A large part of therapy for many people is learning how to create “healthy boundaries.” Whether adults or children, with friends or family, we often find ourselves having our desires ignored, our time undervalued, and sometimes even our bodies mistreated again and again, despite our attempts to express our preference against such things happening.
People who admit to having poor boundaries often look upon those that do not and wonder what the secret is. How do those people get treated with more respect? Why aren’t they mistreated as often?
There are plenty of potential answers in this space, from demeanor to status to power dynamics, but the most important thing to recognize is that when we talk about social boundaries, they do not exist as barriers that physically stop people from ever violating them.
All “having strong boundaries” means is that when someone pushes past a line you draw in the sand, or even just stumbles past it accidentally, you’re willing to push them back, gently or not. That’s it. Do that enough times, and voilà, you have boundaries.
Ideally, those pushes take the form of calmly stating your desires, and following through on consequences if they’re not respected. Unfortunately, sometimes those pushes require getting really, really mad, maybe even require shouting and storming out and slamming the door. If certain lines are crossed. If the boundary crossed is a physical one, sometimes those pushes need to be literal pushes.
But if you’re never willing to do any of those things, and you feel frustrated that people don’t seem to respect your boundaries or treat you like a doormat, this is a large part of why.
Try not to push too hard at first, and don’t push thoughtlessly, but push back. It’s your right.