Personal Boundaries

Inspired by this post on Writing the Fire, I began to think about my own boundaries, as well as my own experiences in allowing people to push past them. Much like the writer of that post, I didn’t really think about my own, personal boundaries when I was younger. I suppose I never felt that I had a right to say no. I always assumed I was in the wrong if it came to someone wanting me to do something and me not wanting to.

Perhaps that was due to the nature of my upbringing – I was an only child raised by a number of adults. What they said went and I never really had another child to push me so that I had to push back.

Then, I went to school and of course, the teachers set the boundaries, which I knew to follow or suffer the consequences.

At some point, I learned that establishing and protecting personal boundaries is perceived as being selfish and that it is, therefore, unacceptable and distasteful. People will not like, or love, you. Instead, to be a likeable, “good” person, one must be compliant and easy-going.

Now, saying that, it is important to point out that I have lived a very lucky life in which I have never been put in a position where I have felt I had to say yes to something truly egregious. Once, a friend of the family tried to push himself on me and I had no trouble saying no to him.

But there have been smaller, less serious examples of me allowing boundaries I should have held firm to crumble away.

In elementary school, for example, I had a friend who would make me run from her to the school wall and back again. She would time me. And if I didn’t do it in a specific amount of time, she would threaten not to be my friend. What kind of a person does that? What kind of a person lets them?

Right there, I should have known that that was crossing a boundary I should have protected.

Even recently, I allowed my neighbor to come to my door, pull me away from time with my family to get angry with something our landscapers had done, by law, on the path through his garden to ours. I spoke about that previously here.

Somewhere in there are boundaries – physical, emotional and social – that definitely should not have been crossed.

So, I felt it was very timely last night when I came across prompt relating to boundaries. And I began to think about my own, the ones that I have been living by without really thinking about them, and the ones that I need to consciously construct and hold firm.

I was looking online for some understanding about how I have interacted with my boundaries until now, and I came across this succinct explanation of the importance of personal boundaries and the reasons we sacrifice them:

Without healthy boundaries or with very weak boundaries, you simply cannot have healthy relationships. You give up a part of yourself to be available or accommodating. Or you become so entangled with another person and their needs (co-dependent behaviour) that you lose your own identity.

At the root of personal boundary issues is fear. (Isn’t that the root of most issues?) It’s the fear we won’t be loved, that we aren’t good enough or deserving enough just as we are.

People with weak personal boundaries tend to attract controlling, disrespectful, or needy people into their lives. Or they simply train others to take advantage of them because they so willingly allow themselves to be used.

This describes some of what I have been working through lately, so this exercise definitely came at the right time. This site also provides a list of weak personal boundaries which hit closer to home than I expected. Some of the boundaries in the list below have been inspired by them.

The following is my first run at setting my boundaries.

  1. I have a right to take as much me time as I need. I need time to myself daily to clear my mind and gather my strength. When I feel that I need that time, I will protect it and insist upon it. I will not feel guilty or intimidated about making this clear.
  2. Our house is our domain. No one comes into it or gets me out of it against our wishes. We make the rules in our house, not the neighbours.
  3. I am an adult, I am not a child and I will not let anyone treat me otherwise.
  4. I have a reverse gear as well as a forward gear and I can back away from someone who invades my personal (physical or emotional) space.
  5. I must live by my own expectations, not by the expectations of others, no matter how hard that might be.
  6. I will listen to that feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me whatever I am being told by someone else is wrong, is against my morals and values, or is simply not what I am comfortable with.
  7. I will say no when I mean no, and yes when I mean yes. And I will not feel guilty or doubt my decision.
  8. I will no longer second guess my parenting.
  9. I will no longer give too much just to be perceived as useful.
  10. To protect my time and energy, it is ok to cancel or change plans.
  11. To protect my time and energy, it is ok to take time to do nothing.
  12. I will listen more closely to what my inner voice tells me I need.
  13. I will not let someone guilt me into doing something I don’t want to do.

That’s all for now but I’m sure this list will grow as I become more aware and practiced at setting boundaries.

What are some of the boundaries you have set? Have you held firm on them? Do you find it difficult to set boundaries?