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 mind set 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.
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 treat ourselves.
Even our abusers and boundary-violaters are messengers 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.
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.
Lynne Forest, via e-mail.