This rant has been building for a long time now. I just had to find the right words to explain it. It’s a fairly hot topic and I hope that is because more people are realising they don’t have to accept things as they are and have a right to protect their energy.
Healthy boundaries are not something I have always had. It is an ongoing challenge for me to assess them and stick to them. As a child, I was fucking strange. I didn’t have consistent friends. We moved a lot so I had to make new friends everytime. This has lead to a couple of interesting traits in my personality.
Firstly, being confident in talking to strangers and making new friends. I made a new friend in the middle of the moors once, there was no one around and for miles, this lady came along and we got chatting. Not everyone is comfortable with it- Fucking strange goth woman chatting to strangers on the train. But honestly, this is the best way to learn about the world. Talk to people who are different to you. Who have lead completely different lives to you, tell them about yours. You’ll find something you have in common. One day I’ll write up the story of how I met Kirk.
Secondly, I wanted to be liked (these days it’s less important to me) we’re social animals. However for me, because of my trauma, I was drawn to people who would take advantage of me. I want to see the good in everyone. I want to believe people are good, kind and caring and for the most part they are. But (to quote Tim Minchin), we’re just fucking monkeys in shoes.
Everyone comes with their own trauma, self defense mechanisms and triggers. So, young naive me, seeking a tribe and to be loved; let people treat me badly. I made excuses for people like “they’ve been through a lot” and “they’re just going through a tough time”. Which they were/are/do. But here’s where the boundaries needed to happen. I let people continue to mistreat me. In some relationships it lead to abuse. And it comes to a point where you have to take responsability. I let them treat me that way. I chose toxic relationships because (I now know) deep down I didn’t feel worthy of better. I was left feeling foolish so many times for letting people betray me. For trusting and loving people who weren’t capable of doing better. I chose them, I let the behaviour continue because I didn’t have boundaries. In friendships and then partners.
So how do you create healthy boundaries? The hardest part for me is that I didn’t want to become an arsehole. I didn’t want to just shut people out to protect myself. But I couldn’t continue just letting people get away with shitty behaviour. Firstly I had to identify what my values were: honesty, kindness, open mindedness and love. Then I had to draw a line. If people behave in a way which doesn’t serve these values, e.g cruelty, lying, bigotry, people who take more than they give, what do you do? Shout at them? Push them away? Challenge them? It’s all very draining and at first that is what I tried to do. Very flimsy armour.
I was very reactive and defensive of my boundaries because I was fighting for them. As time went on and with practice, I learnt that you can just tell people where your boundaries are. If they can’t respect them, or challenge you as to why you need them. It’s upto you; maybe you want to explain why you need that boundary, maybe you don’t have to justify it. I guess this depends on your relationship with the person challenging you.
Saying ‘no’ has power. Saying ‘no’ is a spell. It’s empowering and before long you get comfortable using it. Not ‘no, because…’
I’ll give you an example: Let’s say, you owe a friend a favour. You want to help them, of course, but what they are asking would cost you energy you don’t really have (have you heard of spoon theory? If not look it up) or worse, involve going against a value. But you love this person and they helped you. Dilemma right. You draw a boundary. “sorry friend, no.” you will probably explain why. Your friend hopefully respects your boundaries. Life goes on. Hooray you’ve done it!
What if, this person pushes harder? Tries to get you to move your boundary for them, just this once… Sadly, this is how you know you need the boundary in the first place. Otherwise you’ll do the thing, it will go badly, or leave you feeling drained and hurt. And you’ll say to yourself “I should’ve said no”. Learn to say no and not feel guilty. Likely, you’ll feel some guilt when you start saying ‘no’ more but it passes when you see how necessary it was and feel grateful you were able to make the right choice for yourself.
People may not understand, they might get angry and lash out, thrashing against your boundary walls. Stay firm. They’ll either remove themselves from your life, in which case, you’ve succeeded. Or they’ll come around and accept it.
I believe in talking about our boundaries. Helping others to identify their own and implement them. The best way to do this is by leading the way with as much kindness as possible. The whole ‘do no harm, but take no shit’ really resonates with me. It’s important to have healthy boundaries, it stops self destructive behaviour. After all, no point in blaming a person for mistreating you when you let them. I’mma point out here that some people will still go around causing pain and mess because that’s their unresolved shit. It’s upto you whether you engage with it. Maybe it’s important enough to you to let your boundary slide and help them. That’s cool. But only if you have the emotional space to face the consequences of that. We can’t all just go around pouring ourselves out for everyone else. We will all end up empty. Pour from the overflow.
It might feel harsh to start with, like me, it make take a few damaging situations to push you into creating firm boundaries. But if we were all more honest about them, encouraging others to respect their own boundaries; if we enabled each other to feel confident in enforcing them, perhaps the shitty behaviour would stop. Perhaps instead of acting out the toxic cycles of destruction, people would finally look at their actions, address where they stem from and stop hurting each other. It’s a big one, I know. Could it really be that simple? Put a boundary in place. Hold it and refuse to engage with the toxic behaviour. Walk away if you must.
The tricky bit comes up when you, with your healthy boundaries, comes up against someone else’s boundary. You don’t need to understand why that person needs it. It makes them feel safe, helps them live to their own values. With empathy, can we just say: “OK, I don’t get it, but it’s your boundary and I respect it.” have you ever had someone tell you they respect your boundaries? It feels AMAZING! no drama just “alright” . I get this a lot with my social media. I have a private account and 2 public accounts. Recently there’s been a trend in adding strangers to chat. Awesome, I love new friends but I literally do not have the time and energy to talk to everyone, I’d be on my phone forever and I’m already on it too much. So, I filter strangers to my public pages. I get a lot of respect for just having boundaries. I also get the odd random shitty response. That’s fine too. I just won’t engage with it. TAAADAAA no drama from strangers online. Boundary drawn, followed through and working.
What do you need better boundaries on? It’s worth trying, even for small things like not engaging in negative self talk. Strip out the things that make you feel shitty. Draw a line and don’t engage with it anymore. Tell people ‘it’s a boundary of mine’. It’s yours, for you.
Finally, if you are the person being shitty about how a boundary inconveniences you… Have a word with yourself! Seek empathy and understanding and get the fuck over it. Basically, don’t be a dick. It’s not about you. It’s their boundary for them, not against you. Say it again “It’s their thing, it’s not about me” and move the fuck on with your day.
Rant over. Peace out witches ✌️
Love Kate xxx