Yes, boundaries come in many varieties. I love this picture of Wilson’s personal space boundary on Home Improvement. He didn’t want that pesky young neighbor taking up too much of his time.
We all know the “line in the sand” boundary. Isn’t that line just begging for the other person to cross it. This represents a very permeable boundary.
I went to a training on “Movement in Counseling” and we were asked to demonstrate what would be our “personal boundary” vs our “social boundary.” I was at a loss as to define those two boundaries any different because I first consider the size, gender, and general appearance of the other person in order to determine how close I wanted to be to them. So too, I think we all would consider our past history with someone a huge determinate of how close we would stand to them. I know for me there have been times when a room filled with people was still too close for me to be with someone who had acted very inappropriately toward me. I’m guessing most people have someone they feel likewise about. We also might consider future desires to be close to someone a boundary criterion. I notice that my boundary has expanded based upon the fact that I now wear progressive lens eye wear. If someone stands too close to me, and especially if they are taller than me, they will not be “in focus.” I can handle that dissonance for a short time, but not for any length of time.
I also consider how I am feeling on any particular day. If I’m feeling on top of the world, the winds are blowing favorable for me, and my self-image is not contained by anyone’s evaluation of me, I’m more inclined to openness in my boundary. If I have been recently hurt or disappointed by someone who I thought was safe, I will definitely have my boundaries higher and more rigid with a new acquaintance or someone I don’t feel safe around.
If you came to this blog thinking I would clearly define what a healthy boundary is, you are probably disappointed by now. I’m sorry. But what I think you can take away from this blog is that boundaries need to be flexible. Being cognizant of your boundaries is a self care exercise. Only you can do it for you! When you get your boundary crossed, then you will know two things for next time (or maybe the third time if you want to give some slack to others who may be having a hard day). You will know to be aware around that person in the future and that you will probably need to avoid them or care for your boundary. You will also be prepared to defend your boundary if they choose to violate it again. Many people do not have safe boundaries for themselves and those individuals often cross other people’s boundaries. They typically do not need a harsh defense from you, however a definite definition of where they have overstepped is helpful. It is honoring to both you and they when you let them know your limits.
In conclusion, we have all met Wilson’s in our lives that only let you see the top 3” of their head. Don’t be afraid to have openness with other people. The joy of being human is that we are all unique and can add to each other’s lives in powerful ways. Love well by respecting each other’s and your own boundaries as you share your life with them.