The Golden Rule of Setting Boundaries
7. This isn't me imparting advice as an expert in boundaries but rather sharing with you the one thing I learned this past year that I wish I had learned when I started my journey towards healthy boundaries 10 years ago.
No matter where you at in your journey with establishing healthy boundaries, this episode can help if you're wondering if you have healthy boundaries or if you're on track to establishing them.
I started my journey with boundaries about 10 years ago and have made many mistakes along the way and continue to do so. In all my readings and practices around boundaries, I failed to take on a necessary perspective and practice in order to uphold my boundaries while still maintaining intimacy in my relationships.
In a first discussion on boundaries, as I will continue in further episodes on this, I share with you 2 attempts to have healthy boundaries in my relationships and what happened as a result. I look forward to sharing more with you in future episodes as this topic, no doubt, involves discussion about love, colour and identity!
I’m T. Vyas, you can call me T became most people do. I’m, as you’ve guessed, a person of colour who looks forward to chatting with you about some things identity, some things colour and ALL things Love! Tune in Tuesdays for a new episode! In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram @bareinmind.podcast
You're listening to Love How Brown Cow, episode number seven.
A podcast about love, colour and identity, and where driving yourself crazy is totally sane and curable. Now your host T. Vyas.
So today's episode is kind of a fun one, it's about boundaries. Well, maybe it's not so fun, it depends on where you're at in your journey, and if you... as the title suggests, for beginners, I wanted to explain what I mean by that. I am not an expert on boundaries, although I have been reading and practicing them for about 10 years, and I wanted to do this episode because in the last year, I connected something in my head in the way I kind of looked at boundaries in a different way, that I had not done in the last 10 years. And I had the thought: Well, this would have been great to have known 10 years ago, so I'm going to share with you kind of what I wish I would have known. The first thing I wish I had known on my journey on having healthy boundaries in my life. So for this episode, what do I mean by a boundary. and the boundaries I'm going to cover are outside of the boundaries that have been established in society, so outside of the law, so there are boundaries in place within the law so that it's illegal for physical and sexual assault, which are boundary crossings, so that's outside of the scope of what I mean by boundaries, and then also any of those rules, policies that are in place at school or work, like anti-bullying policies, etc. So then that kind of leaves you with personal boundaries, and I'll share with you 4 signs of whether or not you may have healthy boundaries or how to tell if you have healthy boundaries, and where do we learn them? And I'm going to share with you two mistakes that I've made, and I've made many mistakes, but these two mistakes are from when I was really young to a recent mistake that I made, and kind of the takeaway that I have now of boundaries from this last year and how it kind of changes my outlook on boundaries moving forward.
So I'm going to talk about personal boundaries, and as I said, outside of laws and rules and policies and things like that, your personal boundaries consist of basically two things, one, it's your body, and two, it's your possessions, and that could be your time, your money, and things. And that's naturally going to be very personal to you, and so then how do you know that your personal boundaries are healthy? And I have four signs that I found in myself that I realise where okay, I'm not practicing healthy boundaries, and the first sign is your energy level: Do you have energy to do the things that you want to do in your life, do you want to train for a marathon, you want to write a book, do you have enough energy to do the things that you genuinely want to do? The second sign that you may not have healthy boundaries is if you feel resentful most of the time, so for example, a friend forgets your birthday or you don't get a gift, and you kind of carry that anger around long after your birthday. And the third sign is you... Are hard on yourself every time you make a mistake instead of seeing it more as a learning experience or just part of the process on achieving something. Are you really, really hard on yourself? And the last sign is that people's opinions about you matter to you a lot, and these four signs are more habitual, because at any point in our lives, someone's opinion might matter to us greatly, but these are more of…they continuously…
We continuously feel like this most of the time. So when you feel like this a lot of the time, it most likely means we have not learned how to have healthy boundaries in our lives, and we learn them from society or there are laws and policies in society, but we also learn them from home, our home environment, our cultural environment, and we're also influenced by the things that we choose in our lives, so our friends, the shows that we watch, the books that we read, and even things like the comedy shows we watch, all comedy is based on boundary crossings, and it's different from culture to culture. So that's why some things that are funny don't translate well into other languages and we also learn where it's maybe okay to cross personal boundaries, and an example of this is when we talk about somebody's body. If we're talking about it, like somebody has a well defined abdomen, we almost think it's okay to talk about somebody's body, and that it's not okay to talk about somebody's body if they're overweight. And we have things in society like the sexiest man alive, the sexiest woman alive, that kind of teach us: oh, it’s maybe okay to talk about somebody’s body when it comes to their abdomen and it’s well defined.
