Setting Boundaries Around the Wants and Needs of Others
Growing up did your parents make you stay in your own yard to play? My Mom did. I always thought it was just because she didn’t want me to have fun. There were lots of things to explore across the street where the neighbor had cows and chickens and an old barn. I often felt like I was missing out on something. But over the years I realized how smart that rule was.
As we mentioned in Part 1 of this series, anxiety is decreased when we live authentically - and part of an authentic life is establishing a continuum of control and responsibility for ourselves and others. When we assume responsibility for decisions and choices that are totally within our control, we feel empowered to make plans and meet our goals. Our success is not dependent on the performance of others. But assuming responsibility for others when you don’ really have control over their actions sets us up to feel powerless and unsafe. We can’t make people live healthy lives, parent the way we want them to, or make good financial decisions. When you spend a lot of time in other people’s lives the line can blur between what’s your business and what’s someone else’s. And when that’s combined with other life events, the idea of setting boundaries and saying “no” can be really hard. On the flip side of that, taking someone’s “no” and accepting the boundaries of others can get a little difficult as well. Worry and second-guessing ensue and add anxiety to your life when you are waiting on someone else to do what you think they need to do. This often leaves you frustrated, sad, or paralyzed in relationships.
So how do you know when you’re playing in somebody else’s yard or when they are playing in yours?
Respect the “no” of others. When you say “no” do others ignore the boundary? Do you sometimes ignore the boundaries of others? Think of “no” as a closed door. We wouldn’t enter someone’s space if there was a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. If your boundary is crossed, reinforce your “no” as nonnegotiable. Lock the door. Be consistent and establish consequences. Expect others to respect this boundary and watch for ways you may be intruding on the “No” of someone else.
Allow others to ask for help. Is there someone who consistently anticipates what you need and tries to meet it before you ask? Are they pushy or do you feel bullied by the intrusion? Think of it as waking up on Saturday morning and your neighbor is cutting your grass. He just felt like it was time to cut it and you didn’t do it fast enough! Someone with unhealthy boundaries feels entitled to play in your yard in life. Do you tend to “run over” people you do life with? Do you ignore the push back at times? Be aware that healthy boundaries respect the rights of others to make their own choices in their own time and in their own way.
So, protect your yard with healthy boundaries and respect the boundaries of your neighbor. See how much time it frees up in your schedule when you play in your own yard and help your neighbors do the same. When tension and worry of unhealthy boundaries is replaced with appropriate care and concern for self and others, anxiety is reduced and there is more time to schedule the things that help you grow and improve. Do a little yard maintenance today.