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While one needs to know when and where to have boundaries, people also need to understand their importance. Here are a few reasons why it is necessary!
“When you develop too many co-dependencies, you lose boundaries. Having boundaries is both better for you and the people you interact with. See, people don’t want to walk all over you, but if you create a dynamic that allows for it, most people can’t help themselves. It’s human nature.”
A popular writer on Medium, Ayodeji Awosika wrote this recently and I couldn’t help but think how close to home it feels. My mind has been occupied with the thoughts of cleansing my life for long.
Negative thoughts are not the only problem here. It’s what caused the negativeness to come in – like a rude person entering your bedroom without knocking (in my case, my new office and the many ‘friends’ who spot me and come rushing inside without realising it’s my workplace). Having tonnes of people who do not understand boundaries is like getting an STD – easy to allow in, extremely hard to throw out.
As someone in her late 20s, I had anticipated a shrink in the friend circle and an increasing amount of self-dependency. Of late, it’s not how the world works that bothers much, but what years of allowing random people in my life has done to me and my mental health. Getting rid of such people is harder than I thought.
Making space for everyone in your life is never the right thing to do, even if you are dealing with unprecedented loneliness. These random people might seem harmless, but over time, they can play havoc with you. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Hence, we gotta be choosy. As much as we can.
This problem persists to a large degree in traditionally conservative cultures like that of India where you have to be the ‘good boy/girl’ who helps everyone.
Where saying ‘No’ is next to blasphemy. And if you are a woman, being meek and submissive is your way to go. Nodding your head in agreement, giving favours to people because they were once your high school mates, paying for them out of love are things kids are taught. No?? I wish it were that easy.
“This isn’t about being cold. It’s about having self-respect. If you create a situation where nothing the people in your life can do would cause you to leave, you’re a doormat. And you will get walked over.”
I have thought a lot about it. And while discussing it with a friend, I realised it all stemmed from my desire to compensate for what I had lost. When you lose friends you considered close; or when things don’t go as planned with them; when jobs and moving cities causes people to change in some ways, it takes time to adjust.
It’s like a rebound relationship which exists only to compensate for who was gone. At your most vulnerable self, you make the silliest of mistakes. I did too. I had lost a few friends and I wanted to compensate for their absence. Alcohol does not help. People do. But, the right kind of people.
I did find the right kind of people. Two, to be precise. But, in the process, I allowed many to enter. Without checking on what they were doing to me.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Nor do such people intend on hurting you. But, as I saw in the case of my mother too, if people can take advantage of you, they will. That’s how we are! Not every Tom, Dick and Harry you went to school with is your friend.
I had often heard about being honest and vulnerable and allowing yourself to trust people. Easier said than done, of course. Nevertheless, the ones who say that the more closed off you are, the more vampires you attract, are right.
The more trust issues you have, the more sharks you will attract. Or the more we struggle with hiding our vulnerabilities, the more vulnerable we become. Finding that right person to talk to, open up with, express, and trust is hard and a daunting battle. However, there’s no other way around it.
“When you’re uncompromising about the principles you live by, that’s when you’ll attract everything you want into your life, including the right people.”
Having boundaries is extremely important. Boundaries, not walls. What is acceptable to you and what is not, determines your interaction. Also, conveying what is bothersome to you clearly forms an important aspect of your relationships.
At different points in my life, I used to get bothered by so many things that were done to me or the way a few people chose to speak to me. Yet, never have I ever told them then and there how I felt about their behaviour, their choice of words, their insensitive attitude, callousness and apathy towards someone who they manipulated into being called their ‘friend’. Happens in families too. A common bloodline does not mean people can’t be toxic.
In retrospect, I feel a lot of things I am resentful about or that contribute to my impending rage are all a result of my lack of boundaries. Allowing people to enter my life while I stood like a perfect doormat.
The thing is, if you do not have boundaries, you will ultimately build walls in a bid to keep yourself safe. But hey, you attract who you are, not what you want.
Building walls is a clarion call to wrong-doers who understand neither boundaries nor walls and hence, will come barging in. The more you shield yourself, the more your vulnerabilities show.
It’s not easy cleaning such toxicity. You will upset a hell of a lot of people. And you will be the bad guy. The same ‘friends’ who once ate out of your pocket will call you arrogant. I remember I did too. No matter what, it is important. And since you are not used to it, you might feel horribly out of place. More anxious. Even more incompetent. Lonelier.
But then again, we all respect people who have boundaries. Who call others out on their BS, even on the smallest of things. I had a colleague who would drink out of my water bottle the entire day everyday. Then, I’d have no water if I had to go out to interview someone. I never said anything, out of politeness, even when the water filter was right behind his seat.
It took me one horrible day to release my pent up anger and burst. He stopped but not before feeling offended and complaining to the manager behind my back about my rudeness. I and many people with no boundaries get trapped in such situations. And it affects our mental health. To a great degree.
Jesus said “Do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to yourself.” Similarly, if you can’t help but mistreat someone who is a doormat, aren’t others gonna do the same if you are one? Time to change, right? Even though the change is hard. Very hard.
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: Pixabay
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