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What's Wrong with the B Word?

Let's dive right in. What's wrong with the B word? Boundaries! Wait a minute... which B word were you thinking of? Well, "boundaries" has become a buzzword, but it seems to be a feared concept for many near and far. Some struggle with implementing boundaries, while others secretly harbor feelings of hurt, rage, fear, or distress because their boundaries are not honored. Today, I'd like to clarify the meaning of boundaries and provide practical steps for implementation.

Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil
How To Have Boundaries

What Does Having Boundaries Mean Exactly?

Boundaries fall under the category of "what is respectably reasonable." They help define limits and create common ground, enabling effective communication while respecting both yourself and others involved. For example, a poorly executed boundary might involve getting into a heated discussion where one person berates, yells, and insists that their needs and opinions must be agreed upon and satisfied. This doesn't involve respect or reason but includes elements of shame, guilt, or manipulation. On the other hand, a successful boundary would entail clearly stating that berating is not tolerated and that the conversation can continue once respectful  communication is established. If this isn't acknowledged, the person has the right to excuse themselves from the discussion altogether.

Types of Boundaries

It may not seem apparent, but there are different types of boundaries that impact various aspects of life. Here they are:

Intellectual: Refers to respecting others' ideas and discerning what is appropriate to discuss.

Emotional: Knowing what and how much personal information to share and with whom.

Physical: Self-awareness of what touch and space is appropriate in different relationships.

Sexual: Self and mutual respect and understanding of what sexual contact is agreed upon.

Time: Refers to what and how one uses their time and when it involves others' time.

Material: Limits on what and how much physical resources one shares.

Reasons People Struggle with Using Boundaries

1) “I feel bad if I say no”

This stems from self-guilt. The fear that saying no may cause harm, conflict, or loss of a relationship. It's a thought process embedded over time by those in their lives who have often been perpetrators of crossing boundaries.

2) “I don’t want to get into conflict”

This is a form of avoidance under the guise of self-preservation. In reality, it endorses and enables boundary crossing, driven by fear that one's own needs are not important.

3) “The person is just going through a hard time right now”

If consistently allowing boundary violations with the justification that the person is going through a hard time, it's likely not the first instance. While everyone faces challenges, using this as a consistent excuse suggests a deeper issue beyond the individual's current situation.

What Now? How Do I Change and Start Using Boundaries?

Step One: Make the Choice

It all begins with a choice. Some may feel they have no options or have tried before without success. It's crucial to make the choice and commit to it, reinforcing the commitment if there's a slip-up along the way. This choice is a commitment to yourself that you will honor your boundaries.

Step Two: Be Prepared for Resistance

Expect that others may not initially like the new you. Changing established dynamics can be challenging. Imagine being on a plane with a tantrum-throwing 2-3 year old behind you during takeoff—it's uncomfortable, and there may be resistance. However, if you're following step one, you can get through it.

Step Three: Communicate and Follow Through

Clearly communicate your boundaries and follow through, even if the other person doesn't comply. For instance, if you agree to meet a chronically late friend for lunch at 1 pm, communicate your need for punctuality beforehand. If they still arrive late without notice, you have the choice to either send a message and leave or wait until the scheduled time and leave without extending the hangout. The boundary is followed through by the issuer, with or without the other person's compliance.

Step Four: Embrace Short-term Discomfort for Long-term Change

Be willing to endure short-term discomfort to achieve long-term changes. Establishing and enforcing boundaries may initially feel uncomfortable, but this discomfort is a small price to pay for creating healthier relationships in the long run.

In closing, yes, it’s a new concept however, something in you let’s you know that it’s needed. The feeling in the pit of your stomach, that chest pang, that slightly “run away” feeling let’s you know that something is wrong. It may very well be that you are and have let other violate your boundaries one too many times. It’s alright take a step to do something different. 


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