I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries lately, and about the freedom they afford us to be ourselves. We talk a lot about the boundaries we set for ourselves in the external world – saying no to doing too much, closing the door for some quiet time, backing off from an over-needy friend who is monopolising us. What we rarely seem to do is think about the internal boundaries we set up, or fail to set up.
I think one of the things women, especially, do is to set up one set of boundaries for themselves, and one for everyone else, and not in a good way.
Let me give you an example: my mother is a nice lady. People like her. She is charming and good company. But she speaks to herself in ways she would never dream of using to others. ‘You stupid bloody woman,’ I hear her saying to herself when she gets frustrated that she can’t remember things anymore now she’s in her 80s, ‘You idiot, can’t you do anything right?’ My mother does not have a boundary about treating herself in acceptable, compassionate and loving ways. I suppose I must have learnt the same trick from her, because sometimes, I catch myself doing it too.
It is hard enough to put your foot down when you need to set external boundaries. It is even harder to do it when those oh-so-flexible standards are inside your own head. We need to destroy those self-sabotaging habits as much as we can. This is what my husband calls:
‘Locating and Killing Your Inner Nigel.’
(You’ve heard about my ‘Nigel’ voice before!) Sometimes Nigel is just your inner critic, telling you the story you just wrote, the sculpture you just made, is crap. Sometimes he is a complete Hitler, out to annihilate you with core beliefs you didn’t even know you had!
Keeping a journal is a great way to kick the crap out of Nigel.
To do this, you have to feel free within your journal’s pages to say and do whatever you want. Rubbish spelling? Fine. No punctuation? Great. Scribbly handwriting, not being neat? Perfect. And those scrappy drawings? Absolutely compulsory, if you feel the need. The rule is this:
Tell Nigel to go copulate with himself. You say and do what you want. Only then wil your journal come into its own, only then can it be your complete friend, your safe place, without self-censorship.
I wrote in a previous post about who you write your journal for, and although I still stand by that piece, it has been bothering me. Because you see, if you always have an eye on posterity, on what people who come after you will with think of you, then you will never be honest. And you must be honest, otherwise why bother? Without honesty, you are wasting your time. Who cares if you are being petulant, smug, dull or sulky inside your journal’s pages? No one is perfect all the time.
Your diary must be, first and foremost, always for you alone, whatever else it is.
When you write this week, do not judge yourself. Do not think about what anybody who reads your journal in years to come will think of you. Pay no attention to Nigel the Neat Nazi, who wants everything in pukka little rows, with perfect handwriting and impeccable grammar, spelling and punctuation. Scribble. Make a mess. Be what ever you are inside. Set yourself this new internal boundary.
When it comes to my diary, I will be completely myself, whoever that is at this moment.
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I’ve never been one to let Nigel very close when it comes to my journals. I shudder to think what someone might think of some of the pages should they come across them.