Are You Respecting Your Boundaries?

Respecting boundaries is a subject that has been rotating around various conversations lately and it’s caused me to think about what my boundaries are and how I go about communicating them.

When I think about the heartbreak and the attack, I think about the boundaries that I stated and communicated, and those that I didn’t. Ultimately we’re all in control of our own boundaries and by stating them we set the benchmark for how we allow others to treat us. In one of these instances I didn’t communicate my boundaries and when I allowed them to be overstepped I got frustrated and angry because I felt so vulnerable. In the other instance, I fiercely communicated my boundaries which weren’t respected and this literally ended up in a violent fight to protect them. When experiencing PTSD there seems to be a fear within me that I can’t control my boundaries and that they will get overstepped again. I especially feel this when there is the possibility that I might be in a vulnerable situation, particularly at moments when I have the potential to be intimate. What’s interesting is that because of the fear of boundaries being overstepped I feel a huge compulsion rise within me to protect myself and sometimes in a very fierce manner. This very action stops me from getting into situations where I can exercise my vulnerability and practice establishing new boundaries, leaving me in a catch 22 PTSD spiral. The reality here is that I control my boundaries and I have protected them before so there’s no reason to worry that they could be overstepped because the choice to allow that to happen always lies within my control.

I’ve received this lesson on boundaries on both ends in the last year and I even remember a friend shouting at me during an argument about it…

“But no one can say no to you Shereen” she screamed, when I asked why she let me stay at her house which was actually an inconvenience to her, rather than just saying no. This overstepping of boundaries led to a build up of resentment in the friendship which later destroyed it all together. What I’ve realised since is that we live in a society where difficult things aren’t talked about and people don’t like to say their truth, instead, we’re somehow encouraged to pretend like everything is ok even when we actually feel taken advantage of. This lack of communication leads to people being in situations that they don’t want to be in, situations where they’re not being authentic to themselves. Well, I’m going to be blunt here – if you’re not going to state and communicate your own boundaries then how can you expect others to know what they are? The human race hasn’t evolved to be telepathic yet so if you’re not using the communication tools you’ve been given then you can’t expect people to know what you want.

The other side of this is that women especially are encouraged not to speak out, as though to do so is some kind of shameful activity. I’ve faced this all my life when I’ve been told that I’m bossy when in reality I’m assertive and make things happen. Or that I’m too direct when I speak up against immoral actions of others, this isn’t being too direct, it’s having integrity. Another is when I call out sleazy guys who are making me or other women feel uncomfortable by their undesired advances. That one is usually delivered as overreacting when in reality I’m communicating boundaries.

Whilst I’m getting used to stating my boundaries, I know that my strength in character can push others boundaries and the statement that was shouted at me by my friend last year gave me an insight into the friends I’d surrounded myself with – some who allowed me to overstep their boundaries and then held resentment in our friendship against me and some who have the courage to stand up to me and point when I’m overstepping the mark. After the traumas, an intense light got shone on these friendships and it made me think what kind of people I want in my life. The thing is that when such emotionally intense things happen it can be difficult to see the wood from the trees and it’s more important than ever to have friends with the inner strength to say “Hold on a minute friend, you’re out of line there”, and without these friends I might have been even more reactive to the traumatic situations I’ve been through. These people are my signposts in life who steer me away from destructive situations when I’m clouded by my emotions, the ones who teach the lessons even if they’re hard to hear and ultimately keep me on the path of continuous self-improvement – isn’t that what true friendship is about? Thank you to all my ‘signposts’, you know who are you and I love you completely for being your strong authentic selves.

The shocking thing is that by acting this way I know we’re in the minority and worse of all that makes us look like trouble makers, but I’m done with feeling guilty for speaking my authentic truth and my horoscope this month even backs me up.

“You would be wise to pause and consider the possibility that people are intimidated by you. There continues to be an alignment of slow-moving, deep, and evocative planets in your sign. One response people might have to you is that things get real fast when you’re in the room. This is not your problem; don’t take it on. It’s been a long time since people in Western civilization have been this frightened of their shadow.” .

Touche Eric! Not my problem at all so I’m dropping the shame around this and I’m stepping into who I really am – assertive, integral and with the courage to stand by my morals and I implore others to this too especially when it comes to setting boundaries.

So I leave you with this. What are you boundaries and are you communicating them? If not, why not? What would happen if you did? I’ve found that for me this has led to deeper more understanding relationships, even if there were a few sticky parts along the way.

In the end, it’s always worth it.

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