"Boundaries" is not a dirty word
Learn it, know it, live it
I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while and was inspired to finally write about it.
Boundaries are not as complicated and “psychobabble” as people would think. A boundary is, in fact, simply you directing someone as to how you’d like to be treated. It’s as simple as asking someone to do something or not to do something so you can feel happy, loved and respected. Here’s an example: “I really like it when you hold my hand, but I don’t like when you get too physical with me in public.” Or “Please don’t call me when I’m at work. I love you, but I need to concentrate and would prefer to talk when I don’t have so much on my mind.”
We set boundaries all the time, and how the other person reacts to them gives us information on their place in our life. If people consistently do what you ask them kindly not to do, you have to wonder how much they love and respect you. If you have to constantly repeat your request, the other person is not listening to you or caring that you’re asking them about something important to you.
Sometimes we don’t set boundaries but get upset at someone anyway even though we haven’t told them what we like or don’t like. An honest relationship will include you not allowing people to mistreat you and sometimes the only way to do that is by setting boundaries. If the other person respects you, they will appreciate receiving this information from you. It’s possible they didn’t realize what they were doing upset you. Or they didn’t realize you needed space. Or that you hated their chicken parmesan.
If you’ve gone through some tough interactions with people, you might set your boundaries too severe as an overcorrection to keep from getting hurt again. Over time, you might lower them again when you feel strong and safe.
Sometimes my boundaries save other people from doing stupid shit they shouldn’t be doing. Like if someone who is in a relationship starts crossing a line with me, and I tell them to put it in reverse. They might end up doing something stupid with someone else, but at least it won’t be me. Ya know what I’m saying? Homegirl deserves better than that.
Sometimes having to setting boundaries makes me feel disappointed in the other person. Like, why aren’t you smart enough to know you shouldn’t be doing this? Or why don’t you respect me enough to not be doing this? I often wonder if people are just unaware or if they’re pretending to be ignorant in the hopes that I will be OK with what they’re doing. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and be kind in laying out my boundaries. I also strive to be very clear so they will be 100% certain what behavior I had a problem with. Being clear and kind is a gift you give people.
Whether they’re unaware or being intentional, I still get to set my rules for engagement. I get to decide who has what access to me in my life.
Other people will also set boundaries for you. They are telling you how they want to be treated. You can decide whether those boundaries work for you. If they are reasonable and you care about the person, you should respect them.
They say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” That means, the second (or third or fourth) time you let someone get away with something was a choice you made. Don’t forget that. We can take responsibility for how people treat us because we have choices. That’s what boundaries are about: choices.
This advice is the same for romantic partners, family members, bosses, organizations you’re volunteering for, or anyone else you interact with.
As I prepared to sit down and write my next book, I took time the other day to complete my personal manifesto. I started with my existing morning message which was, in its own right, a short manifesto.
This document informs my values, how I want to interact with the world, and what I see as my purpose. Over the years, it might change depending on my priorities, but this version should last me a while.
I hope it inspires you to create your own.
Manifesto - 2023
I am grateful to wake up each day in safety and comfort.
I do my best to have a positive impact on the world each day through my interactions with people. I act and speak with integrity and truth, and I practice non-attachment and compassion.
I respect the Earth to the best of my ability by living lightly and through activism. I spend time in nature to feel connected to the source of all life.
Because I love and respect myself, I prioritize my mental and physical health. I assume the best about people while maintaining healthy boundaries. I look for the good in every situation so that I might be propelled forward by optimism about the world.
I let faith guide me and not fear. I treat life with reverence and practice gratitude. I appreciate the simple things and prioritize joy. I seek adventure in everyday interactions and experiences. I treat life as an experiment as I continue to explore, learn, and grow. I never stop believing in magic.
Each day, I seek a better understanding of myself and the world so that I am always becoming a better version of myself.
I live on my own terms and create my own opportunities. My actions express my priorities. Each day, I take concrete steps toward my goals and seek security for my future. In the pursuit of my goals, I act boldly. To make the most of my skills, knowledge and abilities, I pursue speaking, teaching, and leadership opportunities.
I strive to use what I’ve learned about life to help others live with joy.
I had a dream over the weekend.
My sisters, Liz and Diane, and I are sitting in the second row of a theatre watching some kind of show. Liz and Diane are actually out of their seats, and I have put my phone down. Liz comes back into the theatre and is mad.
I just remembered why she’s mad. A building nearby - a church - has been invaded. The pastor has been killed, and his wife is being sexually assaulted. Some women nearby are talking about it, and they are watching video. It seems the assault is being streamed online.
Liz is upset that she couldn’t warn me about this. She goes and sits in the front row instead of in her seat next to me.
Since she can’t see me now because she’s in front of me, I slip out. It’s the middle of the night, and I sneak into this old, creepy building without a proper door latch. I don’t remember why I’m there. It feels unsafe yet I am not afraid.
I walk toward the back toward a bathroom. Maybe I am there to use the bathroom. But I stop at a big window on the left just before the bathroom door. It looks like we’re in India, and it doesn’t seem to be fully dark out. I am looking down at a jungle path next to a swiftly moving river.
There is some sort of contraption in the middle of the river, the top of which is shaped roughly like a hexagon, that crushes down occasionally. Maybe on purpose or maybe it’s broken due to the monsoon rains and flooding.
A man (Indian) is on the jungle path trying to clear trash and debris. A baby elephant comes into sight near the trail and gets caught up in an old rug. He ends up sitting on it precariously close to the river.
Suddenly, a big splash comes up and pulls the baby elephant and a pile of debris into the river. It’s impossible to see where he goes because of the rushing and churning water. I keep looking at the contraption to see if he gets caught in its clenching jaws.
People are gingerly wading into the river from the other side to find him but to no avail.
I start wailing in my dream. I sob and sob for this poor elephant who has been washed down the river like so much trash.
I wake myself up as I was just on the edge of sleep. I sit still and examine this dream. I am upset by it but can see that it is symbolic.
The church invader is man. Man executes man and rapes the planet (Mother Earth).
People watch the killing and planetary destruction on screens, sometimes live. Watching without emotion as if it is just entertainment. I recently watched a very entertaining train wreck involving toxic chemicals in Ohio.
Thinking about that and the poor little elephant (I have cried at images of polar bears stranded and starving from lack of ice), I acknowledged my profound but often dormant grief and sadness about the planet (and man’s violence toward man).
As an environmentalist, I must often bury these feelings so I can function in a society that is not changing fast enough to make a difference (and is often sliding backwards).
I don’t think I’ve had such a meaningful dream in a long time.
Starting to write my second book with the help of my coach.
Waiting for the Valium to kick in for my dentist appointment.
Formulating ways to build up credentials for a new career and be more present in the community.