Dealing with sociopsychological intruders.
Boundaries. We Hate them, love them, know them, ignore them, violate them and struggle with them. Whether you understand them or not, we all have them. Boundaries are a bunch of behaviors, acts or limitations that our mental resources closely regulate. Violation of these boundaries causes intense emotional discomfort and bring about feelings such as shame, guilt, overexposure and lack of privacy etc. Lack of boundaries can be a cause for a built up in resentment and other negative, perpetual feelings that can jeopardize social relationships. Boundaries are determined by our sociocultural environment, upbringing, our unique personal experiences and personality traits. It’s important to be up front about these as they are strongly linked to our sense of self and worth.
Every too often, as a result of many psychosocial systems, despite having identified our boundaries, we allow the overstepping of our boundaries we struggle to assert them and tend to adjust them in forced, uncomfortable situations, especially those that involve unsaid social conventions when often, we are shamed letting others intrude upon our personal space. We’re often stuck with answering uncomfortable questions, allowing unwarranted touch, entertaining unannounced guests or phone/video calls for whatever reasons. We maybe uncomfortable, busy or just not in the frame of mind to tend to these. Asserting boundaries in these situations gets especially difficult as it is easy to get labeled as rude, arrogant or “stuck up” when you attempt prevent people from overstepping.
While it is not a healthy thing to allow this overstepping and intrusiveness in exchange for social acceptability, it is also important to find a balance between asserting our boundaries and giving them space to evolve with changing circumstances. It is of course not feasible to be rigid with your boundaries as that may hinder our growth and hurt relationships. However, there are some bounds, unique to every individual, that cannot be crossed. It is indeed not possible, or safe to open up to anyone and everyone, based on our comfort level and relationships with people. These bounds may be of sexual consent and/or touch in general, willingness to share personal information, privacy and personal space, sensitive topics, extent of comfort and involvement of different people in decision making etc.
The first step towards having healthy boundaries is to identifying what they are and list down your values. We all have an idea of things that are acceptable or not acceptable. Things we are comfortable with and things we absolutely won’t tolerate. Recognizing these aspects will help you understand yourself better in terms of what works for you and what doesn’t.
Surround yourself with people who share your values. This makes it easier for others to honor your boundaries and you, theirs. Assertiveness is a crucial trait here. It doesn’t always come naturally to some but can be cultivated. It is normal to feel guilty about saying ‘no’ but the goal is to move past that feeling when you feel you’ve been pushed too far beyond what’s okay for you, asked for too much or taken advantage of. Remember, it’s okay to say no without a reason. Assert boundaries for receiving calls by specifying timings or appropriate notices. Do not let people force you into conversations you don’t want to have, whether you’re busy, or just not up to it.
Use ‘I feel’ and ‘I need’ statements. Your boundaries are about you and your feelings and not a reflection of your love or respect towards someone. Creating boundaries doesn’t is not disrespectful to someone. Communicate about what bothers you without blaming others and talk about your expectations in terms of boundaries.
Create and safeguard private spaces. This includes having alone time, personal journals, closets, drawers, gadgets and social media accounts. Be clear about not letting others into these spaces. Many people are comfortable with giving others access to these. However, be clear about who and the extent to which they can have access.
Keep lines of communication open to cultivate mutual respect and understanding for each others boundaries.
It’s good to keep updating and reassessing boundaries. Boundaries cannot be set in stone and are not to isolate yourself from others, rather, they are the foundation of healthy relarionships of all kinds. Also, different relationships may require different sets of boundaries.
While setting boundaries for ourselves, it’s only fair to encourage others to set boundaries for themselves. Learn to respect others’ boundaries too! Ask before venting, touching, giving advice or inserting yourself in situations. Learn to take no for an answer, gracefully without taking it as a personal rejection or making it a part of your insecurities and argumentsIf your relationships allows safe spaces for negative emotions, it can cultivate comfort, trust and intimacy. Remember, ‘no’ is also a valid expression that needs should be respected. Just how you should say no, others can too. Boundaries needn’t be equal either. What may be okay for you, might not be okay for someone else and vice versa but that’s it perfectly normal. It doesn’t translate to unequal contribution of emotional labour to the relationships and shouldn’t be weaponized in arguments. Make and honour safe words without conditions. Do not intrude upon their personal spaces by going through their drawers or journals without reasonable cause or insist upon having access to their belongings on the pretext of generating trust. Privacy is essential in all kinds of relationships. If you are not reasonably close to someone, refrain from getting personal and stick to safe topics. There will always be people who won’t be reciprocate and be up- close and comfortable about intimate things with you and that’s alright. Do not force others to open up to you.
When we set and respect boundaries, it helps us manage our emotions in relationships better and helps us express our feelings in a healthier manner. Remember that not everyone has the mental space or capacity to deal with you so always keep in touch with a mental health professional and suggest the same to your loved ones!