What’s Up with Boundaries?
Have you ever heard the saying “You teach people how to treat you?” It’s a statement referring entirely to your personal boundaries. To some, that saying might make complete sense. But for an astounding chunk of the population, the whole concept is pretty darn foggy. Basically, understanding boundaries means knowing that when people treat you in a way that doesn’t resonate with how you want to be treated and you tend to just “let it slide” … you are not honoring yourself. In other words, you’re letting people know that their crappy behavior is acceptable, and you’ll just go on continuing to accept it no matter how terrible it makes you feel. What happens for most people is they get to a point of mistreatment from others, where they simply become used to it. Until one day they find themselves wondering why all the people in their life constantly treat them like the proverbial doormat. If you think you might be one of these people, consider this: What you allow, is what will continue.
Setting boundaries is an extremely important part of self-care. They apply to all aspects of your relationships with others, whether it be your spouse, your kids, your boss or even that weird guy you always run into at the grocery store. Boundaries set the tone for how you want to be treated and ensure that your interactions with others are respectful and appropriate. Some people might think that the concept of boundaries suggests limiting your joy - it’s quite the opposite. Boundaries are in place to improve and enhance your happiness, mainly because your relationships will become better. Or at least in some cases (Say with your boss for example) at least more tolerable. The context in which you might find yourself needing to exercise boundaries can vary from minute-to-minute, depending on the situation and the different people you encounter daily. One thing is for sure, your boundaries will dictate how the people in your life treat you, behave around you, and what they think they can get away with or expect from you.
So if boundaries are so important, why do so many people fail to have them, enforce them, or respect those of others? Boundaries are often behaviors that were modeled to us or learned from our primary caregivers. The reality is, a lot of people have carried programming forward from childhood and early life that has caused them to get out of touch with who they really are. For example, a child who always felt they were never good enough to make their parents happy might have grown up to be a complete perfectionist, “workaholic” or people-pleaser. Similarly, a child who was always being praised for “being tough” or dismissing their feelings may have grown up to be a real Pillar-Of-Strength, although they struggle with it because they too need to break down and feel emotion once in a while. The point is, when we wear different masks and are out of touch with who we really are, it becomes more and more difficult to speak and live our truth. How can we possibly assert ourselves and inform others of our wants and needs if we don’t even know what they are?
The good news is Boundaries can grow, change, and develop at our own discretion. They can be fluid, allowing us to have fulfilling relationships that genuinely meet our needs. So how do we achieve this, you might ask? We work at it. We check-in with ourselves. We make the conscious effort to ask ourselves “What do I really want on this moment?” Some examples of questions people can ask themselves to see if they are honoring healthy boundaries are:
- “When I say something, do I really mean it? Or am I saying it out of spite, anger or fear?” (Causes poor communication).
- “Do I often find myself doing things that I don’t want to do, to make other people happy?” (Causes resentment and exhaustion).
- “Do I shame or blame others when they don’t think or feel the same way I do?” Alternatively, “Do I allow others to shame or guilt me when I don’t think and feel the same way as them?” (Causes co-dependency and enmeshment).
There are specific ways we can ensure that we are operating from a place of healthy boundaries too. Some of these ways might be:
- Resisting “buying into” other people’s thoughts or actions when they conflict with your own values and beliefs.
- Admitting when you are wrong or when you don’t know something.
- Being respectful towards other people’s opinions, understanding that it’s okay if you don’t agree.
- Always saying what you really mean and meaning what you say, as to avoid miscommunication.
- Trusting yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it to please others.
Basically, one of the best ways we can move in the right direction is by being more authentic. Become unapologetically yourself. The more honest you are / the more in touch you can become with what feels right for you, the more likely you are to exercise healthy boundaries. One golden rule to remember is that anyone who doesn’t honor your boundaries or gives you a hard time for establishing them - probably doesn’t have any of their own.