I came across these words from my friend Terri Cole this week and they hit me right in the gut.
"Do you know any Boundary Bullies? These are people who want what they want regardless of how you feel about it. They can act in overt or covert ways to ram their agenda through. Interacting with them can be stressful and leave you feeling defeated and drained."
Why yes, I actually DO know Boundary Bullies. With a big dose of self-reflection this week, I can admit I am one of them. Granted, my agenda most often comes from a place of love and wanting to be loved, but it's not nice to make anyone feel cornered or smothered.
I'm sure I'm not alone. We all want to be right, we all want to be liked and chosen, and we all often think we know what's best. So what do we do? I don't know about you, but I campaign, I bulldoze, and I cross the line time after time. No bueno.
Boundaries are tricky. There's a positive opinion about going beyond your personal boundaries: 'step outside your comfort zone' and 'push past your limits,' or even 'color outside the lines.' I employ those sayings often when it comes to fitness and goal setting, many times with great results.
Boundaries are normal and necessary for self-care. An example of a healthy boundary is valuing your own feelings and opinions as much as you value the feelings and opinions of others. My parents and I have different political and spiritual preferences, but we do our best to not engage in those conversations that will encourage conflict between us. It seems like through the years we've built an unspoken wall that we put up to protect our relationship and is a reminder to respect each other and our different views.
I'm learning in my other relationships that people have all sorts of walls up when it comes to communication, their past, or their choices. And my good intentioned puppy dogging; my panting and tail wagging hoping for attention or offering support, doesn't make me more likable. It actually pushes people away.
In these relationships where I'm a boundary bully, it's because I've been ignored or taken for granted or forgotten, so I push in, trying to recover lost ground between us. But maybe I need to give those relationships breathing room and space to evolve and transform.
And while I'm looking in the mirror and sizing things up, my boundary bullying doesn't always come from a place of love. It comes from a place of wanting to be right. I had a prospective client approach me this week, and I think I knew from the jump that it wasn't going to be a good match.
I was judged right away and accused of being discourteous with poor communication skills in my business. What?! Yup. Ugh.
I knew I was never going to cook for this woman and I knew she was wrong and that in this particular situation, I was right...so I let her have it. I traced back through our email exchanges, citing my points and shutting hers down, I bombarded her with my rightness. I crossed the line. I was a total bully. I ultimately said we wouldn't be moving forward and good luck with her search to fill her food needs.
Was this good for my business? Of course not! Did anyone benefit from being right or wrong? Nope. Am I proud of my actions? Um, no.
This exchange has haunted me all week. I think my boundary bullying comes from a place of self advocacy. At the heart of it, I was unfairly treated and sterotyped so I barked back. I stood up for myself and strengthened my own walls.
That prospective client taught me a great lesson. She ended our exchange with, "You didn't need to include all of that self-justifying information. You could have just said this wasn't going to work out and wished me luck. But thank you for your reply."
Aha! She was standing up for herself too! Self-justification is important but I learned I need to dose it out accompanied with good intentions, grace, and generosity. Period. If it comes without those, then it's just plain old bullying. And nobody likes a bully.
One of my favorite summertime dishes to make is a tomato puff pastry tart. It has a free form vibe about it despite culinary efforts to keep the tomatoes and cheese corralled inside the pastry crust. If the filling tumbles out of bounds, the taste isn't affected at all.
Tomato Mozzarella Tarts
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes (red, yellow, green, heirloom - the more colors, the prettier and tastier it will be.
- 3/4 cup diced fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup basil pesto
- 2 thawed, but chilled sheets of puffed pastry
- salt, pepper, and red chili flakes
- flour for dusting
- 1 beaten egg mixed with a little water to make an egg wash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine tomatoes, cheese, and pesto in a bowl, season with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes. Set aside. dusting a rolling pin with flour as well as scattering some over the pastry, roll the puff pastry out onto a floured surface, stretching it just an inch longer and an inch wider than the original shape. Cut into rectangles. Fold each side in and press down a bit to form a border or a little wall that will rise higher to keep in the filling. (See photo above.) Dock the pastry pieces with the tines of a fork. This just means pierce it all around to create holes for steam to escape. Place them on non-stick sprayed cookie sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and fully cooked through. I use a Silpat to ensure they won't stick. Remove the pan from the oven and let the pastry rest. It may be super puffy. (One batch I made was so puffy, I used a serrated knife to cut the tops off and actually placed it back on like a little pastry lid once the tarts were filled.) Repeat all of that with the remaining puff pastry sheet. Fill with the tomato cheese mixture and return the pans to the oven for 5 minutes to warm the tomatoes and for the cheese to melt. The filling will tumble out of some of them. I call those out of bounds bits the Cook's Treat!