The Importance Of Good Boundaries
"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others." - Brene Brown
What's the old adage..."Good fences make good neighbors?" That's not always the case as we all know. Sometimes there is just neighbors with no self control, unruly children, or untrained dogs (Smile). Sometimes no matter how many "fences" we put up there is someone who is going to powerball right through them. Knowing how to handle people who disrepect personal boundaries of others is important.
Can you remember a time where you allowed something to go past a level you were comfortable with? How did you feel about allowing yourself to be pushed beyond your limit? Was it someone close to you or was it a stranger? There is no shortage of people in the world who are willing to see how far they can push to get what they want, in fact this era of technology finds us "smack-dab" in the middle of the "all about me and nothing about you" era. Social media today creates an environment ripe for "me-ism" in fact studies show that now more than ever there is an air of self-worship like never before.
According to an article on theguardian.com website titled, "Millennials: the trials of Generation Y: I, narcissist – vanity, social media, and the human condition" says, "The numbers alone tell a powerful story of self-obsessions. More than 80m photographs uploaded to Instagram every day, more than 3.5bn ‘likes’ every day, and some 1.4bn people - 20% of the world’s population - publishing details of their lives on Facebook."
I can admit I have myself found updating every detail of my day and life enticing at some point but it gets tiring eventually right? I use social media as an example because it's an environment that has fostered in us a comfort level of saying things that we probably wouldn’t say in other circumstances. That mindset has a way of bleeding out into our everyday lives.
It has become commonplace to speak into areas of people’s lives as if we understand their intent and their struggles. A prime example is a video that was circulating of a woman, maybe the grandmother and two children out at a restaurant finishing a meal probably. The little boy who looked about 6 or 7 years old stood up and began throwing things across the table at the teenage girl sitting across from the woman and young boy.
He hurled curse words and shouted ugly names at the teenage girl as the woman tried to restrain him. As I watched the video my heart went out to the woman and the children as it was apparent the young boy was struggling with some type of behavioral issue. What stopped me in time and made me re-evaluate my silent participation in this intrusive moment was when the woman turned to the person videotaping the incident and calmly said, "...would you please not record us..." as she turned her attention back to the child the individual let out a chuckle and continued recording.
I backed out of the post and felt conflicted as I wondered how many of these videos had I watched prior and not even given second thought to how intrusive the act of recording someone having a "human experience" truly was. I had numerous discussions online about the very video from the stand point of an advocate for caregivers, but this time the additional concern I shared was how far we have digressed when it comes to respect of the privacy and boundaries of others.
How often have we asked someone to stop something and they have continued to do whatever it was we told them made us uncomfortable? Does that person’s failure to respect our request reflect them or reflect our inability to communicate effectively our level of discomfort with how we are being treated?
I have experienced someone pushing the boundaries way too far and I have been guilty of pushing past the boundaries of others, we all have whether intentional or not. The true test of character is recognizing the "intrusion" or lack of respect for another’s boundaries and righting the wrong. What if that doesn't happen? What if there is a constant violation of personal boundaries?
Who Are Boundary Violators?
Boundary violator can be anyone, from the sweet little grandma who asks questions about when you are going to get married and have children, to the best friend who uses her key to go into your apartment and borrow things without permission and return them damaged or loses them without apology.
There are different levels of boundary violators and depending on their level of self-discipline you can have a conversation with them. Sometimes people don't know they are pushing past your comfort zone, that's why having a conversation with them is the best way to let them know you are uncomfortable, it is also a way to find out if they are intentionally crossing over into your zone of discomfort. Normally people will apologize for overstepping the boundaries and will work hard to respect them going forward.
Then there are the people who are intent on pushing their opinions or thoughts over on others. These people become defensive and sometimes combative when you point out they are "over the line". Many times these people are serial boundary violators and will even go so far as to accuse us of being too sensitive. Understand this. If something makes you uncomfortable you don't have to tolerate it, I don't care what anyone says. Your personal boundaries protect your peace of mind and you have every right to enforce, with firmness and confidence.
Stopping Boundary Violators
How do we stop these boundary violators and not feel like we are being mean or too sensitive? According to PsychCentral.com here are a few pointers:
Continue to set strong, consistent boundaries. I know this is obvious and redundant. However, this is the part that you control. You don’t control how people respond and you can’t force people to respect your boundaries.
Write it down. Record the boundary violations and your responses. This will help you check for weak spots in your boundaries. If you notice that you aren’t consistently setting healthy boundaries, make adjustments. And if you are being very consistent, writing it down will help you decide if you can accept these violations.
Be clear with yourself about what treatment you’ll accept and what you won’t. People also have a tendency to set a boundary in their mind and then allow it to be pushed back and pushed back. For example, I knew a woman who years prior had told herself that she wouldn’t tolerate her husband coming home drunk and cursing at her anymore. By the time I met her, her husband was coming home drunk several times per week, regularly cursing at her in front of their children, and he’d slapped her once. This is far beyond what she thought she’d put up with. It helps to write down your boundary and/or say it out loud to a supportive person who will help you stay true to it.
Accept that some people will not respect your boundaries no matter what you do. This is a difficult truth to accept because we’d like to be able to force people to respect our boundaries. I know it’s disappointing to realize that you may have to make a hard decision about whether you want to continue to have a relationship with a person who doesn’t respect your boundaries. But you can’t change someone else’s behavior. You can choose to accept it or you can choose to disengage.
Detach from the outcome. One way to detach from a narcissistic person is to stop responding in the same old ways. Some people intentionally violate boundaries to hurt you, get a reaction out of you, and to exert control. Don’t engage in the same old arguments with these people. You can choose to ignore or laugh off their comments and not show them that it hurts you. This shifts the power. (This doesn’t apply to someone physically harming you.)
Decide to limit or cut off all contact. If Great Uncle Johnny makes you feel uncomfortable by standing too close and making sexually charged comments, you can decide to not attend family gatherings at his house, or to attend but not be alone with him, or avoid seeing him ever again. You have choices.
Stop by PsychCentral.com and check out the article called, "How to Deal with People Who Repeatedly Violate Your Boundaries" By Sharon Martin, LCSW.
Hopefully you will find the courage to stand up to those who would violate your personal space and began to live a life free of the stress that comes from not speaking up. This can be difficult as a Mental Health Caregiver caring for a loved one with a mental health disorder but what I tell caregivers is this:
Your loved one is not symptomatic all of the time. There are times when they are stable and not experiencing symptoms, those are the times that discussions about what is an acceptable boundary and what are not. Having this conversation while a loved one is stable is important; otherwise it is striving after the wind because sometimes the sense of reasoning for someone experiencing negative symptoms of their illness won't allow a rational thought process to overrule. Use discretion. You know your loved one and what they do or don't have the capability of.
As always you should never accept violent or controlling behavior. If you are experiencing threats of violence or violence as a result of a loved one pushing past boundaries it's important that you speak to a friend or other family member about your concern for safety. If you are being physically harmed you need to get to a place of safety.
Hopefully you have found something here that will help you on your journey. May God bless us all with whatever we need to have a successful journey.