“Boundaries can be understood as processes of contact and exchange,
moments of knowing, and movement, and growth.”
Judith V. Jordan
Knowing how to set healthy boundaries is an important part of living a life where you feel honest with yourself because you are able to interact honestly with others. This isn’t a skill that comes with all of us into life. This isn’t a skill we learn in our formative years either.
We learn it, oftentimes, through experiences of pain and trauma, both emotional and physical. Because of our experiences, we learn to have boundaries. Because of our experiences, we also gain the tough challenge of doing 3 life-altering things:
- Learning to value ourselves;
- Actively creating our identity;
- Balancing the ways we share our personal space.
Often times we are expected to share our personal space without regard to personal needs because of our roles in life – such as our families, our friends, our occupations or hobbies, our roles as as parents, siblings, spouses, or relatives.
Sometimes we struggle to feel that we value who we are because we are living by rules we haven’t set. We then learn to set boundaries as ways to protect our space from intentional and unintentional assaults. This can place in us a sense of fear to continue movement in the world because we are on guard to keep our boundaries in place so that we can stay feeling safe.
However, I would suggest that there is a way to shift our perspectives and our behaviors. There is a way see our boundaries as extensions of our very selves instead of only as protections of our selves from the outside. We can see our boundaries as picket fences between neighbors.
Our boundaries are safe places we define, just as you outline where the decorative fence will go in your yard. What do we do at these fences?
- We meet people over the fence,
- We see kids climb over and under these fences with joy to connect with each other,
- We reach through fence slats to pass things to neighbors,
- We keep an eye on a friend’s yard,
- We see other people and make contact;
- We exchange expectations like greetings tossed over our shoulders as we work in the gardens of our lives,
- We share moments through our fences, like baked goods, to learn to know one another better, to connect more fully.
In this, our fences-as-boundaries do not serve only to protect us from the outside, instead they are invitations to come closer, to connect and to do so healthily on shared terms of agreement.
We see that we are able to value our needs because they are what make the core of our being as we understand it. We then have the permission to create our identities as we move within the layers of our understanding of our selves.
We share our personal spaces as we grow into our self-knowledge and as we grow outward in the direction of our environments.
Boundaries, then, do not have to serve only as places to protect us from harm. Instead they can become places where we create beauty by establishing understanding. How have you learned to use boundaries as ways to connect and contribute to your growth?
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