Have you seen these videos, the ones showing people literally wearing their social distancing boundary? There have been so many times in the past few weeks that I wished I had one of my own… In this new world, I often feel like my personal bubble is being popped, or at least poked. What this tells me is not that I should build myself an awkward homemade contraption, but rather that I need to learn to better assert my boundaries.
Boundaries of a physical nature are quite straightforward; they represent the perimeter of your personal space, which is uniquely and individually defined. When someone crosses into your imagined territory, your discomfort increases. It’s then your responsibility to inform the invader of their blunder, and hopefully the misunderstanding can be resolved peacefully. Or you can just move over.
When it comes to psychological boundaries, things get a bit more complicated. But you can use the above example as a metaphor for these kinds of limits as well. In this case, either response could represent someone with healthy or unhealthy boundaries. The key difference lies in their motivation for taking the chosen action. If their aim is to place or take on blame, both responses are unhealthy. However, if they are willing to take responsibility for creating their invisible bubble, and assert their need to protect it, both responses are healthy.
Together, your boundaries make up a guidebook of rules establishing what is permissible from others, along with how you should respond when your limits are passed. They clarify what makes you feel safe, content, and authentic, and outline how to optimally communicate your truth. So what is the status of your boundaries?
If it’s unclear what might constitute your version of healthy boundaries, try writing down what situations are currently leaving you feeling frustrated, angry, or ashamed. Ignoring your boundaries leads to resentment and shame, so if those feelings are coming up anywhere, it’s most likely because your limits are being crossed and you’re not acknowledging or expressing that fact. Once you know what isn’t working, use this information to make your own guidebook and start getting assertive (not aggressive).
Sticking up for your boundaries might make you feel strange, exposed, or even selfish. But I assure you, the short-term discomfort is well worth the lasting peace and understanding that will emerge. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the caveat here; the corresponding reaction to your news is outside of your control. Note that and push forward. Any relationship worthy of your attention will blossom with the truth, and you’ll see those built on faulty premises more clearly than before. Either way, your new boundaries give you permission to take whatever direction gives you peace, whether that means going all in or letting go.
As our Covid-19 restrictions begin to loosen, and we emerge into our new future, remember the importance of defining and engaging your own boundaries. Doing so will help shape your future self into someone who embraces mutual, respectful relationships, moves toward authenticity, and finds joy even in the awkward moments.
Feel free to get in touch for a free initial session if you’d like some guidance on creating your boundaries and asserting them in a healthy way.
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