Boundaries for beginners

10 years! That’s how long I have spent reading about boundaries and trying to practice them. And after all that time, I still got it wrong. There’s one crucial piece to understand about boundaries before setting them up in places where none existed.

My big mistake was not understanding this:

People don’t need to respect your boundaries.

We often think that they do. In fact, we’re taught this. People need to show us respect, etc. But this doesn’t always happen and often when we communicate a boundary in a relationship, they don’t respect it. Why is that?

There are 2 big reasons why this may occur. One is people have different personal boundaries (this doesn’t include societal boundaries like physical and sexual assault). We all come with our own script which we go about the world referencing and sometimes forget that others follow a different script.

And the second reason is that we are now depending on another person to keep a boundary in place. And well, that other person is imperfect. They won’t be able to uphold our personal boundaries for us.

Relying on others to respect your boundaries will drive you crazy. Instead:

You need to uphold your personal boundaries.

That means you take action when someone crosses your boundaries. And that action doesn’t involve getting the person to behave in a certain way.

Now, it doesn’t mean that you don’t request behaviour changes from others. For example, if you don’t like being kissed (on the cheek) or hugged when you greet family and friends, you can, of course, ask them to not greet you in this manner.

But the next time your friend leans in for a kiss, you will need to take action. Either you block it or move away. That’s upholding the boundary.

Not upholding it is making the request and then the next time you see them, they lean in for the kiss and you accept it. That communicates that your personal boundary isn’t really a real boundary.

The action you take to uphold your boundaries will communicate it in a clear way – that this behaviour is something you won’t accept.

It’s not easy when the responsibility shifts to us to maintain it. It takes a lot of courage to make a request and then even more so to uphold the boundary. The powerful thing about taking ownership and responsibility of our own boundaries is the freedom.

You are free from relying on family and friends and then having them fail and ultimately suffering from your boundaries not being respected. Freeing yourself from that kind of suffering is worth facing our fear of taking action to uphold it.

Instead, you get to respect yourself and give that respect to yourself whenever you want.

If you’re wondering if you have healthy boundaries, listen to podcast episode 7: Boundaries for beginners where I discuss the signs of healthy boundaries and a personal story of me failing miserably and upholding them.