The word, “Boundary” is a scary word. It carries intimidation with it. It can feel impossible. It can feel painful. It can feel uncomfortable.
Let’s face it, very few of us are really excited at employing a boundary for ourselves. The word, “Boundary” has come with a tricky reputation. It’s often associated with the negative, the unpleasant, and the painful.
We tell ourselves certain negative things about boundary setting and keeping.
“I’m Not Safe Doing It.”
This statement is not without just cause so many times.
Some of us trauma and abuse survivors often were not safe when it came to the boundary issue and displeasing or challenging a harmful, toxic person.
Instead of receiving the validation of hearing and responding with respect and affirmation to our boundary, usually, the harmful and abusive person we’re dealing with rages, threatens, and hurts us in a variety of ways.
Punishment is the response to our boundary, not respect, not seeing our right to privacy and autonomy.
A kind of “How dare you say no to/disobey/defy me?” angry question is emitted in our direction. We learn it’s not safe to say “no,” to be contrary to the toxic person.
Permission To Be Safe.
We are entitled to feel safe. There’s no disputing this.
It’s a right each of us should have.
We should have the experience of feeling secure, of not needing to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn when it comes to our homes, our families, and any situation in life.
We should not have to deal with being “punished” for asserting a boundary. That is not discipline or “teaching us a lesson.” That is abuse.
Feeling threatened, scared of getting hurt, and feeling like we are being coerced into doing something that violates our conscience and dignity?
It’s all abuse.
Safety is not something we need to earn. It’s an essential human right. Boundary setting and keeping should never be a situation in which that is up for discussion.
“I’m Not Good at It.”
This is another negative thing we tell ourselves when it comes to boundaries. A lot of us have been repeatedly told we’re stupid, incompetent, and not enough.
Eventually, that translates into the belief we cannot successfully have the boundaries that we need to respect and protect ourselves. We feel that we’re not up to the task.
And that belief can get further reinforced, as, in any of our timid attempts to speak up for ourselves, we are only met with hostility, intimidation, and more disempowerment.
We learn that we are failures. We learn that we don’t have enough value.
We learn that lesson because, in that situation, and within the cumulative impact of situation after situation, it solidifies how we have not mastered this ability perfectly, then and there.
How many of us have wound up hurt, devastated, and feeling demoralized, because our boundary attempts did not go according to plan?
What plan was that?
The perfectly accomplished boundary plan that would produce “happily ever after,” safety, and freedom from any additional confrontation, uncomfortable moment, or pain?
We Have Permission To Be Capable.
We are allowed to participate in “on the job training” when it comes to boundaries.
Many of us, however, are only too familiar with an impatient abuser who demands we do something perfectly RIGHT NOW!
There is no patience. There is no understanding that learning is on a spectrum, often filled with mistakes during the process. There is no room for error.
It gets drilled into us that we must perform perfectly as soon as possible. There’s no room for development.
Straight out of the gate, perfect! Exact! Precise! And done to the specification of the harmful/dysfunctional person barking out those orders.
We have the permission to be capable, during an imperfect process of learning and making mistakes. And that also applies to the issue of boundary setting and keeping.
Most of us are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with how saying “no” feels. We can only relate to agreeing to an immediate “yes.”
But we will have clunky “no’s” and awkward moments in which a boundary we attempted may have seemed tentative, fear-filled, lacking confidence, and ineffective. It requires practice, like anything else in life. No two boundary situations will be exactly alike.
There will be setbacks, but there will also be improving strides and successes as well. It will take time. It will be daily.
It will involve repetition, as there are various circumstances and people to “practice” on.
And practice imperfectly, knowing that you and I are getting better- and more capable- with that practice.
“I’m Not Worth It.”
A root issue that underscores everything is our self-worth, or rather, our absent or severely damaged self-worth.
Many of us have believed lies that we only deserve abuse, mistreatment, exploitation, and to be used for another’s purposes, regardless of our thoughts, feelings, or individual plans for our own lives.
We Have Permission To Be Valuable.
You and I are inherently worthy. That truth doesn’t change if we have been designated “the scapegoat,” “the black sheep,” “the problem child,” or “good- for- nothing.”
We have permission to “re-label” ourselves as valuable. We deserve love. We deserve dignity. We deserve respect. We deserve being treated well, not poorly.
They’re Guardrails for the Self.
Boundaries are not a punishment, although, many times, it’s feels like that for us.
Boundaries, instead, are the protective guardrails, for our safety and well-being.
Sadly, many of us are not accustomed to having those two critical things honored and protected. We are told it is wrong for us to self-protect, to look out for and to reverence what is valuable, unique, and special about us.
We are often told we have no right to ourselves. We are here for other, at the expense of ourselves.
It’s a dangerous and harmful message, tearing down any guardrails we are inherently entitled to. Our purpose, and our connection to other people, should not come at the cost of sacrificing our own boundaries.
I’m not talking about the rare and extreme situation of a life-or-death circumstance, like saving someone from a burning building.
I’m talking about the day in, day out, constant, and subtle dripping effect of slowly, but surely, letting our lives ebb away with each disintegrated boundary.
We are not meant to live the lives of mandatory martyrs, killing ourselves spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, and yes, physically, so that someone else can profit from taking advantage of us.
Why are we more expendable than someone else?
Why are our lives less important than another person’s life?
Boundaries challenge that lie. Boundaries declare our existence, our importance, and our right to simply be.
Too many of us have had to beg for permission to set and maintain boundaries. We do not need permission. We need to claim the power of the boundary.
It belongs to each of us.
Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse