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Know Your Boundaries

Thought experiment:

"I had my social media pages before I met you, and I'm not changing them for you."

Boundaries are your personal terms and conditions of the behaviors you deem appropriate or inappropriate. These terms and conditions are based on your values and beliefs. You apply them to your interpersonal relationships. Boundaries are reciprocated when there is an agreement between two people. Conversely, you will interact with people who do not share your values and beliefs, making your limits seem foreign. Be not dismayed about your differences in boundaries unless you find the differences to be a deal-breaker.

Expressing your limits requires confidence and comfort in informing others when something doesn't match your value system. You must also be prepared for differences in opinions. When you encounter differences, it is not your job to persuade or convince the other person of the reason for your boundaries. These things seem like a given to communicate your limits, but if you grew up prioritizing other people's wants and needs, acknowledging your own wishes seems like a selfish act. People who have difficulty coping with stating their boundaries tend to have trouble:

  • Telling others, they are uncomfortable with their request

  • Timid about telling someone when something doesn't work for them

  • I'm unavailable to assist you on Wednesday, but I'm available on Friday

  • This is unacceptable behavior to me

  • Find it challenging to say "No" even when saying "No" is the appropriate thing to do

  • Tend to be passive and accept other peoples impositions

  • Use anger to settle disputes

Compromises are sometimes necessary but not permanently, so do not abandon what is authentic to you to appease someone else. For example, you meet someone, and there is an instant connection, things are going great. But, soon after that, the person begins engaging in behaviors you find threatening to the relationship. You state your displeasure but, the other person absolutely does not see things the same way. Sounds typical for any relationship where expectations are expressed.

However, the behaviors persist, and you are now questioning the stability of the relationship. Consequently, you contemplate ending the relationship. Since you find boundaries are necessary to foster mutual respect and engender a sense of security in relationships. But, on the other hand, a lack of healthy boundaries presents unsettling feelings and insecurities for both parties.

Unhealthy boundaries may make you feel taken for granted when the health and wellbeing of the relationship are secondary. Therefore, maintaining healthy boundaries is an ongoing exercise to keep both parties feeling respected and appreciated.

Invest time in appraising your interpersonal boundaries to ascertain if they remain realistic versus aspirational.

The appraisal of relational boundaries is essential for several reasons. One reason, in particular, technology has taken a more significant role in our social lives. Social media usage may blur the lines of relational boundaries. In this context, inappropriate communications online can negatively impact a relationship, leading to jealousy, distrust, and inappropriate behaviors. These behaviors may not be limited to sending flirtatious messages.

Thought experiment:

Your friend has a habit of putting her hand in your food without asking permission. So naturally, it annoys you, but you say nothing and wait for her to leave to throw it away, so you don't offend her.

What is your boundary type?

Rigid boundaries – while it is necessary to stand your ground, there is the chance that being unyielding may make you seem detached and uncaring. Appearing detached and cold may affect your ability to create close connections. Because you built up a symbolic wall around yourself for protection. You may even refuse to seek assistance when needed. People with rigid boundaries do not believe they need others to be successful.

Porous boundaries – you overshare details about your personal life. The oversharing of personal information may be connected to your desire to be liked by others. In other words, if they know me well, they are less likely to reject me. However, you are prone to having trouble saying "No," so you perform people-pleasing behaviors. As a result, you are accepting of mistreatment.

Healthy boundaries - are strengthened by confident behaviors. For example, you understand your values, display a willingness to say "No" or negotiate as needed, and possess the ability to clearly express wants and needs respectfully. There is also an understanding difference of opinion is not the same as rejection. Additionally, you are willing to share your views, not as an explanation but for clarity. Finally, you do not leave things to chance under the pretext others should know your wants and needs.

Arguments over boundaries are normal. However, your limits are your own and not that of the other person. Therefore, practice expressing your limits, being respectful of others, being flexible, being direct, and not hinting at what you need, juxtapose to stating your needs.

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