This post discusses some popular boundaries and presents prompting questions to get you to think about what some of your boundaries are and will be in the new year.
Boundaries = Self-preservation, they scream: this is what is OK for me and this is what is not.
Boundaries. Is it just me or do you picture your hand stopping someone from touching your food when you read this word? The word Boundaries and balance have been my defining words for 2017. Boundaries are one of the defining factors of our individual experiences- they set how we view ourselves and how we can attempt to manage how people view/treat us. I believe that boundaries exist whether you have consciously chosen to define your boundaries or not, our existence subconsciously sets “loose” boundaries in our lives and interaction with others. Without boundaries, it’s easy to find ourselves being used/abused and drained of our energy, beliefs and inner power. I will also go as far to say that we cannot boast of any sort of progressive self-awareness if we haven’t dedicated any time towards setting the structure of boundaries in place in our lives.
So what are they? To me, a good way to introduce and remember what a boundary is, is by asking the questions “How far am I willing to go/How much of myself am I willing to give/How far will I allow you to go”. Boundaries are integral to all healthy functioning relationships- In the workplace, Child-Parent, Parent-Child, Boyfriend-Girlfriend, Husband-Wife, between siblings and of course friends. Because they let you know where to put people in your life and how to protect yourself from being sucked dry by those around you. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated by others. Such boundaries come from having a good sense of our own self-worth. Creating and acting within personal boundaries for yourself is an act of self-care and self-love. I hope this post helps to give a rough idea of some boundaries you can set within your life.
“People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavors: those who take too much responsibility for the emotions/actions of others, and those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions/actions.”
Emotional boundaries are my favourite boundary type. It’s a boundary that is often discussed within relationships. For the sake of this post, I will touch the surface of Boyfriend/Girlfriend relationships although emotional boundaries are applicable for ALL types of relationships. I see emotional boundaries as how I manage my emotions within relationships, how I allow people to access and experience my emotional side (whether this be happy or sad and every emotion in between that). Boundaries allow us to create healthy and functional relationships with people. A successful and healthy relationship comprises of two self-aware and emotionally mature people who have a clear sense of their identity. It is important to be self-aware with a clear sense of self in order to clearly communicate our needs, boundaries, and desires to our partner. Emotional boundaries help us prevent ourselves from being drained by those that are emotionally needy or emotionally abusive. They allow us to know how to get close to people whilst also respecting our space. They also show us when to distance ourselves from people when our emotional boundaries are being abused.
Admittedly, I didn’t place any importance on setting emotional boundaries within my relationships. It was evident that my current partner didn’t place much thought on emotional boundaries either, so when we faced difficulty, our responses were messy and destructive as opposed to healthy and controlled. This can cause a lot of emotional damage and mistrust within relationships. Respecting your partner’s healthy boundaries shows that you respect them. Emotional boundaries are not only made to be followed by others but in a healthy relationship, we have to learn how to honor and respect the other person’s boundaries also.
Emotional boundaries often get misinterpreted as rules and ways to control others and this is dangerous. Telling your partner that he/she is not allowed to go out clubbing is not a boundary it is you putting down a rule and trying to gage some sort of control in their lives for whatever reason (which is probably not healthy- Just a heads up, rules of excess control never work towards creating a healthy relationship). The reason you may place rules like that into someone’s life is often that you lack trust in them – to work on broken trust you must first decide whether the relationship can be rebuilt. I don’t believe in fixing relationships anymore. From what I have seen in 2017, if a relationship breaks down, something somewhere went wrong. So rather than fixing and copying what you had before- start from scratch. Take time, be patient and listen to yourself first. Then if you are confident that it is worth trying again- to rebuild a relationship, you have to research and actively implement new things that can aid in healing the damage caused.
