Until relatively recently, boundaries were this thing I had heard rumors about. Seriously, outside of a general understanding that physical aggression was not okay most of the time, I had very few boundaries. I was raised by someone who truly did not believe I had a right to a single boundary. Combine that with a childhood obsession with soap operas and Whitney Houston songs…Let’s just say an adulthood of healthy boundaries wasn’t looking promising. Fortunately, there was never a time in my life where I was going to let my childhood experiences stop me from being who and what I wanted to be. It turns out good boundaries are a very important part of that.
My journey to this lesson seems to have begun with a conversation with a friend about new relationships. When they mentioned boundaries being important, I basically laughed it off and said “why would boundaries be needed?” I actually think I may have actually used those words. I think some moments change us without us ever realizing it at the time. Because whenever I ask the question “why” it inevitably leads me to unexpected places.
Boundaries are a meaningful way to support a mutual understanding and facilitate the voluntary engagement in relationships. Regardless of the relationship and whether it is a personal or professional relationship, boundaries are essential for health. Boundaries lighten the burden in relationships by offering the opportunity to say “this is how I want to engage with you.” They can be simple or they can be explicit. It’s up to you and the person you are setting boundaries with.
Recently, I have pushed myself to the point of physical discomfort to verbalize boundaries to individuals and lots of individuals at once. It is my belief that personal responsibility means knowing what you know what you will and will not accept from others in your life. It also means communicating that to others. It is not a reasonable expectation to think someone knows what your boundaries are if you haven’t told them. You would tell someone “don’t smoke in my house.” Equally acceptable is telling a friend “I am not comfortable talking on the phone.” My friends accept this about me and all work with me to work around that in our relationships. I am grateful to them for that. Boundaries are often fluid. As situations evolve, so do boundaries. But, I don’t think that happens if they aren’t respected.
As a result of boundary practice, I have learned is that if I do not know what I would say “no” to, I end up saying “yes” to things I shouldn’t. Without boundaries, I was ruled by others expectations and my own feelings of duty and obligation. Without boundaries, relationships were lost due to my own fear of setting clear boundaries and stated expectations.
In summary, boundaries can be hard. It continues to be worthy of the effort. Boundaries are a beautiful thing. They have dramatically improved my life.