You can read Part I on this series here, beloved readers. (Please do!)
The personal boundaries we create are not cookie-cutter. Still, there are some common traits exhibited by people expertly maintaining healthy boundaries that invisibly add peace to and remove drama from their lives:
- No over sharing.
- No fear of “alone time.”
- Polite, calm responses to requests for information she or he does not wish to share.
- Knowing what she or he feels comfortable sharing in any given situation, as well as what is actually appropriate to share in a given social context.
- Knowledge of the difference between “friends,” “best friends,” and “acquaintances.”
People over-share for many reasons: insecurity, narcissism, nervousness, desire to connect intimately too quickly, honestly not realizing she is doing so, culture differences, fear of silence in conversation, etc.
Whatever the reason: Please, stop.
The best way to stop over-sharing is to consider the value of what you are about to share and how it may or may not benefit those you share it with in how they relate to you.
2. Alone Time
If you fear silence, or being alone with your self and your own thoughts, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching.
There are times when being alone is absolutely necessary for focus (work), to de-stress (work and home), and to appreciate your own strengths and weaknesses (anytime).
Eating lunch alone does not make you odd–if you are seeking time to clear your mind, reassess your day, just because, pursue greater enlightenment (intellectual, spiritual, etc), whatever sails your ship. Again the important thing is why.
We live in a culture that promotes FOMO (fear of missing out). Sometimes “missing out” is exactly what you need to do, for your overall wellbeing. Even people we care about or enjoy can become part of life’s static–regardless of whether you are an ambivert, extrovert, or introvert.
Healthy amounts of alone time are just that–healthy.
To have them, you may need to politely excuse yourself or explain you would like a bit of quiet time. Period. #sorrynotsorry #noexplanationrequired
3. How to Respond
Many people don’t understand how to set healthy boundaries, or why they are important (like that coworker who simply cannot allow you or herself to go to the restroom alone), you may have to explicitly state what you want.
I don’t suggest you begin screaming:
“I NEED HEALTHY BOUNDARIES!”
while wildly undulating like an extra in a Shakira music video. #hipsdon’tlie
I do suggest you politely state what you intend to do or need.
Please don’t feel pressured into explaining why.
You can if you so choose, but I’ve learned the hard way that this trains me to “apologize” for why I am doing something that is healthy for me. This is a habit I’ve had to break in myself that I don’t intend to pick up again.
Trial and error has taught me short, polite responses are best:
“I like a quiet lunch, it helps me re-charge. See you in a bit.”
“I need a few minutes of some music about now. I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Time for a good book! I’ll be back in ____ minutes.”
“I need to mull over this for a bit. I’ll get back to you in an hour, thanks.”
“I want to really go over this in my head a bit. Thanks for understanding!”
You get the idea.
4. Know Your Limits
Know ahead of time for specific events and for general life what you feel comfortable sharing with others and why. This is up to you. You don’t owe anyone any details about your life, your opinions, your thoughts, or your emotional energy. A little mystery has its benefits.
You may need to spend time reflecting on this and/or journaling about it. You may not be able to discern these things right away–that’s okay! The important thing is to begin the process.
Then stand by those reasons–you don’t have to defend or explain your reasons for wanting and setting healthy boundaries.
Women in particular are expected to explain and apologize for what they do or don’t feel comfortable doing at any given time. This is something modern ladies must not do. #sorrynotsorry
Never apologize for setting boundaries that keep you happy and healthy.
I don’t share my life story with people I have just met. I don’t divulge my every favorite color, band, food, flower, tea, etc. with everyone I meet. People often do this now as a shortcut to connecting with others, but it’s not the only way to show yourself friendly. (I promise!)
This is why it is important to recognize a true “friend,” “best/forever friend,” and “acquaintance.” What I share with acquaintances is quite different than what I share with friends, and my “dear friends/besties.”
Also keep in mind, what you would share with friends, best friends, and acquaintances should vary based on the situation. What you would share at work, church, school, the grocery store, the hospital waiting room, subway, car, etc. is not going to be the same, given your differing purposes for being there–even with your BFF.
If all your conversations are similar or cover the same topics ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE at ANYTIME, please see point I.
Not everyone will be or should be your “friend” or “best friend.” Knowing the difference is key to setting healthy boundaries.
Hopefully, this is just common sense to you; but, I’ve sat with friends and acquaintances–time and time again–bitterly choking out stories of what a “friend” did with personal information that should never have been shared with what was actually an “acquaintance.”
More than one has actually asked me: “How do you live with everyone not being your friend?” upon realizing how drama-free my life was compared to their own.
More than one has wondered how I maintain a happy, healthy circle of friends and acquaintances and still keep some mystery-with-a-capital-M. If you have difficulty navigating life without everyone you know fitting neatly into the “friend” category there is some soul-searching that needs to begin immediately.
(For my dear friends reading this, feel free to laugh hysterically about the things we know about one another and will never share upon penalty of being turned into a human-sized Grumpy Cat.)
It’s a good thing to have a long list of acquaintances—whom you care about and enjoy very much. And it’s great to have a short list of actual “friends”—people who would be concerned if they did not hear from you after a couple days or so.
It’s glorious to have an even shorter list “best/dear/true/forever friends” that would come tear down your door after about 24 hours of total silence from you. (Because you are probably off slaying the undead and will need a hand.)
It’s okay to only have a couple of true friends and hundreds of awesome acquaintances. In the era of the “network economy” or “social economy,” having a few close friends and many acquaintances–that you share mutually beneficial, healthy interests and boundaries with is a necessity!
It’s not just okay, it’s actually–wait for it–preferable.
In Part III I’ll share what helped me build boundaries with those who do not possess any, and how I stayed encouraged during the process!