There’s a ton of information about boundaries out there, but what are they and how do they work?
Boundaries are limitations you set for yourself and others around appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, thoughts, or actions.
Setting clear boundaries teaches others what you will and won’t accept. As such, they’re also a measure of your self-esteem.
When boundaries aren’t clear, we all too often allow others to set them for us.
For instance, when self-esteem is low, our boundaries tend to be vague and undefined. As a result, we teach people that our boundaries can be changed to suit their needs.
At this point unacceptable behaviour may become acceptable to us, because our boundaries are blurred.
An avid people pleaser, I used to let others walk all over me. I thought I was being humble, but it was usually because I wanted you to like me.
Identifying and letting go of self limiting beliefs changes that.
The hula hoop
I’m sure you know what a hula hoop is, that toy plastic hoop you can swing around your waist.
Think of the hula hoop as your boundary, your personal space.
Unhealthy boundaries are when you let anyone and everyone inside your hoop, and vice versa, when you’re outside your hoop and into someone else’s.
It works both ways.
Staying in your hoop isn’t easy
To set healthy and respectful boundaries, you need to see why you get out of your hoop in the first place. Ask yourself:
- What am I trying to achieve?
- Am I trying to manipulate or control the outcome?
- Am I offering advice when I haven’t been asked for it?
- Do I think I can change this person, situation etc?
- Is it any of my business?
Understanding what motivates you to move beyond your boundary makes it easier to stop.
You see that it’s not helpful to anyone, least of all yourself.
Getting out of my hoop was a distraction from doing the inner work. It was so much easier to tell you what to change than to change myself.
Healthy boundaries are fluid, flexible. You’re mindful of the needs of others as much as your own. Hence, your boundaries become respectful and clear.
It’s a paradox really.
Through practice, you discover what works for you and what doesn’t, and if it isn’t working for you, more than likely, it won’t work for them either.
. . . and where to start?
Boundary setting usually starts with those closest to us because, truthfully, that’s where it’s needed most.
There’s something about family, isn’t there. Because we’re a family member we think its okay to infiltrate each others space, but it isn’t and can actually create more harm than good.
For example, you might take it upon yourself to be the family negotiator when arguments arise. You believe it’s your job to restore harmony.
But what does that actually mean?
Taking on the role of the peace keeper may require you to move into the hoops of others.
They may not like it and retaliate.
Is it really our business?
If your husband and son aren’t on speaking terms, whose business is it?
If your mother and brother don’t like the way Aunt Sally’s behaving, whose business is it?
The attitude that creates the most serenity for me today is learning to distinguish between what’s my business and what’s not. I can have an opinion, sure. But getting caught up in other people’s conflicts doesn’t work.
An argument between two people is smaller than an argument between three.
Everyone’s got an opinion and they’re allowed to have it.
From a higher perspective
There’s also the spiritual implication regarding boundaries. From this perspective, each person has a lesson to learn which only the universe knows.
When we allow others to interfere in our business or we interfere in theirs, we may unknowingly impede each others’ spiritual and emotional growth.
Therefore, respecting other people’s opinions and choices means that we’re respecting their boundaries.
Today, when I think about wandering outside my hoop, I say to myself “Is this any of your business Deb?” If it isn’t, I don’t go there. I don’t go where I’m not invited, period. Truth is it’s rarely our business!
And letting you into my hoop? Only at my invitation and not your invasion. I can just as soon ask you to leave when necessary. That’s the choice I have today.
So the next time you think about letting someone inside your hoop or getting outside your own, pause.
Ask yourself why you’re doing it? If you enjoy your peace of mind, you might consider staying where you are!