First of all what are boundaries?
Our boundaries are our personal rules that govern what is and isn’t okay in our lives, they can pertain to how we like to be treated in relationships, friendships, in a work setting and with strangers also.
Boundaries are knowing what our own are needs are, in certain situations and being able to articulate when enough is enough and our needs are not being met. They teach others how we like to be treated and what our expectations are of our connections. Everyone is unique and will therefore have differing boundaries of what they consider okay and not okay. Often it is easy to assume that how we like to be treated will be the same for others, but this is not always the case, and reiterates the importance of knowing and being able to express our boundaries to significant others in our lives.
Boundaries are a defining difference between where our identity ends and another person’s begins. Sometimes when we get close to people what we want and need gets blurred with their wants and needs, and sometimes we mesh into another and allow their wants and needs to override our own. You know those people who get into relationships and suddenly they don’t want to travel because their partner doesn’t want to when they have always wanted to go to America? This is an example of someone who’s become enmeshed with another and their personal boundaries have been lost.
I was going on a first date with someone once, and he offered to pick me up. Despite being a kind offer, this made me feel uncomfortable and I found the muscles clenching in my stomach. You see, being picked up at my home by a relative stranger on a first date is something that I’m uncomfortable with and therefore a boundary of mine that this doesn’t happen. Just in case I don’t want to see that person again after the date, I would prefer to not have them know where I live. Not wanting to have to explain all that to this person, I politely declined. He however, continued to push, stating why not? Let me pick you up, it’ll be easier that way! This triggered in me not wanting to hurt his feelings, and the temptation to let the boundary be broken past to let him in. I took a moment, composed myself and decided that my safety was paramount and if he took offense this was not my fault, and I would rather date someone who respected my boundaries anyway. So I said, no I will meet you there, and felt the uncomfortable tension in my tummy ease.
It can often be hard enough to articulate our own boundaries, let alone know if they are being crossed by another. We are especially prone to having our boundaries crossed by another if we are overly giving and kind to others, and have a tendency to want to make people happy by putting ourselves last. If we have learnt in childhood to look after everyone around us and always be the flexible one to help others, this pattern will continue on into our adult lives, and we will find our boundaries pushed on a regular basis. How do you know your boundaries are being crossed though? The first step is to recognise when we are being triggered, with emotional or physical reactions. Even if we have a disconnect between emotions, the body never lies. Here are some tell-tale signs to know if your boundaries are being crossed:
>Passive aggression towards a situation.
Have you ever found you have said yes to something, then have felt annoyed or angry whilst doing it? Passive or forthright aggression is a sign that your boundaries were pushed into doing whatever it was. This is your body’s way of telling you this is not okay. Anger is a healthy reaction to boundaries being crossed.
>Feelings of guilt
When boundaries are about to be crossed usually in people who wish to look after others, there will be feelings of guilt around saying no to whatever has been asked of you. These feelings of guilt are usually indicative of you feeling like you “should” do something. As soon as you feel like you should not like you want to, your boundaries are being tested. Often we can’t sit with the guilt so we will let the boundaries be broken to appease this.
>feelings of rebellion
Have you ever been made to do say a chore by a parent and suddenly you find your motivation lacking and you do the chore at half the speed you usually would? This is an example of rebelling against what you didn’t want to do, so you do a crap job of it.
Sometimes it can be tricky to notice our boundaries being crossed, however by knowing what our boundaries are, and committing to enforcing these to look after ourselves, we become aware. Once we are aware we will notice boundary violations more regularly and be able to address them in the moment. This is a process of trial and error to find the right balance, so that we support ourselves and the wellbeing of others in harmony.