We often here people talking about “boundaries”. For many of us boundaries are like obstacles we put up between ourselves and the outside world. Perhaps you might think of it as an imaginary line that can’t be crossed. These are certainly ways to view boundaries as a mindset that helps protect and preserve our core self.
Pia Melody does an amazing job of disecting what boundaries mean to her. She distinguishes mainly from two types of boundaries. One type of boundary is an internal one that protects your self-esteem and the other is an external boundary that protects your physical self (the body). Today I’m going to focus on what physical boundaries mean for me and how I apply them with other adults and even my own children.
Having external boundaries is nothing more than just having an awareness of your and others physical space. This helps ensure everyone is physically respected and feels safe in the current environment. While conceptually easy it’s sometimes hard to actually put into practice.
Of course your boundaries are going to be more or less open depending on whom you’re speaking with and in what situation. If you’re arguing with your partner you may want more physical space between the two of you. If you’re having an intimate date with them you’re likely going to want less space between you. This may seem obvious as you read this but many of us don’t spend actual time considering the impact of the personal space around us both for ourselves and for others. You don’t need to be in a heated disagreement with someone to consider boundaries. In fact, you can practice noticing yours right away.
The next time you’re in conversation with another or even just surrounded by people notice the following:
How close am I to others around me?
How am I feeling as a result?
Are others standing and I’m sitting or vice versa?
Do I feel safe and physically supported?
Just the act of awareness when it comes to noticing your physical boundaries can make a big difference in how you’re able to respond and communicate to others. Notice how moving back just a foot or two or even moving closer a foot or two can change how you respond to a situation. Play with this a bit today and see what you notice works for you.
Of course, there is more than just yourself around when you’re interacting with others. It’s sometimes hard to come out and ask someone if you’re standing too close or otherwise. However, it’s not hard to ask them if you can touch them.
Having a serious conversation with someone? Ask them if you can put your hand on their shoulder.
Is someone emotionally upset about a sad situation? Ask them if you can hug them.
Want to express how much you love your children? Ask them if you can share a hug or a kiss.
I once put the last suggestion out on Facebook and I had several parents respond that they didn’t need to ask their children if they could hug or kiss them. They replied that “they knew their children well enough”. While this may be true on certain levels these parents’ focus was on themselves and not on their children. They took the position that “they knew best” and/or that they could read their children all the time. This excercise isn’t about you getting into the heads of others (even your children) to determine what works for them. This is about teaching your children that they have a choice. Many children grow up being touched (even appropriately) without first getting their permission. This sets the stage for children to believe that their bodies are not fully sacred. This teaches them that others can touch their bodies without having to ask first. I’ve seen my kids sitting on the couch watching TV and thougtht how cute they are. It just made me want to go over and kiss them. By all outward appearances they looked like they were willing to accept a kiss from me (on the cheek). However, there have been times when I ask (sometimes I forget and/or don’t) and they actually say No. This allows them to honor their own bodies and gives their bodies a voice. While it may make me feel sad, I’m happy knowing they are in control of their physical space and not me.
I know when I first learned about external boundaries I thought, “this is crazy” or that this didn’t really apply to me. However, once I really became aware of my physical space and that of others (I’m still learning) I came to appreciate how much of a difference it made for me. Others will begin to feel closer to you and you’ll have a deeper appreciation for yourself. Most importantly you’ll begin building and/or continue building upon the most important relationship you’ll ever have with anyone. YourSELF.
Photo Credit: http://media.photobucket.com/image/hugs/FindStuff2/Love/Hugs/hug-1.jpg?o=5