Seriously, though. Why is it so hard to set your own boundaries?
I have to say, setting boundaries is arguably harder than multi-tasking. Perhaps that doesn’t actually seem that hard for you, but for me, it’s like the equivalent of walking on water, and I’ll leave that one to big J thank you very much.
It wasn’t actually until recently that I even made myself aware that I could set myself my own boundaries. I don’t think that this is out of naivety per se, but perhaps just because I’d never really thought about it in my own context or in such a structured way. In fact, it was Florence Given’s most recent book, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty that reminded me not only that boundaries exist but that they can be created by literally anyone.
Something which I’d forgotten.
Now, just to be clear – I don’t have anyone in my life that I need a restraining order for (or who needs a restraining order for me) – but with the global coronavirus lockdown and outbreak, there’s definitely a sense of ‘pandemic panic’, even months after we were all locked down completely.
Anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and personal boundaries have definitely increased, and it’s in a very different way than we could have ever imagined. Trying to set boundaries with friends and family, when you could be in different lockdown tiers and situations, have different ideas on what is and isn’t safe, as well as different beliefs surrounding how certain governments are continuing to deal with the pandemic are all pressure points in this boundaries debate and make life that little bit harder.
However, what can be said, is that these pressure points may start forcing us to actually start setting our own boundaries.
Perhaps it’s wrong that these are only starting to be set out of fear of getting a disease, but it’s a small step in the right direction for setting other personal boundaries in the future. Basically, it means we have to be clear and concise when speaking to friends and family about what you are and what you are not comfortable doing together (whilst of course adhering to the rules where you live) – whether it’s having dinner outdoors, going for a socially-distanced walk, or cooking dinner together. The most important point here is that you can say no.
But, saying no can actually be really, really hard.
In the past, I’ve tended to always avoid saying “no” whenever possible, because I don’t want to cause a fuss or let someone else down. And even if I did say no, I’d often feel so guilty that I’d change my mind and go anyway, even if I didn’t want to.
What happens if you say no and actually change your mind too? Well, we aren’t perfect, and we change our minds all the time. What’s important is that our boundaries are right for us at the moment. If you don’t feel comfortable having a catch up with 5 friends, don’t go. Or even better, suggest a Zoom catch up instead. If your friends don’t understand or make you feel guilty, that’s on them.
After I started working out my own boundaries when it came to coronavirus restrictions and what I felt comfortable with, it was then I felt like I could maybe take a look at my other personal boundaries – whether that is at work, dating, with certain friends and family. There is power in knowing what you don’t want, and focusing on what you do want. Because ultimately, it’s when we make those tougher decisions that we allow ourselves to live our lives as we want them rather than letting people dictate them for us.
Why then, is it so hard to set your own boundaries? I hear you ask.
Well, it’s because to set your own boundaries, you need to know what you want out of your life. Once you’ve got that down, you’re away.
Emily King is a writer and founder of the online female-led magazine The C Word Mag. She is a 27-year-old woman based in London and her online magazine celebrates women and female expression in all forms by publishing content from women of all ages and all backgrounds to help elevate female voices. Follow her on Instagram at @the_cwordmag or check out the website: www.thecwordmag.co.uk