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Boundaries Is Not A Four Letter Word

Shannon Thomas LCSW-S
By Shannon Thomas LCSW-S |Southlake, TX

Our culture has taught us that only rude people set boundaries or perhaps they are only for people who have spent a lot of time in counseling. We have this belief that in order to be a person who implements boundaries, we must do so in some melodramatic or forceful way. We think that people who set boundaries are those that step up on a soapbox, pull out their mega-phone and announce “Hello everyone, please pay attention because I am now about to set a boundary! Thank you for observing this act of defiance.”

On the contrary, setting limits with other people’s behaviors is best done when it’s not shouted through a loud speaker, but rather quietly and yet firmly implemented.

Boundaries can be unspoken and steadfast
We don’t have to be aggressive or dominating when we decide to limit the impact that someone’s toxic, or just unwanted behaviors, are having on us. Sometimes we need to simply limit our own role in the chaos and as they say: back away, back away. I am sure we all have had “that” friend who likes to stir up conflict with the people around them. Rather than openly confront the dysfunction, perhaps we quietly put some distance between ourselves and the trouble-starter. Sometimes speaking up is needed but other times it only makes the situation much worse.

I wish I had the boundary skill perfected many years ago. It took me a while to learn the art of the quiet boundary and I was a little more like a soapbox mega-phone shouter. If I had known what I know now, I would definitely have done some relationships differently. One in particular comes to mind and rather than making changes behind the scenes, I chose to openly confront someone who I already knew ahead of time didn’t have the communication skills to handle outward conflict. I was honest with the person about my experiences and the friendship promptly went downhill from there. Now, in my wiser older age, I would not speak up to this person but instead adjust my actions so that my boundaries would still be implemented. Instead of me quietly making changes, the friendship fizzled and was never restored. I had good intentions by trying to clear the air, but because of mistakes in my approach and the other person’s lack of communication skills, it all fell apart. See how unspoken boundaries are sometimes the best approach? We can still achieve what we are looking for and maybe limit some relationship drama in our lives.

A boundary isn’t withholding forgiveness
Setting boundaries can be difficult if we internally worry that we are remaining resentful by setting a boundary. We may even have been told that true forgiveness means having a full restoration in the relationship. Boundaries have nothing to do with forgiveness or resentment but everything to do with the quality of our interactions with other people. We can forgive someone and still not want to be around them or be exposed to their dysfunction. Forgiveness isn’t about returning to the scene of the crime again and again so we can be re-harmed. Forgiveness is something that takes place within ourselves and leads us to a place of peace with our past or present hurts. Boundaries help put an end to or limit the exposure we have to behaviors that don’t work for us.

We have a right to decide who and what we allow into our daily lives. We are the stewards of our time and energy. Some people just don’t need to have access to us or they need guardrails on their interactions. Boundaries help set the tone for what we find acceptable and what we are not willing to tolerate. We have the right to make that choice.

What boundary or boundaries would be good and healthy for you to start implementing? My suggestion is to write it down and remind yourself of your desire to make your life as healthy as possible. Some people may not like your boundaries and guess what? Those are probably the exact same people who need the boundary the most. Ironic, right?

I wish you all the best in making your life as healthy and peaceful as you desire.

Shannon Thomas LCSW-S
Shannon Thomas LCSW-S |Southlake, TX
I really, truly, authentically understand the need to be an over-comer in life. Life has thrown some interesting twists and turns along my path. I strongly believe in the power of living to our fullest potential, having the ability to pull our big girl panties up and keep moving forward. Doing so in a positive direction is so critical. In a nutshell, I have had to become almost an entirely different person since my teen and twenty years. It includes overcoming debilitating panic attacks to go on to become a licensed therapist who mentors younger therapists. It includes dropping out of high school to eventually earn my Master’s Degree at the age of 34. It also includes losing over 125 lbs. No matter where we might find ourselves in life, we can make slow steady changes that will add up and get us pointed in a new healthier direction in life. I am married with one son and has two very spoiled dog-children. I am actively involved in a local dog rescue group that works to keep adoptable dogs from being killed while in shelters. I love hot yoga and running. I believe in regular exercise is a huge key to finding happiness in life.
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  • Johnny Rivera

    I really needed to read this article. What a blessing! My abusive family “decided” on its own that it was time to forgive and forget past offenses. No one asked me how I felt about it. I told my father and his daughters that all was forgiven but I wasn’t ready to pull down the barriers between us. I wasn’t convinced they were sincere. And they weren’t.

    Instead of respecting my boundaries, they feigned injury. This new hurt was detrimental to their “forgiveness tour.” Therefore it was my fault that my family isn’t whole. *I* won’t forgive. Since I won’t play by their rules, *I* am the baddie. And all I am doing is limiting their destructive presence in my life.

    I needed to say that internally. Thanks, Shannon. 🙂

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