“I used to wish they sold boxes of boundaries at convenience stores. Now my thinking has changed. I wish they sold big boxes of learning to trust ourselves.”
As we move through the phases of lockdown many of us have found it hard to know if we are doing the right thing. This confusion is all the more intense when we discover our views differ from those around us.
We may feel unsettled to discover that a friend’s level of concern for safe social distancing is different from ours. Or that our employer does not agree with our continued need to work from home.
Throughout our lives, we will reach such points of difference between ourselves and others. These are the times that we need the skills to recognise and establish our boundaries.
“Please can you keep a safe distance”
Healthy boundaries are essential in the development of our identity and self-esteem. They are a crucial element of self-care and are the foundation of healthy relationships. They define the parameters of that which supports our well being and that which threatens it.
Without healthy boundaries, we build resentments, feel victimised and struggle to feel grateful. We become overwhelmed, hyper-vigilant, burnt out, insecure and our self-esteem is non-existent. In fact, we may have very little sense of self at all. Boundaries create safety and if we are not clear about them we may turn to avoidance or excessive rigidity to feel in control.
We may not have been taught that we have the right to our personal boundaries. We need to teach ourselves through persistent and loving practice.
The new and much-changed landscape of our social lives post lockdown will give us ample opportunity to do this. We can learn to spot when our boundaries are being pushed. Now that we are forced by circumstance to have to make choices around how we live. We may realise how unhealthy some relationships are and where our boundaries need work.
Boundaries help not only with our external relationships but also with our internal. Our frightened inner child who has come to the fore through lockdown can be helped with firm but loving boundaries. For example, understanding the need to feel safe may be an appropriate priority some days. On others, the need to connect to loved ones will need us to be courageous and push forward.
As we have had to cope with the stress, trauma and grief of Covid-19. Our needs have changed. So as we transition out of lockdown take this opportunity to establish what feels right for us now. Taking time will help to make personal decisions from a place of wisdom rather than from panic and fear.
How to practice your boundaries, post lockdown.
- Give yourself permission to have a different “right thing to do” depending on how you feel about each situation.
- Encourage open compassionate communication with your friends and family about your boundaries. Allow all voices to be heard. Validate your unique emotional needs, even if they are not the same.
- Get comfortable with difference. Boundaries help us establish the space between us and the demarcation of responsibilities.
- Remember that we cannot guarantee that others will share the desire for healthy boundaries.
- You do not have to justify your choices. Be calm, kind and clear. Remember the quote “No is a complete sentence”.
- Be clear about the consequences. If someone is unable to respect your boundary how will you take action to preserve your well being?
- Be ready to tackle triggers. Many of us find boundaries difficult as they tap into our struggle to feel worthy, our shame, guilt, vulnerability or our fear of rejection
Author: Michelle Scott
Psychotherapist & Eating Disorder Specialist MSc BSc RMHN (Reg MBACP) London & Edinburgh