I was not aware of this. This is a recent phenomenon. Or should I say, my awareness of it has been a recent development?
For the most extended period, I had always seen walls/ boundaries as a means to separate oneself from others. The walls in the rooms, the boundary walls of the house, walls separating localities, and most of all walls separating countries.
What was a wall if not a potent device to divide, distance, and set apart? Precisely the reason why I felt like building no walls around me. Providing access to me and my time as and when whoever wanted. It took me decades to realize that what I have been doing is over-exposing myself and turning into a free stop for every kind of soul. With this free access, and exposure also came exertion, fatigue, and a certain amount of hurt.
It was only in the past few years that I read more and more about how boundaries are something we all should draw. How not all walls that we create break relationships but rather help us build better ones. It also took me some time to realize that there is a certain degree of energy exchange in every interaction we have. Because most of the time we are unaware of this, we end up being exhausted physically as well as emotionally. Even though being readily available to people we know is undoubtedly one of the most unselfish acts, it also means that often you might be left feeling empty as there is hardly any time to refuel and rejuvenate.
There was also this realization that building boundaries help to filter out noise as well as people with whom we are too polite to refuse conversations. Of course, I did face some pushback from my circle as a few people thought that I was cutting them away from my life, or unnecessarily fussing about things. Often these are the same people who would not show up for me, had too many expectations from me, and left me feeling exhausted and hurt. Anyways, I tried not to be bothered by them and went on with my journey of building sensible boundaries. The process has in no way been easy and often mind-boggling.
In case you are thinking about how to know if you need to set a boundary or not… here is what you need to look into. Interacting with these people often leads to:
- Draining of your energies
- Psychological attack
- Emotional manipulation
- Hinders your physical and emotional healing process
- Triggers old traumas
This is not an exhaustive list, but a good starting point to identify indicators for building a boundary. Basically, the top five kinds of boundaries that all of us need are:
- Emotional: Anything/ anyone who dismisses your emotions, dumps their negative emotions on you, and/ or brings up inappropriate topics.
- Mental: You are allowed to have your own thoughts, values, and opinions. This does not mean that you are right or wrong – all it means is that you have the freedom to think, question, and change. The concern is to not lose out on your freedom to think.
- Physical: Constant comments on your body/ looks, unwanted physical proximity, etc. fall into this category.
- Material: These boundaries are around your things or possessions. The is nothing wrong is set boundaries on who can use your things and for how long.
- Time: This is one of my favorite boundaries. We have only so much time with us, and therefore it is necessary that we spend it on the right people and the right things.
Set healthy boundaries also means we allow ourselves to:
a. Say NO
b. Reassess and be flexible about our boundaries
c. Listen to yourself, what do you really want
All of a sudden, I am reminded of the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost, which ends with “Good fences make good neighbors.”
When you set yourself up on the journey of building healthy boundaries, it will be helpful to be mindful of the boundaries of others as well. There are good chances that we might be doing some of the intrusive activities highlighted in the earlier part of this blog. Instead of beating ourselves up for doing so, it is always good to accept that part of us that was not aligned with the greater good. None of us are perfect. Or should I say that perfection is a myth? We all are works in progress… and that is what’s important – to progress.
May you build good fences, have good neighbors, and have beautiful walls around you.