One of the steps along our journey of soul discovery and expansion will inevitably include an interaction with boundaries – setting them, upholding them, revisiting them, encountering them from others, and experiencing conflicting ones.
Many of us start out in a space of judgment. We judge others for doing things we don’t agree with, for believing in things we don’t believe in, for living lives that we don’t understand, and for making choices that we wouldn’t personally make.
Our society encourages this and conditions this into us via constant comparison and the constant hamster wheel culture of needing to be better, look better, and have better things.
In this space, we often don’t know how to set boundaries. Instead we may be emotionally reactive toward people we don’t agree with, we may feel like a victim of other people’s impact on us, and we often feel quite powerless in our lives.
Learning how to set boundaries.
Enter boundaries. Once we realize we’re allowed to place boundaries, many of us will start placing boundaries everywhere we go. This is a brave first step in taking ownership of our lives. However, we often don’t fully grasp the point of healthy boundaries at first.
We may believe that placing boundaries means controlling other people’s behaviors. But it doesn’t. At the end of the day, boundaries are actually about directing our own behaviors.
So, we go around telling everyone what they’re allowed to do in our presence and what they’re not. And when someone does something in conflict with our placed boundary, we may feel violated, frustrated, victimized, and powerless again.
“I don’t understand why people aren’t respecting my boundaries” is often what we think. And we may even get angry.
But we eventually realize that we are responsible for respecting our own boundaries. Other people are allowed to do what they want, after all, it’s their life. We can be hurt and upset by what they do, but at the end of the day, we cannot control anyone outside of ourselves.
Learning how to uphold our boundaries.
So, how do we uphold our own boundaries?
We communicate a clear line in the sand and when others violate it, we uphold the boundary with our own directed action.
This can mean a kind reminder of the boundary, and if it’s still not respected, then leaving the room, ending a conversation, hanging up the phone, asking for space, disconnecting, whatever it is that we need to do to make sure our boundary is upheld.
I also believe it’s important to continuously check in with ourselves and the boundary in each situation. Does this boundary still feel good to me, does it still feel like it’s in integrity with my soul? We are allowed to change our minds whenever we please.
Let me say that again – you are allowed to change your mind at any moment that you damn well please.
At first, the boundaries may seem obvious and easy to identify and uphold.
I’m not okay with anyone raising their voice at me, calling me insults, being physically abusive towards me, leveraging guilt or shame to pressure me into action.
But eventually, it gets more complicated.
Learning the distinction between judgment and discernment of boundaries.
The examples I just mentioned seem pretty easy to identify and easy to feel validated in placing between us and others. No one is going to convince you that you should allow someone to be physically abusive towards you, because in our culture we’ve collectively decided that that’s not okay.
But once we get to know ourselves more deeply, we’ll realize we have other requests, needs, demands, and desires for our interactions with other people. And some of these won’t be as supported by the collective culture. In fact, they may be in conflict with cultural norms or others’ beliefs.
We may identify as an introvert and desire lots of space and time to ourselves and delay our responses to our friends’ messages.
While someone else may really value more available and active friendships and desire greater, more consistent, communication.
It’s so easy for us to fall into the same space of judgment we began in. In order to validate our own needs, we judge others’ needs as bad, unhealthy, shameful, inappropriate, or just wrong.
But we all know that every single person on this planet is different. So, of course we’re all going to have different requests, needs, demands, and desires.
And we’re allowed to have our own desires! We don’t need to judge anyone else’s desires in order to validate our own. We are allowed to embrace our own unique desires even when they are in conflict with other people’s desires.
This is discernment, the matured version of judgment. We can say I see you, I honor you, I love you for the boundaries you’ve placed and the needs you’ve expressed, AND it’s not in alignment with my path at this moment.
We get to choose our own path, we get to express our own authentic needs, we get to pursue our own soul’s desires, without making anyone else wrong for having different ones.
And this is the hardest part of all. When someone else expresses their truth and we find it conflicts with our own truth. To stand up for ourselves in direct contradiction to someone else standing up for themselves. It’s so easy for this to devolve into judging, shaming, comparing, and trying to convince the other person that their way is wrong.
But embracing discernment rather than judgment allows us to love them and honor them, while also recognizing it is in conflict with our own path.
Honoring conflicting boundaries.
Honoring our own boundary while honoring someone else’s incompatible boundary may require separation or disconnection. It may be really sad, we may feel hurt or heartbroken. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings.
Feel it, honor it, and take sweet loving care of yourself through it.
The most beautiful thing we can do is honor the outcome that results in the respect of both people’s boundaries.
Not only does this show our inner soul that we’re willing to do hard things to stand in our authentic integrity, but it also deepens our empathy for other people. We can absolutely do both.
Let’s be brave enough to stand up for ourselves, while also being gracious toward others standing up for themselves.