Get home from work totally tapped out and irritated because you carried the load for your coworkers? Have a houseful of guests and feel like you got hit by a truck? Regularly bump all of your priorities to the bottom of the list so you can help someone else — and then feel annoyed with yourself? Busy making everyone else comfortable at the expense of your own discomfort? Showing up to help and then feeling angry in the aftermath? You, my friend, may have boundary issues.
My friend and teacher Dr Scott Lyons once told me that “anger is the signal that lets us know our boundaries have been violated.” Note that anger is not synonymous with rage. Yes, anger can be heated — like when you want to flip the bird or throw a plate at the wall. But anger has a lot of other less firey flavours like feeling annoyed or frustrated or having a sense of unfairness and injustice about a situation.
In this way, the many faces of anger are all just trying to point out to you that a line has been crossed. They’re sounding an alarm to say… “hey homeslice, someone’s all up in your shit.” So instead of shaming your feelings, thank them for the service they provide — protecting your boundaries.
Here’s the thing. Having boundaries doesn’t mean being an asshole. Boundaries are, in essence, about self-respect. Boundaries require you to value yourself enough to respect and protect your inner resources, being a good steward of your gifts, your time and your energy. Boundaries ask you to know your limits and honour them with integrity.
True, laying out boundaries takes bravery and confidence. But people won’t like you less or think you’re crazy for having boundaries. In fact, people will probably respect you more. And they’ll be more than willing to respect your boundaries if they know where they are.
Don’t take it for granted that people know where your boundary is. Or that they have the same tolerance as you. Or that they should know better. Some people are blind to boundaries and need a little extra guidance. But most people will happily stay on their side if you show them where the line is. So show them. Make it clear— for both of you.
Go out and survey your territory and claim your domain. Draw a circle around it. Protect your boundary gently or fiercely, whatever is called for. But protect it proudly. Do not let every customer, family member or friend hopscotch across your borders without your permission. Be brave enough to respect and protect your boundaries. Patrol your borders like a foot soldier, marching with integrity and purpose. Meet those who attempt to transgress with firmness, but also kindness. And when your feelings sound the alarm that a boundary has been violated, retrace the line, carve it out a little more clearly and begin again.