Boundaries are a necessary part of well-being. They are also slippery little devils that are at risk of eroding with the pounding of each “wave” of life. Most of us, and I include myself in this, have a difficult time defending our boundaries without feeling like we’ve failed at something (or failed someone). It can be excruciating.
Boundaries are commitments we make that ensure we do not infringe on the well-being of others, or our self. Simple enough. Enter trade-offs. Trade-offs are those mitigating circumstances we accommodate to keep the peace (with others or within ourselves). As an example, I’ll sacrifice my yoga class to watch my son’s hockey practice because it’s important to him that I be there. However, I’ll sacrifice kiddo’s hockey practice to an urgent deadline at work to meet a client’s needs. So on, and so forth.
Trade-off’s present themselves as the little lies we tell ourselves when confronted with competing demands. They sound like this: “It’s just this Wednesday, the rest of the month I can get to that yoga class.” “It’s just this one hockey practice, I won’t have urgent deadlines like this all the time…” Boundaries are the 10,000-foot view, something that is good when looked at as part of the “big picture”, but difficult to practice once you get into the muck of life.
It’s important to pay attention to these rationalizations, because here is the thing; if that yoga class were so important to me, I would find the time. I find/hold the time needed to get to my son’s hockey. Notice the pattern? If it is important to someone else, I’ll be there, so if I am paying attention, the element of sharing an experience with someone is what compels me to commit (and re-commit) to an established boundary.
Seeing this pattern is key to understanding my own motivations for keeping boundaries in place. I trade things off all the time, why? Why do I let work-time over-ride family-time? What does it give me when I flex that boundary? What does it take away from me (and others)? These are very important questions to consider, and a source of rich information. Are you flexing boundaries out of love or out of fear?
It is also the act of re-commitment that keeps healthy boundaries in place, because there will always be circumstances where we need to flex a boundary (especially the ones on our time). What boundaries do you have that are well established and working for you? Which ones get eroded? Check in. You may find the motivation you need to get a healthy boundary working for you more consistently.