looked at car shops, I did a whole bunch of different things and I could not find a car and finally went to prayer and I said, God, I give up. I’m not even gonna look for a car anymore. And I felt like God asked me, well, Jeanette, what do you want? So I sat down and thought about that, thought of four things that I wanted, put an ad in the exact same place I had put it two months before and in an hour, Mary, I had four responses.
Jeanette: So I found one and we bought one of those cars. My son, I think kept it for like four years or something. One of the things I learned in that was, what do I want? And so this has been an ongoing thing, obviously for me. And that was actually before the 2020 timeframe. It was one of those outbreak moments, I guess, if you wanna call it that. Mm-hmm. . And so I realized we wanted to move out of our previous home and I figured if I wanted to get into a new house, there were certain things I wanted, and those things had to be in that house, or I wasn’t moving. So I had this list of 11 things. And I was in a cabin in Red Feather actually looking at a realtor packet printed out on printer paper. Not in a magazine, not on the web, nothing fancy. It was just this thing laying on the, table. And I saw this house and I, I saw it and went, man, that’s not much to look at and then I almost really felt like, you know, I probably should at least read what’s in the house. So I turned back and I read through what was in the house and it was, all 11 things that were on my list are in this house. Not one is missing. I was amazed. And when I walked in, I just said, so, God, let me know if this is the right place. I walked in and I knew immediately that this was my house. And so really it was a gift for me from God.
Mary: That’s a lovely story. Thanks for sharing. So get a few more on the what you are not list.
Jeanette: I am not a radical person. I am not an extreme person. I don’t live in the extremes. I really am not a pet lover.
Mary: Mm-hmm, what kind of music do you like?
Jeanette: I like Christian music mostly, I like a variety of things. I like everything from rap to you know, hymns. Kinda the whole gamut. I don’t like being alone, like, Because I am a social creature, being alone is difficult for me. I don’t like making fast decisions, so I’m not a fast decision maker. I need to think on things before I do them. When I do things just off the cuff, a lot of times it doesn’t always turn out. I think it’s because of me and who I am. My husband was very good at making very quick decisions. That is not something I am good at. I don’t like complaining. I don’t like conflict. I’m not conflict avoidant anymore, but I really don’t like it.
Mary: I love it. I love it. Okay. Well what about things like food?
Jeanette: My favorite food is a really good steak with mushrooms and onions. That is hands down my favorite food. And I love veggies of all kinds. I love chocolate, coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love the taste of coffee.
Mary: What do you not like to eat?
Jeanette: I do not like canned peas. Yes, canned peas are not my thing.
Mary: What are some things that you may have said yes to before that you now realize you don’t want?
Jeanette: Care taking is a big one. I will watch my grandchildren. But only for short periods of time and not on a consistent basis, you know? So that’s definitely one of those things that I say no to now. I think just going along to get along, I don’t do that nearly as much anymore. If I don’t want to do something, I’m much more quick to say, you know, this isn’t gonna work for me.
Mary: And how does that feel when you say, this isn’t gonna work for me?
Jeanette: At first, it’s like terrifying. When you first say it, because you just don’t know how somebody’s gonna respond, you know? Mm-hmm. And so for me, that first initial, okay, I’m just gonna put my big girl pants on and say that, it’s terrifying. But then after you do it, you realize, one, they probably weren’t as invested as you thought and they weren’t going to yell at you probably in the first place. I think our minds take us places that aren’t even real. And so then it just feels great because you’re free. You’ve made a decision based on what you wanted versus what somebody else wanted you to do.
Mary: Yes. So much freedom.
Jeanette: Yeah. So there’s a lot of freedom in it.
Mary: I love that. Awesome. Well, I think you’re doing great. I think you do know who you are. You’re right where you’re supposed to be Jeanette.
Jeanette: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
Mary: Well, let’s wrap up. Tell me what did you learn today?
Jeanette: Well, you helped me to think about some of who I’m not, because I don’t think about that as much as I think about who I am. But even just doing the T-sheet really helped to figure that out. Listening to my story does help me to recognize that I’m making strides and then I’m moving forward. Cause sometimes when you’re living in something, you don’t always see the changes that you’re making. But when someone else can look at it or you, they feed it back to you, then you can see it better.
Mary: Yes. And that’s the value of coaching, is the bird’s eye view. Right? When we are living our lives and we’re on the ground, we’re in the weeds. Then it’s harder to kind of take that approach or have the view from above where we can kind of see where things are going. So I love that. What’s your questions for me? Do you have anything else?
Jeanette: I think the biggest one was just, what, if there was one thing that you did that helped you the most on your journey, and obviously you’re not me, what would you say that was?
Mary: Well, I think you’re right on the journey. So the turning point for me was also understanding my value. And for me, that did come from my relationship with God and knowing that I was born valuable. That I didn’t have to do anything to earn my worth. That changed my mindset. And then it was three stages.
And the first one is deciding what was okay for me and what was not okay for me, who I was, who I was not. what I was willing to do, what I was not willing to do. The second one was learning how to communicate it, right? So once we know what we’re willing to do or not willing to do then, I didn’t know how to talk about it in a way that felt comfortable to me. Because I didn’t have the communication skill to be able to tell someone that I no longer wanted to participate in this way. So I had to really learn how to communicate it, which I think you’re doing great with.
And then the third one was that following through, really honoring myself after I felt like, okay, so I said it and then they didn’t do it. And then I had to learn like, no, actually Mary, it’s your job to follow through on your boundaries. It’s not just telling people what to do, or not to. And then really practicing that self care of following through was the next part of it. Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Jeanette: Oh, you’re so welcome. I really enjoyed myself.
Mary: All right. Awesome.