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Boundaries - Where & What Are They?

Katie doesn’t have any experience with this topic—that’s why she’s opening up to all of you in hopes of learning more!


There is a popular movie called "Yes Man" starring Jim Carrey. You may have seen it. Basically, Jim Carrey's character is inspired to say 'yes' to every opportunity that comes at him, whether or not it is a good decision. (SPOILER ALERT) Towards the end of the movie, his character realizes that he can't say 'yes' to everything, but just needed to open his mind to possibilities. How many of us are 'Yes People'? I think many of us are. We enjoy the joy it gives us and other people when we say yes. We feel good when we are doing things for and with other people.

Now - imagine how you feel when you have to say 'no' to someone. Do you apologize over and over again that you're not able to make the dinner party? Do you feel guilty that you had to cancel plans? I will replay scenarios in my head making sure that I cancelled plans in the most sincere way possible so that my friends knew I wasn't intentionally letting them down. Part of my having a hard time saying 'no' is rooted in anxiety, but the other part is rooted in the fact that I have issues with boundaries.

Having boundaries doesn't mean just saying yes or no in various situations. It means having physical and emotional boundaries in any situation that protects your personal self from what behaviors you accept from others and the behaviors you do not. I am getting better at saying 'no' (AND not feeling guilty for doing so) to the dinner parties, work events, and game night hangouts. I have very clear physical boundaries for myself and try to remember to always ask others about theirs. I have emotional boundaries in my closer relationships but those might not be as clear to everyone I come in contact with.

I think having boundaries goes deeper than that, though. That's where I struggle.

I want to be available for my friends, family, and students any time they need me. I know that we aren't in control of the timing of things and if someone needs help, an ear to listen, shoulder to cry on, or a place to spend the night, I know that I can do that. But, what if I have had the worst day and can't spend another ounce of energy on something else? Do I hold strong to my boundaries of scheduling time to myself while a friend, family member, or student needs something from me? What if their need is far more than my need to just have a few minutes to myself? It feels rude to ask what they need and then decide whether or not I am going to help. You see, I have a lot of questions here. I know that if I am depleted, I am not going to be able to offer anything to anyone else. However, I am fearful that the one time I have to tell someone 'no,' the result will be detrimental. That may sound harsh and I'm not really a Negative Nancy. It also sounds a little conceited. Maybe that fear stems from something else and I haven't connected the dots, yet.

The definition of boundary is "a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line." It's pretty obvious that this isn't something that can be so clearly marked. There are always gray areas in situations. I invite your thoughts and feedback on this subject. How do you setup and abide by your own personal boundaries at the risk of not being there for someone that you deeply care about? I want to mention that I'm not talking about people who take advantage of your time and help. That's another conversation. I'm referring to the hypothetical situations of those who care and love you and just need you for some time. Feedback welcome!

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