Boundaries can get a bad rap.

What they are not about (but are often confused with):

  • Being selfish (its all about me, me, me!)
  • Shutting others out or not caring (it possible to still care deeply for someone but to love yourself enough to stay true to you)
  • Aggression, being harsh or otherwise mean (there are times when a more firm type of energy is called for but more often we can set strong, firm boundaries in a soft and loving way)

The downside of not honouring our boundaries:

We want to be ‘nice’ and not rock the boat, we keep quiet, we put up with more than we would like, all in the name of being nice. We don’t want to hurt the other person or risk damaging relationships. The problem with the passive approach is that all of us have our limit and when that threshold is crossed there are consequences for ourselves, for others and for our relationships. When we cannot take anymore of another’s poor behaviour, of not being appreciated, of well meaning but hurtful remarks we are at risk of no longer being in control of our reactions. When pushed to this point we can swing to the opposite end of the spectrum and become aggressive.

  • We blow up.
  • Anger takes over and we explode.
  • We say hurtful things or things we otherwise regret later.
  • We let loose with the full force of everything we have been bottling up for days, weeks, months or even years (and the poor person on the receiving end is completely shocked as they may have had no idea).
  • We lose power and credibility by coming across as overly emotional, irrational or even out of control.
  • When we cool down we are left feeling shitty about how we acted and guilty for hurting others. We often go right back and repeat the same cycle, (vowing to be ‘nice’ again until the build up become just too much and the whole cycle repeats itself).
  • Or we might cut the person out of our life completely.

We can’t take anymore and we are so done with the same cycle. Sometimes this needs to happen, but the downside of not saying anything sooner is that it does not give the other person the opportunity to actually adjust their behaviour. We may ultimately decide that parting ways is the best thing. But at least then we can move forward with a greater sense of closure and knowing that we did everything we could have to give the relationship a chance.

There is a better way:
Sustainable boundaries are about finding the middle ground between passive and aggressive styles of communication. It is about demonstrating respect, caring and concern for others without sacrificing our own well being. It is about learning to love yourself as much as you love others. It is about taking responsibility for how we allow others to treat us. It is a call to value and honour our own worth and time without diminishing the worth of others. When our own boundaries are respected and honoured we can give generously and whole heartedly.

What do you do when your boundaries are challenged? How do you practice loving boundaries? I would love to hear your thoughts.