Just like physical boundaries tell you where you can and cannot go. Similarly, boundaries in a persons life tell you what is and what isn’t acceptable to them; what they would and wouldn’t tolerate, and what is an absolute No when it comes to their wants, needs, and life in general. Know how to create healthy boundaries for a better life.
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“What broke your heart so bad That you had to close every door, That you say you have a dark soul And can't utter the word 'love' anymore? -Sanhita Baruah”
A battered, wounded, deeply hurt heart creates walls around itself, to protect it from the hurt and the pain, it now habitually expects from every person that would come into its life, sometimes to lick its wounds behind the rigid emotional fortress it builds.
The heart, deep down craves love and care, acceptance, and maybe for someone to understand, but alas! The heart is scared to let love in because the previous experience taught that the cost of love was hurt and betrayal, and the heart is scared to love because of the same reason. The safe haven that the heart was seeking inside the fortress has now become the prison, a self-imposed prison, and loneliness, sadness, and perpetual yearning for the very thing it’s now scared of- Love, becomes its best friend. The heart craves to break free from this prison but doesn’t know how to do that............
In my previous blog, I discussed the emotional walling we create as a trauma response since childhood, brick after brick, hurt after hurt, pain after pain, betrayal after betrayal. I also said that there is another way, a way that can not only safeguard and empower us in a foolproof manner, but also let the love in and allow the love out. BOUNDARIES. Yes, you read that right. The answer to our dilemma is boundaries.
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What are boundaries?
Boundaries in relationships are important, at home and at work. Just like physical boundaries tell you where you can and cannot go. On a road, they tell you where you can and cannot drive. Likewise, boundaries in a persons life tell you what is and what isn’t acceptable to them; what they would and wouldn’t tolerate, and what is an absolute No when it comes to their wants, needs, and life in general.
They don’t come as big yellow warning signs, but boundaries are just as important as the ones that save you from driving where you shouldn't.
What is the purpose of boundaries?
According to Dr. Nicole LePera,
“Boundaries protect you. They keep you physically balanced. They help you connect to your intuitive Self and are critical to experiencing authentic love”.
Boundaries provide a necessary foundation for every relationship you have- most importantly the one you have with yourself. They are the retaining walls that protect you from what feels inappropriate, unacceptable, inauthentic, or just plain not desired.
When boundaries are in place, we feel safer expressing our authentic wants and needs; we are better able to live more fully in the social engagement zone because we have established limits that cultivate safety, and we rid ourselves of the resentment that comes along with denying our needs.
Boundaries are essential- and often scary as hell, especially if we come from an enmeshed family dynamic where boundaries were non-existent or constantly trespassed upon.
Most of us have never learned how to say “no.” As a result, we say “yes” too much and fulfill too many demands until we reach a breaking point and are forced to “put our foot down". Afterward, we often feel guilt and shame about our sudden outbursts. We apologize, sideline our own needs, or over-explain. If you see yourself in any of these practices, there is a high likelihood that you would benefit from some new boundaries in your life.
But do you know, that your experiences in life in terms of different interpersonal interactions and your self-concept, define the strength of your boundaries?
The biggest barrier to creating boundaries is the overrated notion of “niceness".
In his book"Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent & Feeling Guilty . . . and Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, and Unapologetically Being Yourself", self-confidence expert Dr. Aziz Gazipura argued that niceness is based on the following inaccurate formula: “If I please others . . . then others will like me, love me, shower me with approval and everything else I want.” He referred to this phenomenon as “the niceness cage”—wherein the compulsion to be valued locks us in a vicious trap of people-pleasing and self-abandonment.
"If you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs. - Cheryl Richardson, The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time”
The reality is that being “not nice” (i.e., being true to your authentic Self) enables us to assert our own values. It’s not about being mean or arrogant or inconsiderate; it’s about knowing what you want, what your limits are, and then communicating that. Learning to say “no” and not being so compliant all the time is an important part of reclaiming yourself. Learning to say “no” is often the kindest thing you can do for yourself and those you love.
Though many of us struggle with permeable or non-existent boundaries, quite a few of us exist on the other extreme: we create too-rigid boundaries, aka, the Walls. We shun all opportunities that allow interconnectedness, exhibit emotional withdrawal, and uphold strict rules of conduct and behavior for those who do make it past the wall.
If a boundary was repeatedly violated in childhood by a primary caregiver, we may continue to feel unsafe in most other relationships. When we withdraw out of self-preservation, we make free and spontaneous connections with other humans impossible, keeping us and others more controlled and thereby creating a false sense of safety. In doing so, we repress our intuitive voice and end up in the same lonely, inauthentic place as those who live with no boundaries at all.
Given below are the examples of “rigid", “loose" and “flexible” boundaries which can be used for self-assessment to determine where our boundaries lie and the improvements, if any, are needed for the same.
• Has few intimate/close relationships
• Has a chronic fear of rejection
• Overall, has difficulty asking for help
• Is fiercely private
• Engages in compulsive people-pleasing
• Defines self-worth by the opinions of others
• Has a general inability to say “no”
• Consistently overshares private information
• Is a chronic fixer/helper/saver/rescuer
• Is aware of and values own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs
• Knows how to communicate needs to others
• Shares personal information appropriately
• Is consistently able to say “no” when needed and accepts others’
• doing the same
• Is able to regulate emotions, allowing others to express themselves.
With all kinds of boundaries, it’s key to understand this: the boundary isn’t for others, it’s for you. It is not an ultimatum to make another person behave a certain way. A boundary, rather, is a personal limit that is expressed so that your needs will directly be met. It is an action we take for ourselves regardless of how the other person reacts. That the other person may change in some way is a secondary gain.
An important aspect of setting boundaries is allowing others to have their own limits and boundaries and respecting and honoring theirs while you maintain your own.
When our needs aren’t being met or are being actively infringed upon, instead of pointing a finger at another person and saying, “You have to change.”
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice. -Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection”
A better question to ask is: What do I need to do to make sure that my needs are better met?
The responsibility is yours. And at the same time, it’s important to understand that the boundaries of the other person are equally important and must be respected.
“Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of any relationship is your responsibility. You do not have to passively accept what is brought to you. You can choose. -Deborah Day"
In my next blog, I will discuss the different types of boundaries that exist for a particular person, how to establish these boundaries, and also develop an understanding of these boundaries concerning the different interpersonal interactions we have, whether on a professional front, in family, friends, dating and even boundaries with self.
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