Boundaries – Digging Deeper: Examples of healthy boundaries

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Last week’s blog post was on personal boundaries on COVID-19. There was more response from that post than anything else I’ve ever written. Consequently, that made me think we need to dive deeper into the topic of boundaries. I’ve done some homework for us this week.

There were two basic things people wanted to talk about. The first was around how to set boundaries in COVID-19. Many of us used our work as a boundary. This means that work created a physical boundary that offered time and space for us because we were not home. Maybe that meant we used our commute time to decompress or it meant we had additional help at home. A second theme that came up was that some of you were asking how to handle situations with boundary-busters. You wondered how to keep your boundaries more intact with loved ones. As a result of you reaching out, I will hone in on each of those questions in coming weeks. But before I do, I wanted to talk more about boundaries. First I’ll show examples of intact boundaries and unhealthy boundaries. Second I will share a personal bill of rights. Lastly, I have some questions for you.

A resource for healthy boundaries

In his book “How to be an adult: A handbook on physiological and spiritual integration“, David Richo has a section on maintaining personal boundaries. He uses two lists to illustrate the differences between intact boundaries in a relationship and when we have given up boundaries within a relationship. It’s important to note, I am receiving no compensation and am not affiliated in any way with the any authors from this post. I think they have great books and recommend them. Let’s think about clear and unclear boundaries. Here are some examples taken from the book. Keep in mind this is a very small segment of this list. The first list includes examples of giving up our boundaries while the second is a list that compares how to keep boundaries intact.

Giving up boundaries

  • Unclear preferences – “I don’t care… what do you want to do?”
  • Not noticing your own happiness or unhappiness
  • Changing your behavior, plans or opinions to suit the moods or opinions of others
  • Increasingly do more for less
  • Use the most recent opinion you have heard as truth
  • Wish and wait for things to improve (COVID-19 anyone??)
  • Being satisfied by coping and surviving
  • Allowing other’s minimal improvement to suffice
  • Having no attention span for any self-directed activity – allowing another’s interests to guide your hobbies (or lack of personal interests)

Intact boundaries

  • Clear preferences – “I love spicy food and don’t eat meat. What are you in the mood for?”
  • Understanding when you are happy or unhappy
  • Recognizing other people’s moods and situations while staying centered and not allowing that to change what you are doing
  • Do more when doing more gets results
  • Trust yourself and your intuition while being open to other people’s opinions
  • Live hopefully while working actively toward change (wear your mask!)
  • Being satisfied only if you are thriving
  • Feeling encouraged by another’s sincere ongoing change for the better
  • Being excited by hobbies and interests of your own

An additional resource on boundaries

In her book “Civilized Assertiveness for women: Communication with Backbone not Bite” Judith Selee McClure includes a Personal Bill of Rights. Here are things on that list. You have the right to:

  1. Express thoughts and feelings without qualification, justification or apology
  2. Have your thoughts, feelings and rights respected
  3. Be listed to and taken seriously BY EVERYONE
  4. Ask for what you want – period – be it illogical, foolish or prudent
  5. Make mistakes (as long as you take responsibility)
  6. Ask questions and seek information – no matter what! Even if it seems silly or self-evident
  7. Say NO without apology, explanation, excuse, or justification
  8. Make decisions on your own terms without justification, explanation, apology or excuse
  9. Not feel guilty when you choose to meet your own needs over someone else’s. You cannot pour from an empty cup!
  10. Choose not to be assertive. You have the right to do none of the things on this list!

Next week we will further explore boundaries. We are going to talk about how we can be sure we are being respectful of other people’s boundaries.

Healthy boundaries to not make you mean. For example, it’s not mean of you to go to the bathroom by yourself (those of you with small children!) You are not mean to expect your teenager to not throw trash all over the house, that just keeps the bugs away. And, it’s not mean of you to go to sleep when you are tired and get the rest you need.

Boundaries enhance every area of our lives. It’s something I’ve really had to work on in my own life.

Where are you on personal boundaries?

I’d love to know where you are on boundaries. Do you work really hard to keep personal boundaries in tact in your life? Are boundaries hard for you? If so, what makes those hard? If boundaries are easy for you, I’d love to hear from you! Do you work consciously to keep boundaries in tact? Or is it so habitual that it’s easy to keep boundaries in tact?

I have been at both extremes. For example, I had almost no personal boundaries when I was at the end of an abusive marriage and it was difficult for me to see and honor other people’s personal boundaries. After doing significant work around boundaries, my personal boundaries became stronger and more intact. My friends shifted and I found myself spending time with people who also had intact boundaries.

To wrap up, I LOVED hearing from you last week. I would also love to hear from you on any topic. I’m not immune to the loneliness COVID-19 is bringing to many of us and would welcome the interaction.

All my love!