So all these different learnings come together in a way where we put together this sort of manual in our heads where we think: Oh, it's okay to say this about somebody's body, it’s not okay to say this. It's okay to do this. It’s okay to make fun of this person. And so then we don't even realise if we are taking on healthy boundaries because sometimes society might not even maintain healthy boundaries. And this could lead to a bit of confusion, especially if we didn't start out with a good foundation of knowing what boundaries are as we grew up from childhood into adulthood. And so I'm going to share with you two boundary crossings for me. And the first story was when I was at university, I…A good friend at the time, she had a nickname for me, so a lot of people call me T., but she decided she wanted to call me T-Dog, and I didn't like it, primarily for the reason that at that time... and in the area we lived in, dog was referred to as an ugly person: Oh, she's such a dog. And I had asked her to stop calling me that…just to call me T. Instead of T-Dog.
And she didn't stop, she did for a little bit, but then she continued to call me the nickname and a recent boundary that I had was with a family member. I wanted to be off of a family distribution list, so I made the request: Could you take me off the distribution list? And that went really poorly. She did not receive that request very well and I wasn't taken off the email list, and in both cases, I made the request: Hey, could you stop doing something? And at the time, I thought: This is great, I'm communicating my boundaries. I'm getting the courage to say, what's uncomfortable to me. And although it was an important step and a necessary step to get me to where I am with boundaries, I also missed a really big picture in establishing healthy boundaries. And what I missed was kind of this foundational approach of which to communicate my personal boundaries. And that is people don't need to respect my boundaries, I need to uphold them. In the first part, people don't need to respect your boundaries, it's subtle but it's definitely a big part that I missed and people won’t and don't respect your boundaries because they have a different definition for personal boundaries and the reason why they also won't respect your boundaries is because you're relying on another person to uphold your boundaries for you.
Every time you have a boundary or you're uncomfortable with something, it is now dependent on how the other person behaves, and that other person is imperfect. And so after making the request, your boundaries could still be crossed. And that leaves us with the second part of what I learned: you need to uphold your boundaries. And in essence, that means I needed to take action, so if it was so uncomfortable for my friend to call me T-dog, I needed to leave the conversation, I needed to walk away and needed to hang up the phone whatever it was, I needed to take action. And it isn't that you shouldn't ever ask somebody to stop doing something or change their behaviour, it's what can you do when you've made the request and they still cross your boundaries. And then that's when you would need to uphold your boundaries by taking action. And in the case with my family member to be off of the email list, I needed to take action. I could still make the request and... Okay, she didn't honour it. Then the next thing that I should have done is to go into my email and block her emails, and so then what I really missed over
the past years that I've been practicing boundaries as I had been making requests, which is a very difficult thing in itself, to ask somebody: Hey, stop doing this, I don't like it, I'm uncomfortable with it. And then realising that sometimes people will still cross it and then you're still kind of left in this: Oh, I feel uncomfortable and I'm now angry because I made this request and they're not honouring it. And when I looked at it from this perspective, it also helped me reflect on what boundaries do I really want to have and uphold in my life. So then the question becomes: Do I really need to address my friend who has a nickname that calls me T-dog, or maybe another friend will add something that does that... Now need to be a boundary because am I then willing to uphold it? Because you can decide to uphold a lot of boundaries, you can decide to walk away each time somebody crosses something that where you're uncomfortable or you don't like it, and then it could start to encroach on the fact that you'll never develop intimacy with another person. And I'm actually gonna talk about this in a later episode on intimacy versus boundaries, and so I'm going to wrap it up here and I'm gonna leave you with the learning.
The one learning that I got after 10 years of practicing it, and I wish I had known: Is that people don't need to respect your boundaries, you need to uphold them. I'll check back with you next week.
Thanks for listening. Tune in next Tuesday for another episode. And in the meantime, check out Instagram @lovehowbc.