Boundaries. We want them. We want other people to respect them. That’s not realistic. Wait, what? Other people don’t respect your boundaries? Nope. Boundaries you set are not for other people, they are for you. Hard to believe? Think about this: you make up the boundaries in your head. You decide what you will do and what you won’t do. That makes them yours.
No one knows about your boundaries. When someone asks you to do something that crosses a boundary,
they don’t know. If you say “no,” it is perfectly natural for them to try to persuade you, to overcome your objections. It’s a basic sales tactic to overcome your objections. And people, particularly your friends, are good at it. Because they want you to make an exception for them.
Boundaries remind you what you want to limit in your life. Maybe it’s certain foods. Maybe it’s helping someone until you are doing their work for them. Maybe it’s taking on one more obligation that you can’t afford to manage. Your boundaries are for you. You have to patrol them, you have to enforce them. You cannot expect other people to suddenly respect them, particularly if those boundaries are new in the relationship.
Do not expect someone to hear a boundary of yours and say, “Of course, I will respect that.” Even if they should say that, expect the next word out of their mouth to be, “but. . . ” followed by a boundary violation, an exception, because you are their friend. You are also your own friend. And your own best friend.
No sense getting angry, simply reinforce you boundary to yourself. When I discovered I was diabetic, I had a lot of problems with friends who knew that I would always eat dessert, always agree to fries, and celebrate with a glass of red wine. When I abruptly quit that behavior, my friends were not happy. “You did this before,” was followed by “C’mon, just this once!”, and “You have to treat yourself sometime.”
This made me angry at first, before I realized this was my boundary, and a new one at that, and my boundary was making my friends change. They didn’t want to change, and by extension, they did not want me to change, either. So they pressured me. That wasn’t evil of them. It was my job to enforce my boundaries. I was the diabetic. My boundaries. My life.
Is enforcing your own boundary easy? No. Do you have to be strong? Very. Do you have to come up with convincing arguments for your friends and family? No. You do not have to get them to agree to your boundaries, you just have to enforce them for you.
There you go. Stick to your boundaries. They help you and you will learn to love them. They don’t keep you locked up, they help you filter what keeps you company. Enjoy that.
—Quinn McDonald has her own boundaries to patrol.