What are Boundaries?

by | Writing Exercises

I have been a private person since I was young. It’s part of my personality. I feel most comfortable sharing my thoughts, my feelings, and my dreams with those closest to me.

Part of my sense of privacy likely intensified as a result of struggling with people-pleasing growing up. This was a big struggle for me through my teens and early 20s. Not wanting to disrupt “groupthink” or risk disappointing or angering others around me, I kept what I really thought and felt to myself and played nice. Sadly, I played small too many times to count.

Every healthy relationship comprises appropriate and empowering boundaries. What this means is that there is a me in a relationship in addition to the we. Boundaries (i.e., time, emotional, financial, physical, energetic) convey what one is willing and able to do/give and what one is not willing and able to do/give.

In every conversation, knowingly or unknowingly, we are communicating our boundaries. Simply engaging in a conversation with someone sends the message that we might have the time and/or interest in conversing. The mistake that many of us make is when we assume what others’ needs and boundaries are within relationships.

Have you ever talked to someone and physically they are present with you, yet you could tell their thoughts are somewhere else? We can ask the other person where they exist in time and space right now (e.g., are they mentally available, are they emotionally available, etc.) so we don’t misunderstand or assume that they are. Similarly, by communicating our availability (mentally, emotionally, time-wise), we can let someone know calmly and lovingly what we are willing and able to give and receive.

I learned the hard way to set and maintain healthy boundaries after experiencing a lot of hurt and a lot of resentment. I built up resentments because I didn’t take responsibility for conveying my time and emotional boundaries with others. I disempowered myself for years for failing to step out of my comfort zone. Only by practicing and tuning into my own needs, did I learn that empowerment lies within our boundaries.

I’m glad to say my people-pleasing days are over. When this “disease to please,” as Oprah calls it, pops-up, I revert to my practice: sitting quietly, tuning into my heart space, and asking myself what I need to give myself permission to do or to let go. I sit still and silently until I receive my answer.

How do you honor your boundaries?

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