Establishing Boundaries: Footprints in the Sand
Updated: Aug 6
I think of boundaries as routes on a guiding map authored by our best selves.
Why is that?
No matter your situation or circumstance, or how you feel about yourself at any given moment, personal boundaries always represent your sense on how you ought to be treated by others.
While the word itself is clunky and without poetic versatility, I believe that boundaries represent our expressions of self-love, self-respect and self-worth.That said, how we choose to express those boundaries help or hinder other people’s abilities to honour them.
What do you mean?
Let’s imagine being at the beach, walking barefoot in the sand.
Our footprints are the signals we leave to others that we are here and we matter.
Footprints on a shoreline appear and disappear with the flow of the waves. Impermanence personified. There for a moment, barely a memory.
Footprints beyond the reach of the tide are firmly placed. Boldly present for everyone to see.
These are styles of communicating boundaries.
How we communicate our boundaries to others, matter.
While the footprints in the shoreline are there they rarely serve as a signal. These footprints, as boundaries, are hard to follow. Someone would have to be a mind reader to know what they were and how to adhere to them.
Footprints in the sand, out of reach of the shoreline, as boundaries, are explicitly stated and serve as the signal as intended. People recognize them and can make the choice as to how to engage with them.
To have successful, reciprocal relationships we all need to learn to place our boundaries beyond the shoreline.
Boundaries represent how you love yourself, see yourself, and weigh your own worth. They are also in turn, how you expect to be loved, expect to be respected and expect to be valued by others. Even if you are self-critical about your boundaries, they are not going to go away because you will them into non-existence. Stated or unstated, whether you guide your loved ones along, or keep your boundaries close to your chest, the more someone continues to breach your boundaries, the less hope there is that those connections can continue.
I believe we all know this intuitively, yet so many of us have a hard time communicating our boundaries for fear of rejection or reproach from others.
Here’s a secret: You need people to love you for YOU. No matter how much you might minimize that need, and try to bend to be the person others would want to love, that charade is short-lived.
Patiently teach yourself to state your boundaries and stand by them.
What if no one sticks around?
Yes, the scenario exists where you state your boundaries and people disregard or dismiss them. That rejection might sting initially, but now you know where you stand. If you’ve made it clear how you receive love, respect and how you perceive yourself as worthy to others, and someone disregards that, how are you benefitting from that relationship? Why not create space for healthier relationships to find you?
Honouring someone’s boundaries is more than lip service. Honouring the boundaries of those you care about is recognizing how they need love, respect, and recognizing how they interpret being valued and adapting to those needs.
Reciprocal, healthy relationships require this exchange.
To retain self-love, self-respect and self-worth, honouring one’s own boundaries is non-negotiable. That means speaking your boundaries into existence and standing by them.
Boundaries mark the line between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Choose the healthy ones.