I was about 25 years old and already deep into my studies of psychology at the university, when I heard about boundaries for the very first time. And I did not learn about it from my professors...
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Boundaries - A Necessity Hardly Ever Talked About
"You need better defined boundaries" my older girlfriend said, after listening to my stories of entanglement with my family and resulting bad feelings. I had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, that was my main problem just there: I had not idea what she meant with boundaries.
Luckily, the seed was planted, and I started to get curious about it. Years later, I am still working on it, but our own boundaries are always a work in progress. It changes, whether we have a good or bad day, are healthy or feel sick, are stressed or relaxed....
What I learned about boundaries:
It is important to have some, to reflect about it. In order to do that we need to think about our own needs and values. Do I speak up if someone makes a remark that hurts me? Do I let a friend who is down on her luck stay on my couch - one night, two months? It is good to know the general need there and decide from case to case once the situation shows up. There is flexibility in the moment, but if I have no idea, where I stand with it in general, the situation will catch me off guard and my reaction will end up being a default mode, usually not the helpful kind.
I have also learned that I truly set my own boundaries. That is part of the fun with life. That is where I can truly feel that I am creating my own life. It says a lot about myself how long I let a situation go. Some people only act and speak up about their boundaries if it concerns severe physical needs, such as the need to survive. Others speak up as soon as some little thing does not go how they want it, or that they controlled. Neither way is ideal if applied all the time. It helps to have some reflection on how we handle our own boundaries in general, by watching whenever we need to make a decision in relationship to somebody else.
A habit that has served me well over the years is to take care of little boundary violations right away. That still means that I pick my "battles" carefully. I meanwhile know the kind that keeps growing if I don´t act. People with weak boundaries often are resembling a doormat until they can´t take it anymore and - to the surprise of everyone around - lash out. That is a sure sign for weak boundaries and it does not feel good for anyone involved. So if the matter is taken care of when it shows up, it can´t build up and make us be someone we don´t want to be.
It is a true gift to ourselves and the people who surround us if we are sincere keepers of our own boundaries. Only we know ourselves well enough, and truly it is our own job to take care of it. So, next time you find yourself say "how could he/she do that TO me?" Turn it around and ask yourself "how did I let this happen?" "What can I do that this does not happen again?". Do you feel how empowering that is?
At first it might be a little bumpy and strange. But with a little practice the joy of expressing your life fully and taking charge in your own life will exceed any bad feelings.
With good boundaries we spend so much less or no time in a bad state. People with good boundaries are very charismatic, seem to achieve a lot in life and appear very empathetic, happy and authentic. I, for one, certainly want some of THAT!
Have fun playing with it and discovering your own boundaries!