I did not like the word “boundaries” before now. The great Dr. Laura Schlessinger (I’m a fan.) has always considered it what she calls “psychobabble” (a word overused by mental health professionals instead of just cutting to the chase). I tended to agree. Psychology words are tossed around so frequently they lose their oomph and become linguistic crutches. Accurate.
Boundaries are lines you draw in your mental health sand to protect yourself from stressful, awkward, inappropriate people, places, and things. Boundaries are hedges of protection that help preserve your well being. They’re timers that *ding* when you’ve had enough. Think of mental barbed wire. They’re that. If you’re firm in establishing them and upholding them with a little less talk and a lot more action, you won’t fall into the psychobabble trap. I now think boundaries are awesome, since I’ve recently learned to actually set them and make them work for me.
A few of my boundaries…
- I will not be around people who stress me out, make me feel bad about myself, or push me to compromise my values.
- I will not let work overtake me and negatively affect my personal time or my family time.
- I will not allow people to speak to me harshly, criticize me, or tell me what to do.
- I will not neglect self care or let life erode my health.
- My name is Wes. I’m not in that mess. (Check out my blog post on this.)
What does this actually look like in my life…
- I won’t invite her to this party, if I don’t want to. I may invite her to the next party. THIS is this party.
- I do not answer dance studio related emails, messages, and texts when I am home with my family.
- If somebody wants to break bad, I cut that right off. I will not listen if they can’t be civil and reasonable.
- I make time to read, journal, sit in silence, take a nap, pray, write, or have coffee in peace every, single day.
- I gracefully bow out of getting in anybody else’s business or taking on their burdens.
Yeah good, right, but as forthright and matter-of-fact as that all sounds, I struggle. Life tests my boundaries daily. I get hit with work demands likeasonofabitch all day every day. Everybody wants everything right now, it all has to be perfect, and no time should be “wasted” on myself. Household demands don’t wait. That grind never stops grinding. Uuugghh. People test my boundaries, too. I’m invited places and asked to volunteer. Other folks’ problems are dumped into my lap for ME to fix. Texts roll in three at a time, as do the emails and social media messages. Lawdhammercy.
Oh, and speaking of struggle…the world ain’t nice about my boundaries. People question them and get plain ol’ offended. I get judged and talked about, told what I SHOULD be doing, and called out. And those are the things I actually hear with my ears. My Father Who Art In Heaven only knows what’s said behind my back.
You know what, though?! I’m liberated because of those boundaries. I don’t do much that I don’t want to do. I don’t make decisions out of guilt, and I’m not living to please other people anymore (Reformed People Pleaser here!). I get more time to myself, and I don’t feel quite so much like I’m in a blender constantly. I’m not busy trying to please people who really don’t care about me. I used to do all that…until I learned about healthy boundaries.
I used to do all that. I wasted a lot of time, energy, and tears.
I tell you all this not to brag, because I am a bedraggled mess most of the time who is constantly screwing up and learning lessons. I haven’t fully mastered any of this yet. I tell you this, because I JUST learned it at 46 years old, and I want you to learn along with me. Feel empowered. Get your shit together, and build some fences. Make the rules. YOU are in charge of YOUR life, and you only get one. Make every moment count, and take care of yourself. “Boundaries” is not psychobabble to me. Boundaries are necessary and rewarding. Set some!