When you hear the word “boundary”, what do you think of?
For so long, the word "boundary" meant "no" to me. No to bad relationships. No to things that didn't fulfill me. That was it.
I've seemingly always been able to set boundaries. I used to say it was easy. I've made the hard decision to go no contact with not one, but both parents (and one step-parent) in the last 20 years. I walked away from a marriage mid-trying-to-have-a-baby because I just knew I couldn't be tied to this person forever.
I've recently realized that even though I've been setting some hard boundaries since my early twenties, it's actually never come easy. I know what you're probably thinking, "Well, no. Setting boundaries isn't easy for anyone." And I get that. However, I'm one of those super-feeling types of people. Also known as a (diagnosed) generalized anxiety-ridden people pleaser who is both prickly as a pear but super loving stemming from childhood. No matter how easy the process has been for me to cut and run, the feelings of those huge, heavy decisions have stuck around and I've, at times, felt tortured in doing so. Painfully so.
In my heart, I've always known having to set big boundaries was needed, but struggled with the decisions in fear of what other people would think. And fearing what others think is a heavy burden for anyone, let alone a person like me.
"What will they think of me?"
"How will people react when tell them I don't speak to either of my PARENTS?"
"Is this the right decision?"
"Divorced by 35? How's that gonna look?'
"Why don't people just get it and make me stop having to set these fucking boundaries in the first place?"
No matter the size of the boundary (no contact with my mom vs. telling a boss I need a mental health day) I'd find myself riddled with regret, fear, and even resentment.
Normally, boundaries looked like this:
overthink the fuck out of it. worry what others will think about it. re-think all of that again. find my stomach in knots. muster the courage to set said boundary. sometimes the recipient took it well, sometimes they didn't. either way, I'd then still overthink that. feel resentment for needing to set the boundary because why didn't the recipient just KNOW (lol). re-think that again. feel sick to my stomach some more.
The cycle went on.
In my last stint in therapy, the biggest, most profound lesson I learned was in the beauty of letting go of the heavy burden of hope.
Before you call my boyfriend because I have completely lost it, let me explain:
My entire life has been built around hoping that a relationship with my parents was possible. That somehow, some way, I'd get all those years back and have a family. Even if I wasn't speaking to them because it was what was best for me deep down I'd hoped it would change. After a lot of hard work and sobbing for weeks, the "hope" bandaid got ripped off. It just isn't possible. Not in the traditional sense. It was OK to admit that. And it was time to move on. It was single-handedly one of the most freeing realizations in my life.
Somehow, giving up on this hope, gave me more hope. Go ahead and try to unpack that. I'm still trying.
What that means for me now is that I realized it's OK to let go of heavy stuff that just can't be. It's OK to be sad about it, but at some point, you have to move on. And so that's what I'm trying to do.
I, my friends, am at a new point in boundary-setting: letting it GOOOOO. And HOLY SHIT that is so freeing!
Lately, boundary setting looks more like this:
think about it. but not too much. ripping off the bandaid and just setting the boundary. worrying a bit about what the other person will think or how they may react. reminding myself that it's not on me how the recipient will respond, it's on them. worry a little bit more. put that worry in an imaginable box, put that box on a shelf, and let it go.
As I've gotten older and begun to understand the importance of taking care of myself first (most importantly my peace of mind and mental health) I've learned that boundaries are both important and they are freeing. Sometimes that's easier said than done depending on the situation, naturally. Overall, though, I feel like I'm learning the subtle art of not giving a fuck when no fucks are needed.
If others don't get that, then that's on them.