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The Right to Boundary

Owning YOU

What are your rights in interpersonal and professional relationships? Have you ever stopped to think about those rights? Most of us have not. Only when we get really steamed do we even consider that someone may have trampled on our rights. But we have rights. We have rights all the time.

One of our most basic rights is the right to own our boundaries. The problem is that most of us don’t really understand boundaries. We think that they have something to do with making other people do what we want them to do. So, if you are making me angry, then I should be able to make you stop making me angry. If I can do that I have good boundaries. No.

Boundaries don’t have anything to do with making someone else do anything. Boundaries have to do with ownership. My ownership. My ownership of my own person, my own choices, my own power to speak, power to do, power to be. It looks like this.

Suppose that you are my friend. And let’s suppose that you make sarcastic (passive-aggressive) comments about me and to me fairly commonly. My boundaries would not tell me that I have the power to make you stop. Rather my boundaries tell me that I can choose with whom I spend my time, how much time, and the quality of that time. So, I may ask you to stop making those kinds of comments, pointing out to you exactly what I mean and explaining how those comments make me feel. But my boundaries know where I stop and you begin—so they will allow you the choice as to whether or not you will comply with my wishes. If you do, our friendship may blossom as a result of new behaviors and intentions inserted into it. If you do not, then I have a choice with regard to how much time, if any, I spend with you.

Friends and Family Company
Source: Friends and Family Company

Boundaries mean that I have the right to what is actually mine. They do not mean that I have the right to what is yours. Boundaries mean that I can take of my own prerogative, I can take of my own power, I can take of my own assertiveness, self-love, emotional needs, and vulnerability and make use of each of these to take care of myself. What you do? Well, that’s up to you. And my boundaries, which contain all that is me and nothing that is you, not only have the power to keep you out if needed, but they also have the power to keep me in. In other words, my boundaries give me full unadulterated power over me and my life, by keeping me inside me. None of me floods out over my boundaries to try to control you. All of me is used only for my own empowerment.

The problem is that most of us have not been taught the appropriate use of boundaries. Therefore, we do not activate our right to use them. Instead we feel guilty for even thinking about asserting a boundary. We feel selfish and uncaring for telling a friend that it hurts us when she makes sarcastic (passive-aggressive ) comments to us, or about us. Not only do we feels selfish and uncaring, but we feel afraid—afraid that she will stop liking us.

Therefore, we have been taught that we should tolerate all kinds of maltreatment just to maintain a friendship or relationship. Mostly we have come to believe that living into the lie of an image is safer and better than living into who we actually are. But we have the right to our own feelings, thought and behaviors. We have the right to assert those feelings and thoughts and to behave in whatever way is the most authentic to us.

In fact most of the dysfunctional inter-dynamics of relationship are based on the fact that one or both people in this relationship is not being authentic—therefore, not asserting boundaries. Neither person knows where he stops and the other begins. Neither is willing to be honest with the other about that. Indeed, healing in any relationship begins with the kind of honesty that defines the assertion of a boundary.

You have a right to your boundaries. Owning them will not only make you more authentic, but it will enhance those relationships that are real, and rid you of those that are dysfunctional, even damaging.

More from Andrea Mathews LPC, NCC
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