I imagine that every person reading this has at the very least heard of the concept of boundaries. If you have not welcome! You are in for a treat!
Boundaries is my absolute favorite topic to talk to clients about! It literally does not matter how well adjusted you are, every single person on this planet can benefit from better, stronger boundaries.
Boundaries Are Necessary
The most common perception of boundaries is whether the make a relationship good or bad. While they play a role in relationships boundaries are not the sole determinate of good/bad relationships. Rather boundaries are the lines in the sand that are drawn that affect autonomy, involvement, and what is and is not acceptable in a given relationship.
Boundaries are necessary because that give others distinct instructions on how they are allowed to participate in your life. On the flip side boundaries give you permission to choose what those distinct instructions entail and look like.
Without boundaries the lines of yes and no, acceptance and violation, and the role the emotions of others get blurred. These blurred lines make relationships quite difficult and can throw of the balance being in relationship as you are or as others wish you to be.
Setting boundaries gives you permission to make choices that are best for how you want and choose to be in relationship with others. This does not mean empathy goes out the window but it does mean that your decisions are no longer based on how somebody else is going to respond to them.
Boundaries Are Fluid
The good thing about boundaries is that they can be altered at any time with any new information that is presented and processed.
The analogy I often use when talking about boundaries it thinking about them like fences. Yes I know that fences are ideally permanent but when they are in your mind you can make them whatever you want.
So, say there is someone in your life that is just a lot! If you don’t do what they ask or say they lose their mind or some other response you no longer want to deal with but at this point you are responding to them based on the knowledge of their negative response. So, to avoid this response you generally bend to whatever it is they are pushing towards so you don’t have to deal with the fallout. To set a boundary with this person, you would think of it in terms of a 10 ft tall privacy fence indicating I do not have space for you or your reactions in my life any longer. You can holler over the fence saying change your behavior and we will talk about the space available to you in my life.
After a while maybe this person realizes (many won’t, unfortunately) that you are serious and they really want to have a relationship with you with acceptable boundaries. So the 10 ft fence turns to and 8 ft then a 6ft privacy fence. Then maybe it shifts to a 6 foot chain link fence then to 4 ft. Maybe eventually you add in a gate.
All of this based on how the relationship shifts and grows and the respect for ones boundaries is respected. You can adjust your boundaries whenever you need to based on the knowledge you have in a given moment. This change can happen in minutes, month, years; whatever the time frame you get to choose it.
It’s also important to remember this goes both ways. Everyone is entitled to set appropriate boundaries for themselves so your 4ft chain link fence might but up against someone else’s 6ft privacy fence. This is ok. Remember everyone’s boundaries are based on their individual experiences.
Boundaries Are NOT Linear
Boundaries to not have a singular direction and are typically always needing some kind of adjustment. To go back to the fence analogy maybe you have a boundary that has made it’s way to a 4ft chain link fence with two gates without locks but then something happens and the chain link fence is wiped out by a tornado and an 8ft privacy fence has now been erected in its place. It’s totally normal!
Boundaries are one of our healthiest protective mechanisms and they are extremely functional. Sometimes when a boundary is violated back peddling happens. This does not mean progress has been lost it just means a regroup and reassessment is needed. This is why it is important to remember that boundaries to not have a linear path.
Boundaries will go up, down. Sideways. They may have stops, tarts, and breaks. They will constantly change and remember that it’s ok for them to take any direction they need to for your well-being.
Boundaries Are FOR Everyone
Generally, the people that will struggle with boundaries you set are the people or situations that have created the need for such boundaries. Do they have to be ok with the boundaries you set? No they do not but they do need to respect them.
Ultimately, when boundaries are set and respected, even if it takes time for that to happen, all parties generally benefit from stronger, healthier, and often deeper connections. Setting up a boundary is like setting up two mirrors facing opposite directions. One mirror allowing you to see how you feel when you have set a boundary, acknowledge the difficult feelings that may come with it as well as acknowledging the power to be in control of your life and what you do and do not accept. The opposing mirror provides an opportunity for the other party to see how the boundary makes them feel and provides the opportunity to determine the value their relationship with you holds. The can choose to say ‘Ok, I don’t like how this feels. Now why don’t I like it?’ At which point they can choose to acknowledge their role and accept responsibility or they can also choose that the relationship with you does not hold the value they thought it did and move on.
Either way both parties are actively acknowledging choosing and setting specific boundaries for all future navigation of the current relationship. Sometimes boundaries will be hard, very hard, but they are always a choice.
You get to choose who and how people and situations get to take up space in your life.
Boundaries are just a tool to help you shape and navigate that journey!