A few months ago, I met Laila for the second time (you read about her earlier). This time, she had come home to stay with me for a day. The first thing her dad Shubham told me was to help Laila understand what my boundaries were and then learn about Laila’s boundaries. A concept that I had been trying to understand for a while suddenly made so much sense! Once Laila and I knew each other’s boundaries - knowing what not to do/ what is not OK for the other, it opened up so much room for play!
It took me back to something I read on an Instagram post. Boundaries must be created. They must be created for self-preservation, not to keep people out. Boundaries are good, they help you be yourself authentically, while letting others know how you would like to be treated.
All my life I have struggled with the concept of boundaries and creating them for myself. I grew up in a family where this concept was never understood and isn’t practised even today. That is not their fault. They don’t understand this concept either.
When there are no clear boundaries, where 'you' ends and where 'the other' begins is never clear.
What lack of boundaries does:
You forget about your own needs, in fact, you often don’t even know what they are.
You derive your sense of self from outside, instead of your self.
The sense of self and your self-worth is derived from what you do for others, and if you are appreciated for it, not who you are. Here is the truth: the fact that you exist means that you are worthy. It comes from your being, not from doing.
You take on everyone's problem as your own.
You lose yourself in what you think are 'selfless' acts, but they are often things you do because it is the right thing to do or it is an obligation or there is guilt involved in some form. But the truth is, you just don't know when, if and how to say NO. (Selflessness must come from a space of love. If it isn’t, the energies of your act change.)
You never ask for what you deserve - in a friendship, at work or in a relationship.
In a relationship, your energies get mixed with the others. You start feeling what they feel, exactly how they feel it. At first, I thought it is so romantic, and much later I learnt that it is an indicator of a lack of boundaries. How are you supposed to show up as yourself if you don’t even know what and how you are feeling? [I know it may be a bit strange to read this, but it is what it is]
You open doors for abuse and manipulation. Both of which has shown up in my life plenty.
You don't know that you are being triggered (the emotional roller coaster that is left after any conversation), and don't know how to communicate it with others. In fact, you often wouldn’t even realise that you are triggered.
You are never a priority in your own life.
So where do you go from here?
Start where you are at.
Identify your needs
How do I like to be spoken to? (Think of a time when someone spoke to you and it made you feel good)
How do I like to be treated when I have made a mistake?
How do I soothe myself?
How do I take a break when I am overwhelmed?
What is my love language?
When do I feel supported? And so on.
Learn how to draw external boundaries first:
Prefer handshakes over hugs? Gently assert that. “Hey, I really prefer handshakes. Say that with a smile”. It’s beautiful how accepting the world can be when you are honest and open about what you need. This may not really work with family. They are a whole different animal.
Time: Ask for time when you need it. This will be really hard. But start where you are at. If you need to drop a message and ask for it, start there.
Learn how to draw emotional/psychological boundaries:
Start by saying, “Dear xyz, I know you have to go through this at your own pace but please know that I am here when you need me.”
Tell yourself: “I wish I could take all her/his problem away, but this is a journey they must take. I will be there to support, but I will not solve for them”
I know my company is not doing very well, but I have been on a very low salary package for quite some time. I should ask for what I deserve.
When I was told xxyyzz, I felt sad, and it is ok for me to sit with this sadness till it passes. I don’t have to respond to everything.
I don’t deserve to be spoken to this way. <Your name> I know you deserve better.
When your boundaries are strong, you control less. Everything about you starts to change! You are finally able to connect with yourself. It almost feels like meeting a new person altogether!
For most of my life, I have been lonely. But I only learnt in 2020 that my loneliness originated from self-abandonment. I didn’t think I deserve my own love, care and affection. And that is a very harsh world to live in. All of this started by not having boundaries in the first place. I am grateful it is changing now. Albeit slowly, but it is.
You have a choice. Take all the time you need. Start where you are, but through healthy boundaries and a lot of self-care, you will find yourself blooming, showing up more for yourself and for everything you love. You will excel at work and relationships and you will generally be at peace with yourself. And dear reader, whoever you are, just know there is a part of yourself that has been waiting to hear from you, to be accepted, to be loved, and you must reach out to yourself and embrace that part of you. You breathe differently when you know, you have your own back and unconditional acceptance. I’m working on it. Let’s do this together maybe?
I am excited to see how you grow, and become more of yourself! Dear universe, I love you.