The mistake that many make when they attempt to insert boundaries into their lives is trying to rule others with boundaries because they think that boundaries serve a purpose of controlling other people’s behaviour. They think that they’re solely or mainly about knowing and handling the things that we don’t like and accept in others. Yes, boundaries are in part about guiding and directing others about what does and doesn’t work for us but, this doesn’t need to take the form of confrontation or big talks, or trying to amend other people’s behaviour.
Boundaries are an expression of our self-esteem. They’re the result of the way in which we conduct ourselves and how we express awareness of our line and our limit.
Good fences make good neighbours.
Putting aside what others are doing, what are we actively doing to conduct our lives with healthy boundaries?
Do we go about the business of living from a place of being conscious, aware, present, and showing up as who we truly are, or are we reacting to what comes along?
One is about having active responses driven by choices, preferences, and ownership of how we want to feel and live, and the other is about bumbling along and reacting to whatever life throws us.
The problem with basing our lives around reacting in the main is that it causes us to drift and in fact stray very far from who we are at the core because reacting is what happens when we’re living unconsciously in a pattern where we slip into default and autopilot mode. There is a fundamental lack of consideration for the bigger picture (for our needs, desires, expectations, feelings, opinions and values) because we consider a very limited amount of information rooted in fear.
Are you assuming what others think/feel or assuming what’s right for them?
You’re reacting not responding. You’re feeling responsible for their moods, problems and feelings so you’re just constantly trying to anticipate or react to what you perceive as being their mood, problems or feelings. This is an example of codependency. You have to stop denying the separateness in order for you to truly love you and own your place in this world.
Boundaries help you to deal with your ‘neighbours’ but they also help you to be a ‘good’ neighbour because you’re coming from a place of care, trust, and respect and are also willing to step up to protect your ‘home’ (read: you) rather than let your neighbour run riot while you either say nothing, hint at the issue, make threats that you don’t follow through on, or hold yourself hostage by curtailing your options. None of these things make for a harmonious relationship because you’re either making it their responsibility to figure out what you truly want, need, expect etc., or you’re trying to manage them with threats, or you’re assigning them authority and prison warden status.
People often think that the fence is just for the people on the other side of the fence – your neighbours – but it’s also to manage your own behaviour and thinking because you are a neighbour too.
Your boundaries are there to maintain healthy personal space and to distinguish you from others because you are an individual entity in your own right. This isn’t a free for all. You must honour the separateness. It is the definition of taking care of your side of the street.
The ‘fence’ isn’t there to ensure that the neighbour agrees with you all of the time or will validate you – the fence has to be there regardless of whether they agree with it or not and regardless of whether further down the line, in spite of getting on well, an issue arises where you’re not on the same page.
We don’t truly get mad at us for having an active response in situations that require us to step up or show up; we carry smouldering, longstanding anger and struggle to move on when we are passive and knew what we needed to be or do in a situation but we ducked out. We get mad because we know what we needed to be or do but hoped that the other person would take care of it all or that they would amend their behaviour and/or the conditions so that we could feel better.
Boundaries exist to point both you and others to what does and doesn’t work for you (and they have their own too). They are part of your internal compass which you need both personally and in interactions, but they’re also there so that should an issue arise, you know your limit. Your limit is your limit and that can only be defined and upheld by you and no other person can define your comfort level or validate or even invalidate your comfort level.
Your boundaries don’t need sign-off.
There will be times when you will feel a bit or even a lot wounded when people won’t be and do as you would like. That’s human nature. The fact that they won’t though doesn’t invalidate the content or the necessity of that boundary, nor does it invalidate your needs, expectations, wishes, feelings, and opinions. They just don’t want to roll your way. Everyone is different. Feeling wounded because people don’t act and think like you do is like being wounded that the world isn’t full of clones [of you].
You aren’t always going to be able to agree with or validate another person’s boundaries but that won’t change that person’s. If you tend to look at things from what you deem as the perspective of others, it’s important to recognise that people’s lives aren’t waiting on your sign-off and nor should yours rely on theirs.
Some people don’t make good neighbours and its at that point that you put whatever boundaries you need in place to limit their impact on you or you move away. If they act up, it doesn’t make you responsible for them. You can acknowledge if the entry point that they’ve had to cross or even bust your boundaries reflects something that you need to tighten up on, but that is for your benefit so that you own your own and let others own theirs.
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