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thinking about SETTING BOUNDARIES !!

I’ve been ruminating on some things today- reflecting, if you will. NOT living in the past, thank you. Don’t get it twisted.

Anyway in my ruminations (as I took Wynnifred on a mostly uneventful walk) it was brought to my attention that a lot of the self growth that I’ve had just isn’t matched by some other people in my life. Just because you’re mature, or older, or more experienced, etc etc doesn’t mean that you’ve grown in every possible way. That’s ok, by the way, it’s not an insult or anything. Just something that kind of came to my realization: that I have realized how important boundaries are for myself and my mental health, and also for the health of my relationships, but not everyone has grown the same way and come to that same conclusion.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. We all grow and evolve at different rates and in different ways. But if you haven’t prioritized setting boundaries and respecting others boundaries, I have to encourage you to start.

Boundaries are so important in so many ways; I’m in no sense an expert in it, but I have come to realize through lots of reading and learning and listening that setting boundaries (for others and for yourself) is an incredible act of self care. But where should you start?

I’ll say this first and foremost: don’t ever forget that what people say to you are suggestions; not commands. Letting a person, be it a parent, sibling, or best friend, know that you value their advice and experiences but your experiences are relevant too is incredibly important. This can be difficult, especially in parent-child relationships; it’s important to set this boundary for your own mental health, though, and also for theirs (though they may not see it that way). Communicating that their input, experience and advice is important and valued but that you’re not required to follow it like you were as a child, perhaps, is very difficult on everyone involved. Navigating that conversation with honesty and tact is a must if you want that relationship to grow and evolve, though.

It’s difficult to know when and how you should communicate your boundaries, though. A few suggestions I would make:

Be clear on setting financial boundaries regarding what you can or cannot afford. This is hard, especially when you get bad FOMO (fear of missing out) like I do, or if you have a different financial situation than other people around you. One of my uncles has a habit of asking his siblings for a *loan*- but rather than setting the boundary of “don’t ask me for that” they just keep telling him no. That’s a boundary too I guess but I do think they could probably save themselves some time lol. Setting this boundary not only keeps you from making decisions that you can’t afford (and maybe would keep you from eating next week) just because you don’t want to offend the family, but it also should keep the family from having expectations that you can’t fulfill. Given that they respect your boundaries, of course. If they don’t, though, then that’s on them at that point ya know?

Emotional boundaries are perhaps one of the most important, especially when this is a long term relationship of any kind. Years and years of supposedly well-intentioned comments from a family member can compound and become really exhausting. Adam and I were talking about some of the unsolicited comments I receive from family members, and how it has so emotionally drained and kind of traumatized me over the years that now, even a small comment from that person can set me off; he described it as me feeling like, “this again?” and frankly, that’s very accurate. This is the thing I have the most trouble setting in place and enforcing- and I think that there’s a reason for that. I’ll come back to it.

Physical boundaries, regarding your personal space and expectations for how they can respect you by respecting your space or belongings. A physical boundary I’ve set with Adam is that my things do NOT go on the floor- I don’t like floors, and I don’t want my things being chucked in the floor just because you want to move it out of the way. I think floors are dirty, unless I’ve lived there for months and have cleaned it myself multiple times (irrational? Not really) so this has been a big thing the past few weeks with our move. Or, Taylor has always been very clear that she doesn’t like being touched a whole lot. That was really difficult for me to understand at the beginning of our friendship, but thankfully now (with some long years of practice) I typically ask her “can I hug you?” and wait for her response so that 1) I’m not making her uncomfortable and 2) I’m not putting myself in a position where I get upset that she didn’t hug me back. Respecting someone else's boundaries can save you from so much emotional turmoil it’s insane.

Finally, you should set boundaries with yourself regarding people-pleasing and focus on pleasing yourself. Tell yourself no, I’m NOT going to do that just to make my mother happy. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to always give Adam the last cookie or candy or piece of bacon; if I want it, and he’s not starving to death, I can take it and not feel bad. That’s totally okay. It can even- and perhaps should always- be applied to your job as well. “This doesn’t fit with my values and is not something I’m comfortable doing”, etc etc. Even, “no, sorry, I don’t get paid enough to stick my hand in a toilet to pull out a heroin spoon. Pay me double and we’ll talk.” It’s been a rough monday ok

So as you can tell, I’ve been thinking about all of this today, and about how my family is really interesting in the way we set boundaries; there are things that are just absolutely not spoken of (like all families, but especially Appalachian in my experience), but then there are things that are *perfectly fine* to say out loud, even when they are not *perfectly fine* things to say to someone. What’s the deal with that? Why are these unsolicited opinions, that typically repeat themselves year after year after year, acceptable within the social construct of our family structure?

Furthermore, I’ve realized that this is a part of our family culture so deeply that it has definitely been passed down. I’m sure that on my mother’s side, my great grandmother was a major source of that and it became internalized amongst other family members. She wasn’t a very sweet lady lol. And from her my grandmother learned that it’s okay to give unsolicited advice to people and that they should take her word as both accurate and commandment. And from her, my mother learned that the same criticisms (however well intentioned) over and over again over the course of 26 years couldn’t possibly push someone to their breaking point /sarcasm/.

But interestingly, I truly think that it is from them that I came to believe that when someone has a boundary, whether spoken or unspoken, it’s fine to ignore it because you’re getting what you want. You’re getting to say or do what you want to, so it’s worth it right? I don’t know why Taylor is still friends with me sometimes, as many times as I imposed physical affection or emotional stress on her when she was very clear that she is not into that. But, relearning with the help of my friends has helped me see and come to respect other peoples’ boundaries. I don’t have to worry as much if Taylor is mad at me- because I RESPECT HER BOUNDARIES and don’t make her feel uncomfortable. Adam doesn’t throw my clothes in the floor when he’s going to bed- because HE RESPECTS MY BOUNDARIES. My parents and even my favorite aunt have shut down questions being asked of me from well-meaning (but out of line) family members and family friends- BECAUSE THEY RESPECTED MY BOUNDARIES and knew those questions were upsetting for me. That’s why boundaries are important, and I want y’all to see that- they’re mutually beneficial. And, when you get used to them being there, you can really learn to 1) maybe enjoy them and 2) not fucking care that you don’t have access to 100% of another human’s bandwidth because it’s not yours in the first place.

I hope that this post, and the resources I’m going to link below, might help you see the importance of respecting others' boundaries and setting them for yourself.

PS normalize not caring what other people do with their bodies and lives as long as it doesn’t detrimentally affect another being thank you <3

Also, TikTok is full of people talking about/normalizing setting boundaries. Highly recommend!

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