So, let’s talk about boundaries. I have a feeling that women seem to have more of a problem with asserting and maintaining boundaries in our culture, although I know plenty of men who struggle with this issue as well. Boundary issues have a lot to do with our upbringing – how boundaries were modelled to us, and if our boundaries were respected by the adults around us. Empathic people, who are naturally aware and sensitive to the feelings of other people can also have difficulty maintaining the integrity of their own boundaries. I realise I sound a bit like the Minister for Defence when they talk about maintaining the integrity of your country’s borders, and you know, it is kind of like that.
Boundaries are about respect. A boundary is a line that should not be crossed without permission. You are the Guardian of that line, because behind that line, is something inexpressibly sacred: your self. You and only you know where your line is, and you and only you are responsible for making sure it is not transgressed.
The first place respect starts is yourself. You must respect yourself, because everyone around you follows your lead -intuitively, people sense how much respect you believe you require and give you just that amount. So, in your life, if you feel that people are always disrespecting your boundaries, you need to have a look at your own beliefs and attitudes about respect.
Let me give you an example: I have pretty good boundaries. People nearly always treat me with respect. They know that when I say ‘no’ I have a good reason for it, and when I say ‘yes’, it’s because I genuinely want to do something. I am respected as a person of honesty and integrity. But there is one tiny group of people who do not respect my boundaries. I let these people get away with things that I would never let anyone else in a million years get away with. Who are these people? My children. When I examined my attitudes and beliefs about motherhood, I found that having boundaries between myself and my children was not high on the list. In fact, I believed that allowing my children access to my person, when and as they desired, 24 hours a day was part and parcel of motherhood. I am working on this :).
So, there are all sorts of boundaries, and of course, different sets of people and situations can have different rules. There are the boundaries that you have with work, with your work in your community and how you spend your time. There are the boundaries that you have with your partner, your friends, your family and your children, and they can all be different. If you feel that your boundaries are consistently crossed in one or more of these areas, dig deeper and examine your own beliefs. Remember, people follow your lead.
Firstly, though, you must learn not to cross your own lines. Do not disrespect yourself. If you have put aside a half a day a week to do your creative work, hold onto that. If you have put aside half an hour in the morning to meditate and do yoga, hold on to that. Whatever you need to do to nourish and expand your inner Being, make time for it and hold to it. Be firm and know that you deserve it, deep in your bones. Others will get used to it, they will respect you for it, and not only that, they may be inspired by your own example. Who knows?
All I know is this: respect yourself first and others will follow.