Boundaries are the ground rules we share with others in healthy and mutually respectful relationships. They are the limits we place around our time, our attention, and our energy. Our boundaries are not negotiable. Lately I’ve been feeling my boundaries are in need of a tune up. I can tell because I am feeling angry and pushed to firmly state or re-state my limits. Anger is a guide that shows us where we need boundaries.
I notice my boundaries can sometimes slip when I choose to ignore my own needs in order to please or gain approval from someone else. It’s what Brenee Brown calls, “Hustling for worthiness.” We ignore our own desires and instead focus on meeting someone else’s needs, hoping to attain validation from that other person or group. It never works. We are left in resentment and anger because we have given what we need most to someone else. We feel resentful of them – whether they knew we were making a sacrifice or not – and angry that we feel used. It is exhausting to live in anger and resentment. It is not a strategy for building healthy relationships.
Therefore not volunteering to contribute to my own destruction is a necessary boundary for me. It is one with myself but there are others too. Some boundaries include how much time I am willing to give to a phone call or conversation topic. How much attention I wish to pay to a certain discussion at a particular time. How far I’m willing to go to meet someone. These limits are what keep me grounded in joy. Giving only what I am willing to share, not giving away that which I need most is key.
In fact, to build healthy relationships is to respect the boundaries of others and have your boundaries respected in turn. It is the highest form of mutual respect and love I can imagine. The reciprocity, for me, is the most important piece. It is the dance of give and take that makes others feel valued and seen. It lets our partners know we respect their limits and are willing to meet them where they are comfortable. Boundaries give us all the space to be free and held. I read recently, “Home is not a place, it is a feeling.” And that struck me as a deep truth. When we come home to our friends, family, lovers, and children we are connecting and creating home.
A major component to home is safety. We feel safest when we know that we are valued and respected. One of the ways we show others that we love them is by respecting their boundaries. And the way they show us that we are equally valued is by respecting ours. Never settle for less than equity. Never agree to a relationship where the terms of engagement require you to sacrifice your needs or wants for someone else’s. Arriving at a point in life where you can be kind to yourself first, take care of yourself first, is a moment to be celebrated. Because boundaries come from being attentive to our own needs. We have more on how to discover your own needs here.
Pay attention to what your anger is directing you to be attentive to – do you need to set or restate some boundaries? Do you need more space or less? What can you do to feel more at home and at ease in your relationships? What boundaries have you used to center and ground yourself and create a safe home in your relationships with others?