I was mid-way through my thirties and neck-deep in dysfunctional relating when I finally got the memo: Boundaries are an act of love.
All those years, I thought love meant giving no matter what the cost. I thought boundaries were about division and defenses. Drawing lines in the sand. Me versus you. You versus me.
I had no clue.
But I did learn.
I learned that my take-it-until-you-can’t-anymore approach to boundaries was a disservice to everyone involved. It wasn’t honest. And it definitely wasn’t loving. Are people supposed to read our minds while our lips are sealed as we just keep on keeping on? Where’s the integrity in that? How can we expect someone else to treat us well when we don’t? And if we don’t even let them know what treating us well looks like?
I learned that love tells the truth. My truth. And lives it, from the inside out. I learned that boundaries aren’t something we create, but something we acknowledge. I learned that my body has a lot to say about what is and isn’t acceptable for me, and it’s well worth listening. Having healthy boundaries is about recognizing what’s true for us, and living it.
I learned that boundaries are a matter of self-care. They aren’t static lines in the sand, but a practice. A practice in taking care of oneself. Taking responsibility for oneself. Not expecting someone else to do this essential thing that is MY job: taking good care of myself.
I learned that respecting and taking good care of myself is an act of love. Simple, yet radical kindness–both for me and for the other person. I learned that the better I take care of myself, the more fully I love others. I learned that sharing my boundaries feels clear and empowering. And it gets easier. Eventually, effortless.
Most importantly, I learned that boundaries aren’t about the other person. Ever.
Boundaries aren’t about getting someone else to do something. Or stop doing something.
If the boundaries we’re drawing are an attempt to get someone else to change, they’re destined to fail. In fact, they already have.
Because boundaries are about us. Internally, boundaries are what is and isn’t acceptable for us. Externally, boundaries are what we will or won’t do. Having healthy boundaries is a matter of communicating what we know on the inside and following up with action on the outside.
Boundaries come down to this: We teach others how to treat us.
|What Boundaries Aren’t:||What Boundaries Are:|
|about the other person||about you|
|about getting someone else to do/not do something||about what you will/won’t do|
|a static line||a practice|
|a method of defense||a matter of truth-telling|
|an act of opposition||an act of love|