Boundaries vs Walls: Creating Closeness or Making Distance?

Boundaries and wallsYears ago, a friend of mine told me a terrifying story. While on vacation in Mexico, she and her companions were walking along a beach taking photos and not paying attention to where they were going. Suddenly, a jeep filled with Mexican military personnel appeared and took them into custody.

They had stumbled onto military property. The property was not surrounded by a fence. There were signs posted, but in their mindless wandering, they had missed them.

Fortunately, for my friend and her companions, they were released after several hours of questioning. They were hassled, detained and their cameras were confiscated, but these are small consequences compared to what could have happened to them.

They missed the boundaries that would have kept them safe.

Boundaries are essential in life and in our relationships. They define where you end and where others begin. They determine how much physical and emotional space you allow between yourself and others. When you establish appropriate boundaries, you can allow others to become close to you, hear their feelings, take in new ideas and still make your own decisions.

It is important to have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual boundaries.
  • Physical boundaries help you feel in charge of your body and personal space. 

  • Mental boundaries make it possible to know what you think and make your own decisions. 

  • Emotional boundaries let you feel what you feel without taking on the feelings of others. 

  • Spiritual boundaries let you know the part of yourself that transcends and seeks more.

Walls, on the other hand, keep others out. Walls are created out of a fear of not being strong enough to keep yourself safe. When you live behind walls, you are not accepting of the ideas and help of others. No one is allowed close.

The need to create walls develops in childhood when you are not protected or are dominated. Children need to feel safe to explore their world and discover who they are.

They also need the freedom to make choices and mistakes. If parents are controlling and invasive, children have to build walls to maintain what little sense of self they create.

Going back to my friend’s story, a wall would have been better than a sign to keep people off the property. A wall would have protected her and her friends from a nearly disastrous mistake. Walls keep people out.

The good news is that you can learn to create boundaries that keep you safe while allowing others to be close.

5 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries

1. Decide what you want: This is the hardest step when you are getting started. You may think it is saying no or telling someone what you want, but it is not. Letting yourself know what you want and believing you are allowed to know, is the first step.

Go to a quiet place and let yourself daydream about what you can do. At first, you may have to pretend that you are someone else and image what they might want or need.

Take the time you need to decide. Do not rush or hurry yourself. You deserve to know what you want.

2. Practice trusting yourself: Fear of being wrong and fear of hurting someone are probably the two most common reasons people don’t set boundaries. When it comes to your wants and needs, you are the only one who truly knows what is right.

It takes time and experimentation to know yourself. Each decision you make about your boundaries is a learning experience. Rather than seeing your decisions as right or wrong, think of them as information gathering experiences experiments in self-knowledge.

3. Learn to say no: It is possible to say no and be kind, considerate and respectful. When you learn how to do that, even if people do not like being told no, you can still feel good about your behavior. We have talked about learning to say no (add text to add links here) 

4. Reinforce your boundaries: As you make these changes, you will need to remind yourself not to cross your own new boundaries. It is so easy to tell yourself that it is okay this one time to make an exception. Learn to respect yourself so that others will respect you.

5. Practice saying no: When you are asked to do something that you do not want to do, kindly say no. Create a plan for when someone crosses your boundaries, intentionally or unintentionally. Let them know what they have done and, if needed, walk away. There is no need to become angry or aggressive. A simple,” I must go now,” is sufficient.

As you begin to define your personal boundaries to yourself and others, be patient,encouraging and respectful to the people in your life. It takes time for you to achieve clarity, and for them to understand your new boundaries. Do the same for yourself; this is a new skill. 

You are a valuable and unique individual who is worthy of love and respect. Do not let others define who you are. Only you can do that. Setting boundaries is a great way to practice self-love. The more you practice, the more successful you will be and out of that self-confidence will grow.

Are you afraid to set boundaries? Feel insecure about who you are and what you want? I can support you are you explore who you are and what you want in life. From that knowledge, you can learn to set your own boundaries. Call me at: (919) 881-2001

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