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Boundaries are gifts, not rejections

I took this class a while back on the wheel of consent, and I've recently been reading the corresponding book The Art of Giving and Receiving by Betty Martin. Every time I revisit these principals, my mind is blown by them, and I get something new out of it. I'm going to gift you this gem that struck me this morning.

We have somehow learned to see other's boundaries as a rejection towards us, and we often experience putting up our own boundaries as rejection of others, which is why so many people struggle with making and keeping boundaries. No wonder people feel so isolated when we frame something so vital to ourselves this way. When you learn to reframe boundaries as gifts, they are no longer rejections.

A person drawing a boundary around themselves with a yellow highlighter.
Drawing a boundary

A boundary is a gift: it's a statement of beyond here lies my pain and my vulnerabilities. When you give me the gift of clearly stating your boundaries, not only have you shared with me something very personal, you have also given me the opportunity to show you I care for you by respecting where your pain is and not treading into that territory. You have given me the gift of knowing you deeper, even if you haven't shown me what is beyond the wall.

Granted, not all boundaries are tied to pain. Some are tied to taste or preferences. But again, those are very personal and it's not my place to challenge them or invalidate them. You have given me the gift of information about yourself and honesty about who you are. That is not always easy to convey in the landscape we've built, where we are often offended when others do not think like us (see: politics as an extreme example). Again, we get back to rejection.

What gets to the core of it is who you think the boundary is for. Is it for the person putting up the boundary, or is it for the rest of the world? Once you understand that boundaries are for and about the person and their limits and preferences, you start to realize that boundary isn't about you (as the person on the other side), you just happen to be on the other side of that boundary. When you realize it's not about you, you can give up the rejection narrative associated with the boundary.



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