Recently, I’ve had a few instances in my life, that (in my head) go like this:
Me: Puts up a fence to protect time/space/work/family/etc. etc..
Random Person: Acting kerfuffled, starts up a bulldozer and immediately bulldozes the fence down.
Me: Picks up lumber, resurrects fence.
Random Person: Throws a temper tantrum and fires up their bulldozer again and demolishes the fence.
Ok, it’s dramatic, but it’s a funny scene in my head and really a metaphor for what some people do with other people’s boundaries.
Essentially, boundaries are the roped off areas in various facets of our lives, or distances we set to protect our well being. They are not walls. You are not blocking anyone or yourself.
You are simply stating, “please don’t step on the grass”.
Boundaries are as unique as we are. When communicated clearly, they teach people how to treat us, and how we expect to be treated. They protect our time, energy and our lives.
My fiercest boundary right now is surrounding my time. It’s a daily issue as I have multiple balls in the air every day. I have to make time to be a mom, a lover, a collaborator, a friend, a healthy person, a fur-child mama, someone who has enough sleep (…or else cray cray), a business owner, a client partner, a creator, a sales person and etc. etc. Also – if I don’t get unstructured free time away from my laptop and phone, my creativity shits the bed – so add in “nothing time”.
You get it. You are busy too.
So basically, time is very, very important to me.
I feel like communicating a boundary clearly to other people (and even ourselves) from the get go is the easiest, (but not always possible) solution. At home for my teen, I set out a list of behaviours that won’t be tolerated without serious risk of losing privileges. At work, I set out some clear guidelines in a FAQ document and communications guidelines for my clients.
When a boundary has been crossed without the pre-communication, sometimes its best to gently let the person know. People don’t know what they don’t know. Reasonable people will totally respect your wishes without a second thought and they probably didn’t mean to overstep on purpose.
Difficult people may put up a fight.
Or they may pull a guilt trip, or throw a reverse psychology nunchuck at your head. Sometimes they will punish you in silent ways. Difficult people may also apologize when they’ve crossed the line, but continue fire up the bulldozer over and over again.
Dealing With Bulldozer Drivers
My first course of action with bulldozer drivers is distance. They get less of my time, energy and resources. This is not coming from a bitter place, but of a place of efficiency and self care. My life needs to happen, and drama and bulldozed boundaries tend to fuck up my day and could jeopardize my work. Sometimes I let them back in little by little and give them small pieces. If it’s repetitive, it’s time for a good ol’ 5 steps back, and an unemotional evaluation of the relationship. Is it time to peacefully end? It may be. Sometimes people just won’t care. No matter how much we have faith that they will. And that is something that needs to be looked at, because continually feeling like your boundaries are disrespected will get exhausting.
Other times it’s impossible to end a relationship, at least immediately, and this is where some real tenacity and loyalty to yourself plays a big role. My suggestion is to not stir the pot, but also assert yourself where you need to. And also remember you may need extra energy when dealing with certain people or situations…so be kind to yourself.
Boundaries that are clearly communicated to other people should not be threatening or manipulative.
“If you don’t to X then Y will happen to you” or, “if you don’t conform to my demands then I’m not going to help you with X”. Those two statements have nothing to do with boundaries and everything to do with control. The boundary differs by saying “I really want to help you, but you aren’t really respecting me (my time/my energy/my home/my love) right now”.
If we’re going to be honest here, then I need to say that I have also inadvertently stepped on other people’s boundaries. Being late is one that comes to mind. While sometimes unavoidable, it does send the message that my time is more important than yours. It sucks to wait for people…I understand. I’m aiming for better.
I’m aiming to be more self aware and curious as to how my behaviour could be affecting other people’s boundaries.
Creating boundaries is not the most difficult thing to do, it’s enforcing them and having to have conversations that could bring up emotions in yourself or others that is tricky. But it’s something that is so needed to maintain a healthy, busy, abundant life.
I have some questions for you to ponder:
Where are you feeling that boundaries need to be made in your life?
Where are you feeling that you may be pushing other people’s boundaries?