For most of my life, I’ve had trouble with personal boundaries. Both with stepping over other people’s boundaries, and with allowing others to step over mine.
In my particular family dynamics, there was no such thing as personal boundaries. Walls, yes, but not boundaries. I had to do what I was told and wasn’t allowed to question anything people in positions of authority said or did. This led to my boundaries being crashed endlessly.
Back then, I didn’t have the awareness to know what was going on, just that it didn’t feel good. That having no voice and being made to go along with things I didn’t agree with sucked.
Boundaries are lines that define you. What you’re willing to do, and not do. What belongs to you, and what belongs to others.
Part of being yourself fully is deciding where your boundaries are. That’s why it feels so bad when someone else decides this for you.
Boundaries are crucial in all your interactions – with other people, with animals, with organisations. They’re a matter of respect. They’re being violated every time someone invades your privacy, or tells you what to do or how to behave. If someone’s presence or input is uninvited, it’s disrespectful.
Boundary setting comes from deep within. It’s based on your beliefs about what’s right for you in your life. You get to define how you behave, how you respond to someone else’s behaviour, what’s your to do. You also get to maintain your boundaries. And that means learning to say NO.
Whenever I’m feeling frustrated or angry, it’s because I’ve not maintained my boundaries. I’ve not said NO when I should have. This tends to happen when I rush into something, or when I feel sorry for someone. I’m suffering the consequences of my failure to say NO right now. I’m looking after someone’s dog, an incredibly needy, inactive dog, whose presence in my home prevents me from living my life. I love dogs, but don’t have the bandwidth right now to deal with a dog whose modus operandi is so different from mine.
You can learn to say NO in response to someone asking you to do something that’s not right for you. And you can learn to say NO in anticipation of someone offering you unsolicited advice. e.g. “I’d love to share something with you and just want you to listen – I’m NOT looking for any input about it.”
If you don’t maintain your boundaries, you cannot fully be yourself. Your ‘you-ness’ is compromised by every failure to say NO. If being yourself is important to you, then boundary setting and maintaining must also be important to you.
It takes courage to say NO. It also takes strong guiding principles. The reward is your freedom and a more joyful life.