We put boundaries in place to protect ourselves and others. Boundaries define how far we can go and what is reasonable. Boundaries ensure there are no blurred lines, misunderstandings, stepping over the mark. Boundaries reduce the likelihood of over familiarity between friends and family members. Boundaries ensure we respect the wishes of others though we may not always agree with them.
Babies and toddlers have no understanding of boundaries, they cry whenever they need feeding, a nappy change, attention or just a cuddle. They have no consideration of their parents who may be tired and frustrated. They want it and they want it now. However we pardon them time and time again because they are young and know no better.
As a child and teenager I had boundaries and routine and am thankful to my mother for them. Boundaries meant I had a stable upbringing. I knew when my mum said no, she meant no. I knew what time I had to arrive home when out and about with friends – usually several hours before I actually wanted to arrive home. Though I did not like the rules, I respected them and they in turn gave me an element of security. Boundaries reminded me that I was loved and cared for, that my safety was my mother’s priority. It did not stop me from being envious of my friends who had far more leeway than me.
As adults we have the responsibility of putting boundaries in place with family, friends and in the workplace. At first it may be uncomfortable for those who are less assertive. If you are naturally passive you may struggle to say what you mean and be open about what you want and do not want. People will expect you to do as you have always done. It is your prerogative to change the rules at any time. If you feel pressured to make a decision, you can advise the person you will confirm with them at a later date. This will provide time for you to give it some thought and return with an answer you are happy with.
To conclude, setting boundaries are a part of life. At times they do not require an introduction, it is simply your way of living. I know a couple who do not answer their phone when eating or having family time. They did not inform anyone of this rule, instead people learnt they were uncontactable between 6 and 9pm in the evening and had no choice but to honour this.
Are you confident in setting boundaries?
Have you seen the advantage in doing so?
What advice would you give to those who struggle to do so?