Last week, I was having lunch with a friend and the topic of boundaries came up. We each have people in our lives who don’t seem to be familiar with that word. My guess is that most people also have similar experiences with others at some point in their lives.
My friend and I discussed all the ways in which our boundaries have been violated in the past. We had a good laugh, and she said, “Maybe you should write a blog post about it!”
So here I am. This is my take on boundaries. There’s so much that could be said about boundaries and so many reasons why people don’t enforce boundaries in their lives, all of which could be their own separate blog post subject:
We were raised to be polite and taught to be respectful, especially with family or those close to us.
We don’t want to offend anyone.
We don’t know how to respond when we are challenged.
We want to avoid conflict, disappointment, or rejection.
We are givers and used to putting others first.
We have a hard time turning people down when they seem to have a genuine need.
We feel indebted to the other person.
We feel bad for saying no and want to keep things positive.
We feel the need to have our position be understood and feel rude if we don’t explain ourselves fully.
We think the other person should already know what our boundaries are.
We have a desire to be well-liked and regarded by others, and we think that enforcing boundaries could jeopardize that.
The other person may have authority over us and we don’t want to ruffle their feathers.
We suffer from the disease to please.
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of one or more of these. Let’s just say we’ve all been guilty. But there’s a high price to pay when we allow violations to happen repeatedly.
Today, I am only scratching the boundary surface. You’ll have to stay tuned as I tackle these subjects in future posts. On the surface it appears as though the boundary problem is all about other people that seem to violate our boundaries repeatedly.
You know… those people…
People who don’t take no for an answer.
People who are concerned about meeting their own needs rather than thinking of all involved.
People who stop by unannounced.
People who seem to guilt you into doing things.
People who use manipulation to get what they want.
People who don’t seem to understand the rules of social engagement.
People who take both the arm and the leg!
People who like to tell you how to run your life because they know better.
People who seem to have no problem asking for what they want when they want it.
People who, no matter how much you hint or politely refuse, make every attempt to convince you to comply, time and time again.
People who will go out of their way to rearrange your life just so you can accommodate them.
Seemingly, unreasonable, indignant, selfish, or self-centered people.
I hate to break it to you, but here it is: Boundary violations have nothing to do with those other people and everything to do with you. Boundaries are all about YOU. Boundaries are things you establish for yourself, not against others. They are about you taking ownership of your outcome.
Establishing boundaries doesn’t require that you negotiate your position, that other people change, or that you sever relationships for good. They are not about telling others what to do or to control what they do. While they involve others, the reason why you establish boundaries (even with yourself) is that you are honoring what is important to you, what you value, and what you stand for.
You are honoring your personal, physical or emotional space.
In fact, establishing boundaries is healthy for relationships because they are about honesty and authenticity rather than saying one thing but meaning another. They are about you loving yourself enough to tell the truth to those that have no clear understanding of what they are.
They are not meant to keep people out of your life or to build up walls (many people have this confused. Boundaries ≠ walls). They are meant to honor your space, time, wishes, values and make clear to others what you stand for. They are meant to better relationships, not make them worse. They help clarify what is acceptable to you and what is not. No matter what, people prefer clarity from others, not to be in the dark and then be surprised by your reaction when you’ve had enough.
Anytime you are seething under your slapped-on smile for a boundary violation, you are likely blaming the other person for what you’ve failed to establish. The reason why you’re upset is that you’re not speaking your truth. Having said that, you are the one that has to set your boundaries and enforce them. Not from anger or resentment, by the way. That NEVER works.
When you don’t establish boundaries, you diminish your own integrity and self-respect. Not to mention, other people’s respect for you.
Boundaries include communicating to others what is important to you and what they can expect from you when/if they violate your boundaries again. It can be as simple and as clear as “If you are planning on being late again, I will wait for 15 minutes, then I will leave.”
So let’s talk about when it’s appropriate to set them: ONLY when someone violates them! You don’t need to go around saying no to everything, making threats, or letting people know what you’ll do if they do this or that… “Umm… Excuse me, sir… if you stand too close to me, I will slap you.”
That’s crazy, right? Not to mention, controlling, and exhausting.
Again, you can’t tell others how to behave, you can only make clear what you will do when they violate your physical, emotional, or personal space again. It’s not about making threats, giving ultimatums, or even about standing up for yourself, necessarily. It’s about being straight with people, being transparent, and telling the truth about what you are willing and unwilling to accommodate in your life. And then making sure to follow through on what you say!
Healthy boundaries diminish misunderstandings, promote clarity, establish self-responsibility, and lead to healthier relationships overall. Now, that’s worth speaking up for.