Boundaries is one of those buzzwords that you hear a lot about. Relationships are supposed to have them, it’s hard to set them sometimes. I think there’s a lot of confusion about what a boundary is, so I wanted to talk about that. My favorite definition of a boundary is this:
[A boundary is] the distance from which you can love yourself and someone else at the same time.
It’s a little different than the way we think of them. We tend to think of them as like: “You need to stay there.” Yes, it is [that], but the foundation of [a boundary is] a loving thing. Setting a boundary [is saying] “If you’re there and I’m here, we’re good.” Right? That’s what a boundary is.
Now a barrier is saying “You stay there,” and it feels like a push away. It feels like “I’m not gonna let you in, we cannot be close.” Now, sometimes those are appropriate. Sometimes if a certain dynamic is someone constantly challenging a boundary, or someone who has their own mental health issues, or their own stuff going on, yes, sometimes you do need to set a barrier, which can be very painful. Often barriers are more absolute. It may look like not having contact, or only having contact in a certain way, and that’s hard, and sometimes the only option, sadly. But a boundary is an act of love. Saying, “OK, if you’re there and I’m here, we’re good.”
Setting boundaries, maintaining boundaries, negotiating boundaries, and changing boundaries is something that we are all constantly doing, and it can be really difficult because it isn’t a black and white, all in, all out. Sometimes, especially during Covid, boundaries need to be negotiated and adjusted because of certain circumstances that we normally wouldn’t find ourselves under.
If you are looking to work on boundaries in your life and start to really lovingly setting them so that you can love yourself and other people at the same time, I’d love to hear from you. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a therapist, and you can schedule a free consultation right on my website. I look forward to hearing from you.
Laurel Therapy Collective
offers online therapy to California residents for anxiety, transitions, and trauma.