A boundary is a real or imagined line that marks the edge or limit of something. The Ural mountains for example mark the boundary between Europe and Asia. But what are personal boundaries? And how do we protect them?
This is a big one! Most people don’t find it easy to set their boundaries. And here is why: we don’t know them! A classic example is work. Everybody who has experienced a burnout has clearly ignored their boundaries. By far. But where exactly was the boundary?
We are so preoccupied with how things are supposed to be that we are often not aware when something becomes too much. What is the amount of work, the amount of stress, the amount of criticism or the amount of noise that we are able to experience without harm? Or, at a physical level: what distance still feels safe and when does it start feeling invasive?
Saying STOP is not easy. But it is necessary. It’s not your boss’s responsibility to respect your boundaries. It is yours to SET them for yourself and others. Boundaries are very individual, they are not the same for everybody. For example, what still feels like exciting time pressure to one, is too much stress for another person. What is still a good distance for you, might feel invasive for me. You can’t know where my boundaries lie. And you are not supposed to. But I can. When I pay attention to when and where it starts feeling awkward…
A sign that a boundary is crossed is when:
- You have a bitter taste in your mouth after having said yes.
- You continue making love, although it doesn’t feel good anymore. Intimacy is a great example: if you think you have never gone over your boundaries, have a look at your sexual life!
- You continue pushing your exhausted body or mind.
Notice where it starts feeling wrong. And take the courage to say STOP.