Ever heard someone say, or maybe even said yourself, “I really need to create better boundaries.” Typically, a statement like this will come up whenever we feel as though we are being taken advantage of, or maybe because we are giving away too much of ourselves. Likely we have all been there. It seems only natural that there will be those places where we will need to draw a better line, keep something back for ourselves, say “No,” or just in general, do less.
Or maybe more to the point, do only what is ours to do.
How do we even begin to figure that out? For surely if we really knew what was ours to do we would not be in need of creating better boundaries. So perhaps there is more to this whole boundary thing than just keeping something out. Or in. Depending, of course, on how you do what you do.
Boundary setting can feel as though something must be erected; built strong enough in order to keep things out. It might even feel like it is something placed outside of us; like a giant, electrified fence with a big “KEEP OUT” sign and some barbed wire at the top. It can feel like this especially when we have let things go too far. So far, in fact, that we imagine ourselves on one side of our fence, with others on the opposite side; feeling like if we do not get very strict with ourselves and others we will be taken advantage of. That something will be taken from us, or that another will enter where they are not welcome. Or that we will abandon ourselves, giving away too much, doing what is not ours to do, only to be left depleted, resentful, and used up.
Seeing it this way though misses the point. Partly because it puts us at odds with both ourselves and others; creating a kind of battle where there is a winner and a loser. Someone protected, and someone protected against; with the subtext being that it is because of the other person, or our level of sensitivity and openness, that we must guard ourselves by drawing a hard line. That something is being done to us, as opposed to us choosing for something. As in ourselves. For when we place the emphasis on the boundary itself, we miss the most important thing of all. That being, that when we are fully with ourselves, fully occupied in who we are and what we are feeling, fully accountable for our experiences in life, right-sized boundaries naturally, effortlessly, precisely and perfectly arrange themselves moment by moment by moment.
But this can only happen when we are fully inhabiting ourselves. Fully sovereign unto the experience we are having. Fully occupied, as in, not having left ourselves vacant. It means not having extended beyond ourselves, nor having shrunk back leaving a void for something or someone else to occupy. When we inhabit ourselves in this way, there is no leaking out, or invasion in, for there is quite literally no room for the territory of you to be overrun, occupied or given away because you are so fully filled with who you are.
This is not easy to do. Many of us are so used to confusing our needs and wants with other people’s needs and wants that it can be very, very tricky to figure out where I end, and you begin. It can feel almost “natural” to give ourselves away. To over-do. To overcompensate. Which is exactly the point. For when we are fully claiming who we are and where we are in any given moment, we do not extend ourselves erroneously, nor do we leave a void to be filled by others expectations or demands. Instead, we create the long sought after journey of fully being all in with ourselves. Which then leaves interactions with others more clear. More known. Less confusing. And with far less boundary-problematic co-dependency between us.
Here is something to try. As you move throughout your day, occasionally stop and ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you find that you have left yourself out of the equation, are doing more than your share, are taking the brunt of something, if you feel overrun by what other people think or want from you, come back. Right then and there. Come back. Locate into yourself in that very moment. Connect to what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. Then proceed.