If I had learned about the concept of using boundaries in the personal arena years earlier I often wonder how differently I might have navigated my life. This was taught to me at a time when I was exiting a difficult relationship and was one of the greatest “ah-ha” moments for me. I was able to see where I had directly contributed to my own suffering!
It turns out that the ins and outs of boundary making is a great skill - like being your own personal diplomat. It can smooth out some very rough situations and keep your selfhood in integrity. But to make a boundary, you first must know what the boundary is protecting! That requires self-knowledge.
What is it that makes you - YOU? What are your needs, aspirations, beliefs and abilities? Do you need more alone time to recover from socializing, or do you need more socializing to charge your battery? Do you feel more comfortable around calm and order or do you need a certain amount of chaos to feel alive? Your own personal inventory can be quite extensive and takes a lifetime of study - after all, you are constantly evolving and changing!
One powerful way to determine your comfort zone is to become in tune with your body. It will give you signs and clues about the status of your personal universe. For instance, you may find yourself in a situation that causes anxiety that can be communicated by heart palpitations, feeling fidgety or having your mind flood with anxious thoughts. This is your indicator that there is something calling for your attention so you can take appropriate action. Each person is unique so it is your job to become the expert on what makes you tick.
So now that you know the “territory”, how do you make the necessary boundaries to protect yourself the way a parent would a child? For starters, it is best to start with practices where you honor yourself. For example, you go to a party knowing that your comfortable limit is two hours but you find out that something special is going to happen after the three hour mark. You can make the decision to stay, knowing that you will have to “pay the price” later on, or you decide to leave when it is healthy for you. The latter choice helps keep your system in balance, but then you can feel regrets about “missing out”. This is where you need to summon up a healthy internal dialog. If you have the habit of overriding your own internal wisdom, that can provide fertile ground for others attempting to invade your boundaries and you caving in. After all, you have established the habit of ignoring your needs. Of course, there are times when you elect to go against your wisdom for the sake of fun, but if only done on occasion there most likely will not be a long lasting adverse effect.
Practice makes perfect as they say. You can practice making boundaries with the types and amount of food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, the kinds of shows you watch, etc. When you learn to be kind to yourself it makes it more likely that others will be kind to you - and you to them. Practicing self-kindness by observing your needs becomes an aspect of your character. People can sense character.
So what about boundaries with others? Just as we don’t want others to invade our boundaries interfering with our free will, we must be mindful of others’ wishes and not step on their daisies. This includes helping. Some people do not want to be helped! (I’ve made that mistake!)
Let’s say someone has stepped on your daisies. What action can you take? The first line of defense is internal. You can solidly affirm who you are and your sense of worth. It’s energetic - you feel strong from your core. I have heard that martial arts teaches this to some degree. Your response will depend on the situation and what you are able to handle at that time. (Remember that you are always changing.) Perhaps you can articulate your needs with a verbal response that is affirming - not defending or attacking. Perhaps you are at a loss for words and will find it more useful to remove yourself so that you can contemplate the situation. The main thing is to maintain a sense of self-sovereignty. It may be that there is nothing practical you can do for that particular situation, in which case you are admonished to go deeper into your spiritual knowledge. This deep work is the juiciness of who we are as humans.
Remember that your sense of self-sovereignty is engendered by your practice of good self treatment and respect. If you find that you have a hard time maintaining healthy boundaries with others, then do some introspection to see where your weaknesses lie. Someone with a healthy sense of self-hood will not have to think twice about what to do. It is like an energy spontaneously emerges from the third chakra - the power center. Your conscious mind gets to take a back seat and watch the show. At this stage of development, your response feels instinctive, wise and compassionate. This leads to another response that has not yet been discussed.
If you can find yourself totally dissolved into your truest essence and have mastered the art of being in “the Now” as Eckhart Tolle explains, then you may be able to just stand there and hold a presence around the situation without speaking. The book, The Power of Now is a great introduction into this practice. It is truly a transformative experience and brings the concept of boundaries to another level where the boundary is no longer a boundary, but a presence that transmutes.
Back at the more mundane level, there is yet another third type of appropriate boundary you may need to make. This is the absolute boundary. Absolute boundaries are appropriate when the other person is unresponsive to your attempts at communication and it results in adversely affecting your health. Also, if a person is dangerous, it is heartily recommended to stay safe and cut off all connection.
As you practice making appropriate boundaries you will find yourself feeling more liberated. You will develop self-trust that will lead to a greater sense of self-confidence because you know you have your own back.