An emotional boundary to me is almost like feelings management. It is deciding to not always being burdened by other people’s feelings and not always letting other peoples feelings become a deciding factor in YOUR life. It’s easy to misunderstand the role that emotional boundaries play though. For example- if you are unfaithful to your partner: that is your fault. Don’t dismiss their feelings, because you “don’t want to be burdened with his/her emotions”. A better example of boundaries in this situation would be: not allowing your partner to constantly capitalize on your guilt and manipulate you for years because of the wrong turn you made. Rather, exercising the art of knowing when a relationship cannot be fixed and walking away when it is draining your emotions and energy IS an emotional boundary. It is to know “where you end and I begin”.
Maintaining healthy emotional boundaries is recognizing and accepting that you are “your own person”. To implement and respect your own and others’ emotional boundaries you need to be aware of your own feelings towards situations that you may be in and people you are around. You also need to be aware of/ responsible for your choices.
In a relationship as I always mention, it is hard to know each other fully because there are always layers of people’s feelings and identity to uncover even when you think you know someone. There is always an element of trust and assumption of character in any type of relationship for it to work. Your partner may have years of emotional habits to uncover and recognize for themselves before being able to create healthy boundaries for themselves that will benefit the relationship and your collective growth. Everyone is responsible for their OWN emotional baggage. I encourage you to sit down and discuss your boundaries with your partner/friend to note them and recognize them. Maybe over a coffee or desert date? Bring notepads, have a healthy conversation and learn about each other. No matter how long you have been together, there is always room to improve and respect boundaries.
HERE ARE SOME PROMPTS ON EMOTIONAL BOUNDARIES THAT I FOUND AND USED FROM THE INTERNET, IF YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE ARE MOSTLY YES- THEN THERE ARE NOT HEALTHY BOUNDARIES SET IN PLACE:
DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU OR USE YOUR EMOTIONS FOR THEIR OWN GAIN?
DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU’RE CONSTANTLY HAVING TO “SAVE” PEOPLE CLOSE TO YOU AND FIX THEIR PROBLEMS ALL THE TIME?
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF SUCKED INTO POINTLESS FIGHTING OR DEBATING REGULARLY?
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF FAAAAAR MORE INVESTED OR ATTRACTED TO A PERSON THAN YOU SHOULD BE FOR HOW LONG YOU’VE KNOWN THEM?
IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, DOES IT FEEL LIKE THINGS ARE ALWAYS EITHER AMAZING OR HORRIBLE WITH NO IN-BETWEEN? OR PERHAPS YOU EVEN GO THROUGH THE BREAK-UP/REUNION PATTERN EVERY FEW MONTHS?
DO YOU TELL PEOPLE HOW MUCH YOU HATE DRAMA BUT SEEM TO ALWAYS BE STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF IT?
DO YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME DEFENDING YOURSELF FOR THINGS YOU BELIEVE AREN’T YOUR FAULT?
The most popular boundary that I find (or hope) that people are aware of (particularly amidst the heightened awareness and emphasis on the importance of sexual consent) are sexual boundaries. These are boundaries that everyone has in some shape or form. More self-aware people have consciously sat down with themselves and thought about their sexual boundaries. For some it is a given that contraception is used, for others its no having sex at all until ready, and for others it is only having sex in committed relationships. If we are to delve deeper, some sexual boundaries include not performing or engaging in some sexual acts, not having sex with a certain gender or those with specific sexual orientations. (Do we see how what I mentioned about loose boundaries already being innate/ingrained into your existence is being demonstrated here?) Boundaries are a result of who you are and a reflection of how you choose to live your life. I think no matter where you stand on the spectrum of sexuality or sexusal liberation, sexual boundaries are important because sex is a intimate act that is shared and not owned by one person in the act.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE IN TUNE WITH YOUR SEXUALITY?
WHAT ARE YOUR SEXUAL BOUNDARIES?
WHAT DO YOU SAY YES TO AND NO TO?
DO YOU THINK SEXUAL BOUNDARIES ARE NECESSARY?
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU OWN YOUR BODY WITHIN SEXUAL ENCOUNTERS? OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE BEING USED? OR OWNED? HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL?
