Mental Health Monday

Respecting Boundaries

I might not want a hug today. But I might want one tomorrow. I might not want to talk about one thing, but am eager to talk about something else. I might not want to visit every week, or call every day, or even hear about certain things. And that’s okay, those are my boundaries and they exist for reason.

What are boundaries exactly?

If we’re going to go through the time to figure out how we should respect boundaries (and how and why we don’t) we might as well take a moment to understand what boundaries are.

Boundaries are the invisible lines that separate a person from a person but more importantly than that, they are rules we set for others that keep us feeling comfortable and safe. They are our ways to teach people what is acceptable with us and what is not. Because these are individual preferences, as an outsider we cannot come in and say that our behavior, even if it crosses those lines, is okay because it doesn’t violate our boundaries.

Everyone’s boundaries are different. Everyone has reasons for them even if it’s as small as “I don’t like this”.

Some boundaries seem weird to us. Some seem completely unreasonable. So what kind of boundaries are okay to have?

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Trick question. Any boundary you set it okay. Now, some need to be worked through in therapy or own your own because they may be isolating, toxic, or rooted in unresolved trauma. However, for the purposes of today’s blog we’ll say that the boundaries you set are okay no matter what.

Yes, some seem weird. I hate people touching my neck. Like a lot. I do martial arts and I’m very aware of how vulnerable the neck is. Chokes, injury, spinal stuff, it’s a sensitive area and I have trained myself to keep everything away from my neck for safety reasons. So, when I back away from a hug or whatever, it’s not a personal insult. I just don’t like my neck being vulnerable.

We all have different boundaries. Some people, myself included, won’t want to talk about the news. At all. Why? Because it’s negative. I try very hard to keep my world positive, uplifting, and happy. There’s plenty of bad out there and I won’t have to look very hard to find it. But I don’t want to talk about the news.

If someone says, “I’d rather not talk about that” respect that.

As well, I teach martial arts. So respecting physical and mental boundaries is really important to me. We’ll get into this in a minute, but if I want to touch someone’s leg or move them I will ask if it’s okay especially if it’s a kid. With mentality, I have to watch and see and learn how people respond to things.

I get overwhelmed when I’m critiqued a lot because I think a lot. So when I hear five pieces of advice at once, I’m working so hard to really think and absorb and process that information whether it’s right or wrong. If I personally am told too much, I will start to break down. It’s too much for my brain.

As a teacher and as a person, I try to keep that in mind. Not everyone wants to be corrected right then.

But let’s get back to the idea of boundaries and how we each have our own.

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Before you set your boundaries you have to know what they are. This requires a certain amount of self-awareness. What makes you uncomfortable? What makes you upset? What stresses you out? What steals too much of your time? What bring s you down?

Follow up questions include the following. Do I overshare information? Do I tell everyone my life story? Am I took involved in other people’s issues? Can I only say yes?

Please, please, please check this link out because we can all use help identifying our problem areas. No one is perfect.

All right so once you have an understanding of your boundaries, it’s time to enforce them. Which is the tricky part. And the yucky part.

Say no.

And understand you don’t need a reason. You can say “no” and not need a reason to back it up…even when pressed. No is reason enough. Which is hard enough to recognize but even harder to do.

Be Direct

Similarly to saying no, it’s up to you to set boundaries and continue to enforce them. Beating around the bush won’t help you at all when setting boundaries. Be clear with the people around you about your boundaries.

Enforce them

At the end of the day, it is your job to enforce your boundaries. If you tell someone not to cross a line and then continue to allow it, that’s on you. It’s important to understand that whether we are afraid to let someone down, worried about their reactions, etc that it is still our job to uphold our boundaries.

However, let’s discuss the “It’s okay with me so I’m going to cross your boundaries anyway” conundrum.

Just because it’s okay with you does not mean it is okay with someone else. It’s our job to respect their boundaries and not just traipse all over them because we aren’t uncomfortable.

I don’t like kisses on the cheek. So if for instance I say, don’t kiss me on the cheek and someone does anyway saying, “oh it’s okay” you’re violating my boundaries that I have clearly laid out. So don’t be surprised if I back away or get frustrated next time.

While this sounds like a rare situation, it isn’t. There are plenty of times we tell someone our boundaries and they respond with “it’s okay”. The response to this is, “No, for me this is not okay.”

Why is this important? Not because we’re catering to the snowflakes. Not because we’re avoiding stepping on toes or being politically correct. Because we are working to establish things that make us happy, encourage individuality, and respecting family, friends, and those around us.

Refusing to acknowledge boundaries like someone not being super into touch shows that we don’t care about that person even if we think we do. So think about your boundaries. Work on not oversharing or diving too deep into other people’s problems. Let’s all learn to be a little bit more independent. Be an individual.

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