Hello, dear readers. Today I want to talk about boundaries. The concept of personal boundaries is not a new concept to most people, especially those on the path of self-improvement, or as it’s called these days, being “woke.” I’m not going to waste too much time defining what boundaries are. If you are fuzzy on this topic, I recommend this book.
This is a great book written from a Christian perspective and even though I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, it was the first book I ever read on the subject and it opened my eyes to a concept that I always felt inside of me, but never had a name for before.
As a recovering codependent, I have to admit that boundary setting and enforcement does not come easily to me. I’m learning. Let me give you an example of a boundary: Suppose you have a very strong aversion to cursing, yet your coworker throws F bombs around on the daily. At first, you might have laughed it off, while inside, you felt like an angry little monster might break free from your body and stomp around, hurling criticism at the offenders. That’s how it always felt for me; you may use any analogy you wish. After a couple of months of this scenario, you wonder why your coworker hasn’t intuited your dislike of the cursing, yet you haven’t said anything to them about it. You might think that they should be able to read your face or just infer from your body language. Wrong! This is a game that women especially like to play. (Yes, I am one, so please don’t accuse me of sexism) Generally, most women of a certain age weren’t taught how to stand up for what we believe in. We were taught to be accommodating. While it’s great to be accommodating, if your virgin ears have had enough of being assaulted, it is your responsibility to say something. It might be a very scary thing to do. There are risks involved when you take a stance. Your coworkers might deem you a prude or exclude you from conversations.
This is the tricky part. Can you let it go? How important is it to you? What are the consequences? There are some boundaries that are a “must enforce” and there are others that, if enforced or even verbalized, can have devastating consequences. There are ways to verbalize that can save face for everyone involved and those are reserved for situations like the example above. Humor helps and sometimes a heart to heart talk with the offender(s) can do a world of good. It’s likely they had no idea you were offended and if they care, they will make an effort. There are other situations, such as emotional abuse, physical violence, etc. which must be swiftly and succinctly addressed.
The way in which the offender reacts says a lot about that person and your relationship. I want to add a caveat. Sometimes the offender is embarrassed or even surprised when you verbalize your boundaries and your expectations. In that case, they may initially react negatively. Give them time to process.
A note about expectations. A good conversation about your boundaries will also contain your expectations. An expectation is different than an ultimatum. An example (using the example above) could be something like: “In the future, could you remember not to use those words when I’m in the room?” Hopefully, they’ll catch on, remember and change their behavior, but that doesn’t always occur. A gentle reminder may be in order. If they blatantly ignore your requests, then it’s time to reassess.
Honoring your boundaries is something that is not easy for many of us. Often, it’s best to start out slowly. I guarantee you’ll feel better when you live with integrity.