One of the things that contributed to my recent health collapse is poor emotional boundaries. I didn’t have strong boundaries established and that meant that anyone could impose almost anything on me. I wasn’t firm enough, even with my children, in articulating what is for me and what is for them.
If you’re wondering what I mean, I’ll give you an example. I set up a small office at home that leads off my bedroom. Somehow our exercise bike became part of the furniture also. My children like to follow me around and they end up bringing dolls, marbles, toys and a myriad of other things into my tiny office. You can imagine what happens when they start fighting over the toys and how much work I can get done. So from now on, my office is off limits. They can knock but they can’t come in. This is my space. This is where I write and think. This is where I can control the noise level, the ambiance, the scent. It is in fact the only tiny space of the house that I can make my own.
I let them overflow into my space without being clear that this is for me and it is not a playroom. I’m happy to sit with them in their rooms or the TV room to play and to create things together. But not in my office. That is my space and my space only. Now to find another spot for that exercise bike…
My office boundary is a physical one – it is a room. The most important of boundaries are emotional boundaries that define healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships have unclear boundaries, or boundaries that are encroached upon repeatedly. Is someone taking your time, money or energy that you’re not comfortable giving? You might also be subject to unwelcome advances from a colleague or friend.
Establishing and maintaining boundaries takes energy, of which I have very little at the moment. I have put up boundaries to protect myself and to improve the relationships in my life. And it has been difficult, given my need to please others and my aversion of conflict. However, I am slowly making headway and ensuring that my energy is not drained by emotionally or financially needy people.
A strong sense of self goes hand in hand with boundaries. When your own boundaries are weak or when you overflow into spaces where you’re not welcome, relationships suffer. Being clear of who you are and what you want, helps to define healthy boundaries. Prioritising your own needs is not selfish, it is vital for maintaining a strong sense of self. As much as closeness with your partner or spouse is important, even more important is maintaining the ‘you’ they fell in love with.
One hears about creating ‘me time’ a lot lately. Spending time alone helps to build the sense of self and helps to let others know that your needs are important. I would strongly encourage everyone to take some time for themselves, once a week at least, to safeguard your sanity and strengthen your identity.
Relationships are probably the greatest source of happiness in our lives. They take work and they need to be give-and-take. Think about the boundaries in your life: professional, friendships and family. Make sure you’re respecting the boundaries of others. Make sure your boundaries are firm and that people know where they stand. Expect some backlash when you establish new boundaries as people do try to keep you as they want you to be.
But in the words of Robert Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors”.Follow me: