I have always sucked at making boundaries. I know that it stems from a deep-seated need to be loved and accepted and so I tend to put up with a lot of crap from people for far longer than I should. Thankfully, therapy is curing me of that, but I know I’m not alone.
Perhaps it’s a female thing that has been bred into us by society that we must be yielding and not disrespectful. Yet, by not being willing to set boundaries, we’re disrespecting ourselves. In the end, who is more important to show respect to, yourself or someone else?
It is easier to set boundaries than it is to change them, but many women (myself included) struggle to put them in place to begin with. However, when we do find the courage to set boundaries, we are often quick to justify them, even before the other party has had an opportunity to react.
Thinking about why it is so hard to set boundaries and why we justify the ones that we do set, I had an epiphany. Boundaries are really just a set of rules. If you want to interact with me, these are my rules. Outside of a court opinion, when do you really see rules accompanied by a full justification of the rules?
You don’t see a “No Smoking” sign posted and question it. There isn’t a secondary sign that says, “We don’t allow smoking because this is a public area and the Attorney General has issued warnings about second hand smoke and we are doing our part to mitigate the risk to those that find smoking offensive.”
So why on earth do we feel the need to justify our personal set of rules?
I recently divorced my mom primarily because of her lack of ability to respect the boundaries I set in order for us to have some semblance of a healthy relationship. It was my last ditch effort at salvaging something from the wreckage of years of emotional abuse. She could not honor those boundaries and I chose to walk away.
I struggle a lot with putting up boundaries in my business. In the world of marketing, scope creep is a common project management nightmare. But every single time I need to speak up and remind a client that the task they are asking of me is out of scope and I will need to charge more money, I get this overwhelming anxiety and fear that the person on the other end is going to get mad or that they will take their business somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, if they respond in either of those ways, they aren’t someone I want to be doing business with anyway.
It does not matter why you have a certain boundary. If it makes you feel safe and whole, that is all that should matter. It is not your responsibility to help someone understand the reasons behind your boundaries. It is your responsibility to ask them to be respected.