Boundaries are about love–this is something to take care not to overlook, especially for those people who know that their version of boundaries has been to put up an ice wall tough enough to withstand global warming. The conversation about boundaries often circles around either being overly-boundaried or under-boundaried, with nary a point in between (i.e., you’re either a raving cold bitch or a complete pushover–both two-dimensional images that are routinely used as female archetypes in the media).

But boundaries are about love–expressing love for all parties involved. Clarifying and then holding to your own boundaries is about love of self and love of being in relationship with others.

 

Boundaries & Values

In many ways, this concept of “boundaries” could really be interchanged with talking about “values.” How do we define, and then live, and then hold on to, our personal values in this diverse world? And–how do we do that, while not treading all over someone else’s values?

And on top of that, how do we allow time and experience to change us, so that we can have a flowing experience of life, rather than one where we say “These are my values (boundaries) and that’s it! I will not bend them! I will not break them! This is who I am!

–Because I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be open to the possibility that values (boundaries) can shift and change with wisdom and experience, or that I will discover deeper levels of values (boundaries) within me, or that I will decide that certain things are not really values (boundaries) and will be able to release them, rather than clinging to them.

One (common!) reaction to the complex questions that come up is to be come value-less (or boundary-less)–to become like a sponge, soaking up the values of whomever is around. Brene Brown calls this the difference between “fitting in” and “belonging.” We can “fit in” with whatever group is around us, but “belonging” is about being who we are (maintaining our own values/boundaries) and simultaneously staying connected.

This is not solely the territory of the prototypical “people-pleaser.” The people who yell the loudest are often the ones who are most afraid to express what’s truly in their hearts.

So, in essence: the idea here is that when boundaries are properly in place, they create love. They create safety. They create permission for everyone to show up as they truly are, with belonging rather than shape-shifting their values/boundaries to “fit in.”

 

Boundaries, Simplified

So, given that:

  • the questions are sort of complex, and–
  • we’re talking about a shifting terrain (what works for you during one decade of your life might be unworkable during another), and–
  • the goal is to have boundaries that, paradoxically, create connection…

…what unifies that?

Well, people, I can’t say what “the” answer is for everyone. I can share that this question has worked pretty beautifully in my life:

“What would love do?”
Until I started asking that question, I was pretty hung up on what exactly it would look like to have the sort of boundaries that offer an opportunity to connect, rather than to isolate.

In this piece, I talked about three examples: people at work deciding to have the experience of you as arrogant; your in-laws choosing to have the experience of judgment with you; people at a party choosing to have the experience of you as socially awkward.

“What would love do?”

If we were asking this question in the workplace, love would be interested in open-hearted conversations with employees who were seen as arrogant. Love would reciprocate by being open to the feedback, seeing where common ground could be found.

If we were asking this question with in-laws, love would be interested in expressing needs and wants rather than judgements. Love would reciprocate by being open to hearing requests, not making people wrong for making requests, and seeing where common ground could be found.

If we were asking this question with bad jokes made at parties, love would be not be interested in condemnation of the person who made the bad joke. Love would reciprocate by making amends as necessary, and dropping self-condemnation, in the interests of seeing where new, jovial, party-like common ground could be found.

 

I guess what I’m really getting at is…

…that when we choose to create our lives in service to love, it’s not some high-flying, mushy-gushy, fruity-tooty, New Age, purple-light, Barney the dinosaur, happy-happy joy-joy, bullshit.

It’s just not.

Love is courageous. Love requires power, and speaking your truth, and asking the hard questions, and making mistakes and being willing to own that and come back to center. Love is open to the possibility of miracles–any time, any where, and under any circumstances, even those that seem most unlikely.

The word “boundaries” can conjure up images of a fortress, of blocking, of isolation, of separation.

That might be the image, but only the individual will choose to experience them in that way.

Personally, I’d like to choose something else for myself, and perhaps you want to, as well: I want to choose my experience of everything through the lens of love, and all of the courage and power and truth and everything else that that entails.

That’s what I work on, every day. How I use my boundaries is just another expression of that. How about you?

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