WHAT NEW BOUNDARIES CAN YOU IDENTIFY/PUT IN PLACE AS A RESULT OF YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS.
You guessed it. Spiritual boundaries are a thing. Spiritual boundaries are a result of your beliefs and how you want others to respect them. Some spiritual boundaries may be that you don’t want to feel compelled to disclose or discuss your spirituality or faith in certain environments (such as work etc). Or that you don’t allow people to speak in a condescending manner about your line of faith/spirituality. One of my own personal spiritual boundaries is that once I see someone acting negatively or suspiciously towards me in a dream, I must distance myself. And as bizarre as this may read to some people this is MY boundary. I am an intuitive and sensitive being; my intuition is what I believe to be a gift. So, I have the right to set boundaries in terms of who gets to feed off my energy and who doesn’t. I also don’t agree with people reading my palms, “fortune tell” my future or touch my head anyhow. These a few spiritual boundaries that I have put in place because of my culture and beliefs.
SPIRITUAL BOUNDARY PROMPTS:
WHAT BOUNDARIES DO YOU HAVE IN PLACE AS A RESULT OF YOUR SPIRITUALITY/RELIGION?
WHAT BELIEFS DO YOU HOLD? DO YOU PRACTICE A RELIGION?
IS YOUR SPIRITUALITY A PERSONAL THING OR ARE YOU WILLING TO LET OTHERS KNOW YOUR BELIEFS?
WHAT NEW BOUNDARIES CAN YOU IDENTIFY/PUT IN PLACE AS A RESULT OF YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS.
PHYSICAL BOUNDARY PROMPTS:
WHO DO YOU ALLOW IN CONTACT WITH YOU?
DO YOU LIKE BEING TOUCHED?
WHO DO YOU ALLOW TO TOUCH YOU?
DO YOU HUG OR TOUCH PEOPLE OR DOES A HANDSHAKE SUFFICE?
WHAT ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH PHYSICALLY AMONGST PEERS/FAMILY/ FRIENDS/PARTNERS?
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE HITS YOU?
MATERIAL BOUNDARY PROMPTS:
WHO DO YOU LEND TO?
WHO CAN TOUCH YOUR STUFF?
DO YOU LEND TO PEOPLE?
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU LEND AND TO WHO?
WHO DO YOU NOT LEND TO?
WHAT WOULD YOU ALLOW SOMEONE TO GIVE YOU AS A DISPLAY OF APPRECIATION?
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU BORROW FROM SOMEONE?
In conclusion to this heavy post, Just to add: I have noticed an interesting connection between hurt and creating boundaries. Being hurt or disappointed often catalyzes the forming of personal boundaries, because one has experienced hurt in a situation. Upon reflection and introspection, they form limits and walls in certain aspects of their lives to better manage/prevent feeling this hurt again. Sadly, not all boundaries created this way are healthy, because often people that make boundaries like this are working from a place of pain as opposed to a place of power and without caution, you may be building a wall. Strong and healthy emotional boundaries can be quite transparent; instead of a brick wall it’s more like a wire fence, people can see through if they like but that doesn’t mean they can come in! It is important to create boundaries that do not limit your development as an individual but rather elevate you as one. You deserve to trust and enjoy your life without the constant fear of pain and healthy emotional boundaries should help you to do that.
I will leave you to think about these prompts to help define your own boundaries from today. I have literally been rewriting and understanding my boundaries all week in preparation for the new year. I started defining my boundaries through journaling and I discuss how I journal in this post. This year I was in a constant battle with myself because people were crossing my boundaries and I had tried everything from distancing myself from them slowly, to dramatically to just having to remove them from my life. But I only knew that they were crossing my boundaries when I sat down to actually write down and define my limits with others in life. It is often the same people that constantly cross your boundaries and bring bad energy into your life. However, You won’t define all your boundaries in one night or a week and you won’t be able to practice EVERY SINGLE one of them subconsciously in the beginning. Like everything in life, it is a process that becomes second nature when you learn more, about yourself and others.
Redefine the lines in your life.