Boundaries and Respect
Expressing your boundaries is a proactive
way to recognize your own limitations and share them with others before
reaching a state of crisis. You cannot expect anyone else to know what you need
before you communicate it. Unfortunately, you also cannot expect people to
respect what you need unless you continue to assert it. Setting and maintaining
boundaries is an important way to protect yourself.
Respecting others’ boundaries is also
critical. When you respect others’ boundaries you communicate that their well-being
is important, and you strengthen the validity of setting and adhering to
boundaries in your relationship. Boundaries are a foundational way we can
communicate and honor each other’s needs.
Why it Might be Hard for People to Set
In order to set boundaries, you need to
know what your limitations are. That requires being deeply in touch with
yourself. Many people are not self-aware enough to know what boundaries they
need to set, let alone how to set them.
When you do know what boundaries to set, then you have to face the vulnerability of communicating them. Boundaries are a form of protection for your time, energy, and abilities, and letting people know where the limits of those things are can feel strange and difficult, at first. In addition, figuring out how to express your boundaries can be awkward and uncomfortable. Few people are taught how to communicate boundaries and thus many are fairly new to the process and are constantly trying to figure it out as they go along.
Furthermore, expressing a boundary is
often a multi-step process that involves the initial communication of and the
continued maintenance or holding of that boundary, in response to others’ desires
to resist it. Holding a boundary is tiring and can lead to conflict. Many
people have had to learn or are learning how to accept one another’s
Your Work Life
Setting boundaries around work is a key piece of work-life balance. In a world that increasingly values money, it can be very hard to assert a work-related boundary that might result in a smaller paycheck or less accomplishment in your position because you are prioritizing other elements of your life. Income is measurable and other parts of your life that you are able to prioritize when you set work-related boundaries are often less quantifiable. This can make it tricky to defend your decisions to yourself and those around you. However, your life is more than your job, and prioritizing things that help you grow, facilitate ease in your life, make you happy, and improve the world, are important to have a fulfilling life. Setting boundaries in your work life enables you to prioritize your fulfillment.
Cultural narratives around family can
tend toward the severe idea that family comes before all else, or else.
However, the cliches about loving yourself in order to love others and taking
care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else are cliche for a
reason. Setting boundaries with your family is often challenging but also means
that you will be better able to prioritize your own wellness and care, putting
you in a better position to give to others when you have the capacity.
Your Romantic Relationships
Romantic relationships are another
setting where common narratives can make us feel like boundary setting signals
a lack of care and/or commitment to the relationship. However, an alternative
framing is that setting boundaries with a romantic partner enables you to be
better able to show up for them because you have shown up for yourself and your
own limits. Setting boundaries is a way that you are caring for yourself. When
you are well cared for, you are better able to care for your relationships.
Culturally, we tend to view romantic and familial relationships as more important and/or more intimate than friendships. This can make it hard to feel justified in asking for things from our friends or wanting to build deeper and more intimate relationships with friends. But friendships are profoundly impactful on our lives, and they can be so in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, it is absolutely valid and reasonable to set (and respect) boundaries in friendships. Ideally, our friends want the best for us as we do for them. Setting and respecting boundaries is a way to communicate and honor what is best for each of you.
With Your Roommates
A comfortable living space is a major contributor to your mental health. Setting boundaries with your roommate(s) in order to facilitate your ability to effectively recharge in and make use of your home can be difficult but is certainly worth exploring. Because boundary setting can feel uncomfortably close to conflict and does sometimes lead to conflict, it might feel counterintuitive to potentially ignite conflict in your living space. However, you should consider the long-term possible outcome of having your boundary(ies) respected in contrast to the likely short-term possible conflict that may ensue from communicating them. Having a living space that meets your wants and needs can help to keep you from burning out and other negative consequences.
Setting boundaries in an online setting is a complicated matter. The space is already somewhat nebulous, so it’s a bit more difficult to delineate where responsibility and accountability lie. Therefore, boundary-setting online is even more about your relationship to your boundaries than in other settings. Your follow-through with your online boundaries is often all you have and without an in-person respondent, it may sometimes be tempting not to follow through on your boundaries. Sometimes there are valid reasons to bend your boundaries, but you should be careful that you are not doing yourself a disservice by failing to honor the guidelines you have drawn around your own wellness.
Giving ourselves permission to keep the world at a distance for the sake of our own well-being is difficult, especially today, where everyone is keenly aware of every tie that binds. However, even the most extroverted people need time to recharge, and it’s not selfish to need it. Creating and maintaining boundaries helps us achieve a higher form of mindfulness, allowing us to be more connected to the people and things we care about when we are together. We do ourselves a disservice when we allow our boundaries to be crossed, so hold the line and trust your instincts. Respecting yourself is just as important as respect for everyone else.
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