Most of us are familiar with the term boundaries. Fewer know what the term actually means. (My favorite is the definition by Brené Brown - "What's ok and not ok") Even less still know how to actually implement boundaries. There are a rare few that I know, who are able to actually implement and enforce boundaries in their everyday lives. I feel like this is not just because holding boundaries is really hard but also because most people just don't really understand how to implement boundaries. So I have come up with an easy analogy to talk through what boundaries mean, how to implement them and most importantly how to enforce them with others. This biggest misconception I run into about boundaries is when they involve other people. Boundaries are always about your actions and what you control, not about controlling someone else.
Now for the analogy, imagine you arrive at my house and see a sign "Please take off your shoes". What do you do? Most people politely remove their shoes and come on in.
This is a boundary. I have decided that for people to enter my home they must first remove their shoes. Then, I communicated that boundary to people entering my home. Perhaps, if they miss the sign, I will make sure to tell them verbally at the door. The boundary is pretty clear, take off your shoes or I won't permit you to enter my home.
Seems simple enough right? Until we come to a scenario where someone will not comply. Especially, someone we care about and invited over. After all, it would be rude to deny them entry over shoes right? Or a situation occurs where it becomes difficult to enforce, like a party and points for difficulty if this party includes children.
So it is at this point you must decide if you allow your boundary to be violated. This is always a choice. Although, I do not believe people should be unyielding in their boundaries, I must point out that to allow a boundary to be violated is to set the tone that your boundary is not all that important. In addition, I highly recommend being very particular about choosing which boundaries are truly important, because enforcing them is energy.
So let's say I have decided no shoes in my home is really important to me. Here's another important point - it does not matter why it's important. People who need a "why" are generally trying to manipulate your boundaries. You owe no one an explanation. Yet, it can be helpful to understand why something is important to you if you value a relationship and you need to compromise.
Even though this is important to me, my dad does not understand why it's important and insists on keeping his shoes on. He tell me things like, "But they are clean, there is no mud on my shoes" or "It's really hard for me to get my shoes on and off" or "You must not love me if shoes are more important than I am." He leaves me with a choice. I cannot control if he takes his shoes off. I cannot control how he feels about taking his shoes off. I cannot control if he chooses to come to my house, but I control the door.