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  • Writer's pictureJessica Childs

Getting Curious About Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are essential to every being. Taking responsibility for our own actions and emotions is both an expression of our self-belief and it is a vote of confidence in those around us. Boundaries are, in essence, the awareness that we are all distinct individuals co-existing with every one and everything in the universe. When you do not have healthy boundaries, you cannot build self-esteem because the outline of self is blurred. (You have to have a “self” to “esteem”) In turn, when you establish healthy boundaries, self- esteem is a natural result.

Boundaries are both overt and subtle, external and internal. There are the interpersonal boundaries that are a cornerstone to society and healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise. They are the ones therapists typically point toward when you are bearing too much of other people’s burdens or allowing other people to bear too much of yours. Interpersonal boundaries are vital to establish and maintain. But there are also more subtle, more personal boundaries that address your inner workings and can have a profound effect when remapping to the life that you want.

Interpersonal Boundaries

Interpersonal Boundaries are the ones that exist between individuals. They can be between people or between people and animals. They can be physical, emotional, spiritual and they can exist on more sublte planes, such as ancestral or energetic.

My 5-year-old climbing into my lap and singing about his new pet stink bug is some one entering my personal space (crossing my physical boundary) and me liking it (acceptance). On the other hand, he may enter the room while I am on the phone and that same song is a disruption, so I might make a frown and ask him to sing his song in another room (draw the line).

Boundaries are fluid things that we get to

place at different distances at different times.

Lucy’s boyfriend sends her ultra-sweet messages. They are creative and inspired and speak to Lucy’s core love language – verbal affirmations (crossing her emotional boundary). They they usually feel supportive and she loves to get them (acceptance). But now, Lucy and I are at a comedy show. Fred, Lucy’s boyfriend, was in full support of her doing this weekly girl’s night, but now that she is here the messages are flooding in. When she doesn’t write back immediately, he sends pouty and sad emojis. After the 10th exchange, she looks up exasperated. Fred is crossing a boundary with Lucy all of the way across town and with something that she used to really love, but now the messages are creating different feelings (she wants to draw the line).

Sometimes lovely things can cross your boundaries

and you still need to draw lines

Internal Boundaries

When I got curious about my own boundaries I became aware of things and even my own thoughts crossing my boundaries. This awareness arose because of a juxtaposition between a particular book and my process of curiosity around the topic of boundaries. The book is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer - a fabulous read, full of perspective-shifting dialogue. Essentially, Singer's work helped me distinguish my deep core-self from my chattering ego.

Walking into my messy living room, the visual entered my mind (crossed an internal boundary). I responded with a host of feelings. Dread, defeat, anger – all of these were created when that image crossed my threshold. Now, what if I decide this is a boundary I am going to draw a line at? What if I say “I’m not going to allow this image to enter my personal space and create reactions that I don’t want.”?

Boundaries can also be between YOU and THINGS

But what about this one? Let’s say you are visiting the doctor. You have had a pain in your knee for a few weeks and you are finally getting it checked out. Obviously, you have some concern that your knee needs more healing than you can provide just by laying off of it for a while. But what happens when you start thinking “What if it needs surgery?” or “I read online that this could be a sign of blood clots!” Those are thoughts that I suggest are crossing an internal boundary.

You get to choose where your boundaries are and whether you

accept a particular crossing or you decide to draw the line.

An exercise to bring awareness to boundaries:

Let this image settle into your mind. Carry it around with you throughout your day. You are the star at the center of the image and the concentric circles are your boundaries. Notice when something crosses your boundary. The boundary can be physical, emotional, spiritual. It can be interpersonal or solely personal. It can be a great distance, or it can be right next to you - it can even be within you. The first step in having firm boundaries is in noticing where they lie. Some things cross your boundaries in pleasant ways and you may wish to accept them. Some may have different characteristics and you find yourself wanting to draw the line. Get curious about boundaries, acceptance and line drawing.

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