What Are Boundaries?

The past few months I have been working on understanding boundaries, how that looks and feels for me.  I have spent my life feeling as if I have no boundaries, that somehow I am not eligible or worthy enough to make them and enforce them.  It seems everyone else has them and quickly lets one know when one or more have been crossed.

I checked out Wikipedia and found this:

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.

‘Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won’t do, what you like and don’t like…how close someone can get to you’.

There are four types –

  • Soft – A person with soft boundaries merges with other people’s boundaries. Someone with a soft boundary is easily manipulated (I looked that one up and found it most interesting!  Would make a good post for another time.)
  • Spongy – A person with spongy boundaries is like a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional contagion than soft boundaries but more than rigid. People with spongy boundaries are unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.
  • Rigid – A person with rigid boundaries is closed or walled off so nobody can get close to him/her either physically or emotionally. This is often the case if someone has been physically, emotionally, psychologically or sexually abused. Rigid boundaries can be selective which depend on time, place or circumstances and are usually based on a bad previous experience in a similar situation.
  • Flexible – This is the ideal. Similar to selective rigid boundaries but the person has more control. The person decides what to let in and what to keep out, is resistant to emotional contagion and manipulation and is difficult to exploit.
     HMMMM.  I can see I am in the soft category – not a pretty picture is it?  At this point I don’t think I am completely soft, maybe working toward spongey or just soft/spongey and working my way to flexible.  I would much rather skip rigid, reminds me too much of the recent occurrences of the term inflexible.  That is another story.
The more I think about it, I do have certain boundaries instilled by my parents – integrity, honesty, respect for other people and their property, doing what I say I will do, being on time (bad case of train fever) not deliberately hurting people (I know only too well how that feels!) and of course, always following the rules.  I was brought up to be a good girl – it has stood me in good stead a lot of times, but it has also has made it difficult to be creative and free.  Yet, I have also been creative in spite of it, usually I have to really work at letting go of “how it is supposed to be or look”.    I had no guidelines for writing my pain diary – what was I supposed to do?  Well, I found clip art figures of front, back, left side and right side and pasted those in for each day – then drew on them where it hurt.  Then I wrote out what the day was like and how I felt – not scientific, more narrative with personal comments.  I showed it to the doc after few weeks – looking for approval I had “done it right”.  It may not be scientific, it is certainly my journey and my feelings.
I just realized that not having boundaries works side by side with giving away my power.  If I don’t value myself, decide what I will or will not allow people to do and be so anxious for approval/validation as well as have everyone like me. it isn’t any wonder I don’t know boundaries.  I have begun to have much more confidence in myself – many people tell me I come across as very confident – which means I see myself as worthy of boundaries and respect.  I am working through the confusion to have a clearer picture of how boundaries feel  and how they look for me.  I have noticed often over the years that when I have a picture in my mind of something, it finally makes sense to me.  If I described that picture, it wouldn’t make sense to anyone else.   That picture brings up my “I know that I know” – others may call it an AHA moment, it’s simply when I finally “get it”.  I suspect there are some more pieces that need to be put into place, like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without a picture.  A challenge but definitely doable.
I may not have the complete answer yet, but I am definitely making good progress toward my goal.  let’s face it, I am a work in progress all around.

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5 Responses to “What Are Boundaries?”

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