What are boundaries? If you asked 100 people you would get 100 different responses.
As the world is moving out of lockdowns and isolations, let’s take a moment to re- assess boundaries and explore how they may have changed. We have all spent roughly a year and a half adjusting to spending a lot more time than usual in our homes either alone or co-existing with a few people - an adjustment that has now become the “new normal” for so many people. So it can only be fair to assume that we no longer find ourselves able to commit to as many engagements as pre-Covid days. Or maybe we’re eating better and drinking less. But how do you communicate this to your friend who’s been itching to round everyone up and go out every weekend? Most of us find ourselves creating excuses or long-winded stories to escape the back and forth that undoubtedly ends with a guilt-riddled no.
But here I am to serve as a gentle reminder that no means no.
Now I know this isn’t a revolutionary statement and is in fact one we’ve all seen countless times surrounding the topics of consent, assault or even simply parents disciplining their children.
However, this poses the question: when it comes to communicating boundaries to those around us, why does “no” translate to “maybe” or “convince me”?
Let’s unpack this.
In placing a monopoly on our beliefs and ideas of a “good time” or “the right way”, we could in fact, be doing something much more insidious than trying to help a friend out. Have you ever considered that we could be taking away their agency, personal freedom & right to choose their own lifestyle? Are we reducing them to a pet-like standard where we believe we know what’s best for them better than they do?
Most people would agree that they would feel much more able and comfortable asserting their boundaries if they knew someone else would also defend them. Although it may be much easier to dismiss boundaries – especially if they’re stricter than those you’ve come across before – they are an integral part of identity. Of a person’s truth. And they are completely, unequivocally valid.
When you finally accept that your boundaries are of the utmost importance - surrounding yourself with people who not only understand, but also speak up for your needs- it is more impactful and self-assuring than fighting to prove that your boundaries are reasonable.
In the sphere of health and fitness, boundaries aren’t fully understood outside of the obvious faux pas i.e. staring at someone in a gym, comments on another person’s body, unsolicited pieces of advice etc.
Always remember that unspoken boundaries are still common. We have a responsibility to not only pre-empt and respect them, but also get used to asserting our own and advocating for others.