What does it mean to set boundaries?

Healthy boundaries are not  as much about drawing lines in the sand that then must be boldly defended, as they are the natural result of a mindset that comes from believing that we are safe, loved, and deserving of kindness and respect.

If we expect to be mistreated, perhaps because that's what we have experienced in the past, we will react defensively, which often comes across as disrespectful to others – certainly, if we anticipate violation of our space or person, we make unhappy assumptions about what we deserve from others and so think less of ourselves which prompts us to treat ourselves poorly.

We resort to ultimatums delivered to those we feel mistreated by, demanding that they  treat us the way we think we should be treated – even though, we ourselves do not treat ourselves in the ways we say we want them to treat us. And we fail to understand that those who violate our space are reflecting to us the way we mistreat ourselves. (The world IS a mirror …)

No matter how many ultimatums we may deliver (this being what boundary setting so often turns into), they will go right on reflecting back to us the poor way we treat ourselves. That is their job, for how else are we going to realize how we mistreat ourselves except it be so graphically demonstrated for our “viewing pleasure” by those who dare to treat us the way WE do.

Even our abusers and boundary-violaters are messengers and way-showers for us – should we choose to recognize it.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that we should tolerate violation … of any sort! That is not helpful AT ALL.

However this notion of “setting boundaries” (another way of describing an attempt to control their response towards us so that we can feel better), while understandable, is not really the most effective way to get the job done – mostly because “establishing boundaries” often requires constant vigilance to be sure they are honored, so we are often defensive and “on guard” with those we perceive as mistreating us.

The simple truth is that if we do not model proper respect for ourselves to those around us, there are no amount of “boundaries” we can “set” that will have a lasting effect.

Fortunately there is a better, more long-lasting approach …

It is this: We must question any concept that keeps us from believing that we deserve the love and respect we want from them. It is a natural occurrence that when we treat ourselves as if we deserve kindness and respect, we model what we want from them. We TEACH them how to treat us.

When we act according to a set of beliefs that say we respect and love ourselves, we transmit that message to them. Because the world is a mirror with the assignment of showing us what we believe so we can notice the effect of those beliefs on us, when we are kind to ourselves, others will reflect that kindness and respect back to us through their interactions with us. (Remember, people live up to our expectations of them.)

This is what it is to have “good” boundaries – boundaries built from the inside out.

Blessings, Lynne

3 Responses

  1. nscpani
    25th dec 2012
    I don’t pretend but I have not fully understood your reply.To attain self respect is easier said than done.
    What I did practice is to check “—oh I need to respond now—I never liked to meet this person…but he has turned up..well what is my frame of mind…by impulse it is in persecutor mode….”-
    So I count how many books are there on that shelf ….etc. well I shift to that OBSERVER mode somehow.
    Then I deal.
    this methodology has given APPROPRIATE results ….
    but in 3 out of 10 .
    Now I have concluded on tne following:
    Lynne’s answers are MORE courteous and TOLERANT
    in cases like —hit on head and make the guy get
    the message across.what is important is
    In simple words I need to be alert to smell
    my mental frame and what I need to say or do or
    understand can get lower priority in comparison.
    My views may be crude or clumsy but what else??

  2. Hello nscpani, What I am basically saying here is that having good boundaries starts with our relationship with ourselves. When we have self-respect, we automatically carry ourselves in a way that demands respect from others too. We don’t have to “protect our space,” or “draw a line” with others, when we are clear in our own minds on what works for us, and what doesn’t. When we are respectful, conscious, and attentive of our own needs, we will attract people who will be respectful, conscious and attentive towards us too – and, without our having to insist upon it from them!

    Attaining this level of self-respect means to question the limiting, unkind beliefs we carry about ourselves, to “upgrade’ our beliefs so that we can come into more inner harmony with ourselves, and so attract more harmonious relations with others.

  3. ….act according to a set of beliefs that say we respect
    AND when we act according to that…….
    PL clarify—-is it I start off straight respecting the
    person in question….
    (which is comparatively easier than )
    …..I respect myself and love myself …??

    WELL I dont want to misunderstand.

    WHICH if any is no more than passing
    whims.?? from nsc.

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