We are all experiencing massive and fast moving changes these days, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the idea of boundaries. Boundaries help us to know where I end and you begin. They help us to know who is responsible for doing what. You may feel conflicted about boundaries – after all, boundaries are there in part to keep other people out. But stay with me. Without boundaries we cannot have real connection – one of life’s little paradoxes. Another reason people may feel conflicted about boundaries is that a boundary is a limit, and in our culture, limits have gotten a bad rap. But boundaries and limits allow us to access the power that belongs to us, and to respect the integrity of other people. No boundaries – no power. Another paradox in life.
So, let’s get practical. Here is what a boundary is NOT: “You can’t do that to me.” Here is what a boundary IS: “Here is what I will do if this behavior continues.” In the first example, I am telling you what you can and cannot do. I have already failed to recognize the autonomy of the person I am speaking to. And I have put the power into someone else’s hands. In the second example, I recognize that you have the right to behave as you wish. I also recognize that I have the power to take action. If you think taking action is “manipulating” other people, that’s a whole other blog post. We all have power. When I recognize that I have power, I stop blaming others and feeling like a powerless victim, and I start realizing you are a separate and autonomous person. When I recognize my own boundaries, I will also recognize yours. Now, we can have a real conversation. Now we are equal. Boundaries are the great leveler.
And yes, if you have boundaries, you will also have boundary disputes. It’s lovely if you can get consensus. It’s lovely if your friends and family support your decisions. It’s lovely if you can achieve “buy in”. But there will be times when you are going to have to tolerate someone else’s negative emotions. They’ll live…and so will you.
I’m glad we’ve had this little chat about the power of boundaries. But before you remodel the universe, remember that with great power comes great responsibility. If you don’t have a healthy dose of morality, humility, integrity and a certain amount of toughness, get you some.