WHY BOUNDARIES ARE A COURTESY
PSYCHOLOGY AND THE B WORD
People love to talk about boundaries. There are volumes of books, pop psychology articles and about a million tik-tok videos of perky smiling faces pointing to well versed buzzwords set to music -all about how to create boundaries. And great! Yes to all that. As I’ve said, I do not care how you come to be curious about psychology. Jesus, Oprah, tik tok, it’s all good. However you find yourself here, awesome.
The truth is, boundaries feel hard. And yeah, they totally are. They are basically the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. So, just tell me what to do about them. In video form. In 7 seconds or less. And please set it to music. Preferably pop. But, sometimes though, shit takes work. Sorry not sorry. And boundaries take work in all the ways.
Setting boundaries involves being assertive, decisive, and most of all, the ability to withstand being tested. Over and over again. And that’s hard for people. Being tested when it comes to boundaries is exhausting. Both emotionally and physically. It just makes us tired in all the ways. Where I find the hilarity in boundaries is that effort and hard work exist from both sides. Boundaries, setting boundaries, having boundaries, takes two people. Two opposing forces. A boundary setter, and a boundary pusher. Just like a playground teeter totter. With boundaries, there is someone on both ends of the equation. And this is what is usually left out in conversation about boundaries. It takes two. Often when a boundary is set, the person setting the boundary has to be grounded in a certain amount of tenacity and resolve to hold it, and inevitably the person who comes along as an unwanted teacher, making us flex our boundary muscle, applies the same amount of hard work to get us to move that boundary. Imagine that? We are all working hard. In truth, I find few things more entertaining than this moment. And I’ll say this about the teacher, the boundary pusher, they are most likely unknowing. The change they are asking for, the special attention they seek, that little thing that they want that no one else who plays by the rules you’ve set gets, that big red flag they are flying high and wide, they are usually unknowing in their ask. It’s a deep down thing. Freud would say unconscious. And in general, psychology theorizes that this need to push is actually a need to relate, connect, get close, but past experience has our wires crossed. And when we push on boundaries to get close, we actually end up pushing people away. Imagine this is your experience? It’s confusing and awful, and very frustrating. Relationships are hard to make sense of. It is not a great place to be in and many of us, depending upon the circumstance, can find ourselves here. Pushing away what we most want. What we most need. And this is hard too. And also exhausting. Like soul hurt exhausting. Boundaries make everyone work hard. Boundary pushers will not get what they want and need, and boundary setters are left having to hold a line for their own wellness while that is being tested by someone. And yuck, that is hard. But also, thank you unknowing teacher. Boundary pusher, We need your tests to simply get better. So thanks, but also ewwww. Maybe a little insight would do you some good.
Because boundaries feel hard, pull most of us out of our comfort zone and can make us feel like we threw up in our mouths a little, we tend to think of them as a bad thing. Like we are screaming into the wind what we need. Sometimes a boundary can feel like a taking away, preventing, halting, making smaller, instead of expanding. And in truth, boundaries are our greatest expanders. Boundaries provide safety. People test boundaries to determine safety. Animals test boundaries to determine safety. OMG we are animals! I totally forgot. One more time. People test boundaries to determine safety. Are we a safe person? Is this a safe situation? We all get so outside of our heads sometimes that we need to push really hard against something. To test if we can manipulate someone. Make them move. What we are really saying is, “can this person see through my shit. Is this person safe” What we actually want, deep down inside is to hear a no. For someone to hold the line. Not to make an exception. The cool boss where it’s all good, the rad mom with no rules. Hells no. The actually cool person in charge says no sometimes. And the cool mom, you’re not doing your kids any favors. Being in charge, be it at work or at home is all about safety first. No is hard, and tested oh so very often, but it’s really important. And wow if we are not really really good at providing these tests. Like constantly. We all do it. Me too. In fact I’m so good at pushing boundaries, it should be on my resume. The difference is I have done the work to recognize it and honor the boundary that has been set. Most of the time. Respect. Acknowledgement. Then change is possible. Also, I’ll say my accuracy rate for this boundary recognition makes me far from immune to being an unwelcome teacher. I’m not even close to 100%. But we all have to start somewhere.
So what’s the takeaway here? How does all of this fit onto a screen put to pop music that sits in the palm of your hand? Easy. Remember this... Boundaries are a courtesy we extend each other. One more time. Boundaries are a courtesy we extend each other. If you set a boundary, you care. If you respect a boundary, you care. And the best part is we can all begin to move forward with that respect right now, BECAUSE if you think you are either a boundary setter or a boundary pusher, guess what, you are both! Hooray! We all have that in common. If we all do it, if we all have the capacity to both set and push, then we can all begin to take notice, begin to respond instead of react, and be thankful for the boundary instead of feeling like we are being deprived of access to something. So to all the boundary setters and boundary pushers, good work. We did it! Now let’s promise to do the work.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode of JOY IS NOW here.