This is the third post in a three-part series on boundaries. In part two we talked about the importance of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance. Now watch it all come together as I assert a definition of what it means to be yourself, posit that boundaries are worth the hard work, and reveal the not-so-secret secret of the grandiose.
I have a request of you: Set aside five undisturbed minutes – today – to do nothing but focus on your breath. Would you do that right now, even before you read on?
Diving back in, everything we have talked about so far leads to what is perhaps the most important step: You must detach from any connection to a particular outcome with a particular person, group, or situation. That detachment is the assertion of your identity. That is what it means to be yourself. The detachment I describe creates an invitation to join you, only open to those who actually like you and will respect your limits. Getting there requires hard work on your part. It doesn’t happen passively and there are no quick-fix solutions. Quick-fix solutions don’t last, often don’t work, and they tend to be damaging in the long run.
If you have strong boundaries, this is what will happen: People will either adjust their behavior or depart from your reality. Do not allow into your reality those who don’t accept and appreciate who you are. Boundaries are the tool for making that happen.
That is why boundaries may be the most important tool in life, and why they aren’t easy. Boundaries make you a complete and independent human being. In order to have strong boundaries you must know yourself, care about yourself, be honest with yourself, and be honest with others about who you really are, what you really want, and what you are willing to do.
Weak or nonexistent boundaries means handing to others control of your emotions, mental state, and even your actions. People who don’t have boundaries or who act in violation of others’ boundaries are not badasses. Their not-so-hidden secret is that their lives are often profoundly empty. What they are missing is almost always a good sense of self-worth and non-grandiose self-love.
Well, that was an intro to boundaries. I know, it’s a lot – and there’s even more! What counts as a reasonable expectation? What is the difference between a boundary and an ultimatum? (Answer hinted at above.) How do we set boundaries without being a jerk? How do we handle people who interpret boundaries as threats? How do age, mental health, and maturity factor in? Can one person’s boundaries be different for different people? I will discuss these questions and more in future posts. Next up, though, I’ll shift gears and share some thoughts on how to be happy.
Note: My younger brother graciously proofread this series of posts for me. One piece of really good feedback he gave was on my dictum to get the hell away from people who regularly make you feel bad. (Solid advice in my book.) He wrote in a comment “What if you can’t? Boss, coworker, spouse, etc. Perhaps that should be touched on? All of this seems like great advice but it doesn’t seem practical for most people.”
Despite my inability to accept that he is no longer twelve, my younger brother is a smart kid and I recognize the logical fallacy in just replying “You’re wrong because you’re my brother.” In fact, I learn a lot from him, and I do want to address his comment here because you may be thinking the same thing. This is what I wrote back: “People have more power than they think, and society is set up to collectively protect the weak. That part doesn’t always work, but disenfranchising yourself is a terrible answer. I will be writing a separate post on that general issue. You ALWAYS have choices, and you almost always have many more choices than you think.”
When you think that you don’t have any choices, think harder.