As a mum it is common to have umpteen plates spinning – packed lunches; school…
During Lockdown, many of us feel out of control. It’s important that we’re clear about what we can and can’t control. One area we can control is our boundaries, boundaries with ourselves and boundaries with others.
By boundaries I mean guidelines, rules or limits we create to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards us. Setting good personal boundaries is critical to creating healthy relationships, increasing self-esteem and reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and where someone else begins. Boundaries help us to distinguish our property and our treasures, so we can take care of it.
And why are boundaries more important in Lockdown than ever before? Because we have had so many freedoms stripped away, we are left with the bare bones of ourselves and our relationships. Much has diminished, but at home, which is also work, much is magnified!
It’s more important than ever to take care of your garden – your inner garden. We all have an inner garden. Everyone’s garden looks different. We have a duty to care for our inner garden and how you do that will vary from person to person. Protecting your inner garden requires boundaries. I take care of my inner garden by getting up before the rest of the household. It’s my ‘me time’. It’s a boundary I give myself. Others go running or read a book.
In Lockdown we may feel like our inner garden, and therefore our treasures, have been completely trampled over. We may have no time on our own; our home environment is continually invaded by our partner and our children; we have no space to call our own and can’t even go to work or the pub to change our environment.
Boundaries include physical boundaries as well as emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries include your body, personal space and privacy. Violations include standing too close, inappropriate touching, and looking through your personal files or your phone. Emotional boundaries involve separating your feelings from another’s feelings. Violations include, taking responsibility for another’s feelings, letting another’s feelings dictate your own, sacrificing your own needs to please another, blaming others for your problems and accepting responsibility for theirs.
All of us can overcommit from time to time or become doormats, saying yes when we mean no. This can lead to a vicious circle of resentment and lack of honesty.
Children need to learn to tend their own inner gardens and to use their boundaries appropriately. Children need to have the power to say things like: “No.” “I will not.” “I choose not to.” “Stop that.” “It hurts.” “It’s bad.” “I disagree.”
Anger tells us that our boundaries have been violated. Years of constant boundary violations generate great anger. Anger doesn’t dissipate automatically if the danger occurred two minutes ago – or twenty years ago. It has to be worked through appropriately. Otherwise, anger simply lives inside the heart.
Having to accept the boundaries of others is not always pleasant. None of us enjoy hearing the word ‘no’. Sometimes accepting the boundaries of others can be a problem if we have inappropriate boundaries set on us in our childhood.
One of our major difficulties in setting boundaries with others in our lives is the feeling of obligation. The idea that because we have received something, we owe something. The love we received, or time or money – should be accepted as a gift. And a ‘gift’ implies, no strings attached. What we owe is our thanks. And with a grateful heart we should go out and help others.
People with high self-esteem have strong personal boundaries. And practicing strong personal boundaries is one way to build self-esteem.
So, now that you know a little more about boundaries, what’s next? Here are 5 suggestions:
Clarify your personal boundaries to yourself first
This starts by being honest with yourself. What do you need to do to keep your treasures safe? I know I need time with my friends, that’s one of my boundaries to myself, even in Lockdown. I know I need to avoid over-committing to things which often requires me to be assertive and say no.
Know where boundaries need to be created
Get curious about how dialogue with certain friends makes you feel. Do you feel you’re being bullied? Do you feel pressure to agree with something when you actually disagree? What boundaries do you need to put in place to protect and nurture your inner garden?
One boundary we have in place in our family is that we put the children to bed on school nights only, so not at the weekends. This ensures we spend quality time with them, but they are also aware that that my husband and I need time together on our own.
Communicate your boundaries
Passivity never pays off in the long run. It is far better to be assertive and active. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner or friends.
Model clear boundaries to your children
It’s important to be present with our children, but you don’t need to be ‘available’ at all times. If you need time to do something for you or for someone else, let them know. It’s good for them to see you taking time for yourself.
Take responsibility for your own needs
It is important to take responsibility for what is yours in a relationship or a friendship. Part of the reason we have boundaries is so we can take care of our ‘own’ stuff and don’t wait for another person to solve our problems.
Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries takes practice, especially if you come from a family where boundaries were unclear or barely recognised.
I’d love to know how you get on with establishing and nurturing your boundaries.