Power, Control, and Understanding Boundaries

You hear a lot of talk about boundaries. “Set boundaries.” “Uphold boundaries.” “Don’t overstep boundaries.” But what exactly does that mean and what does it look like?

A personal boundary is the line between your energy and someone else’s energy. We set boundaries every day in many situations. We have personal space boundaries. We have personal emotional boundaries. We have personal energetic boundaries. We have philosophical boundaries and moral boundaries. All of these things can be tied together, or looked at individually.

When you have healthy boundaries, you’ve got plenty of space within your little circle, and so does the other person. This here is personal power and neither party is abusing it. Neither party is giving up their personal power, either. This is good, healthy and creates a balanced and harmonious environment.

When one of the parties has unhealthy boundaries, things get lopsided. This here becomes “control.” There is a personal power struggle. One party is asserting their personal power over the other party. Things are no longer harmonious and balanced. One person’s space is intruding on the other person’s space.

This type of thing tends to happen between two people when one of them oversteps their boundaries. But here’s the key – they wouldn’t be able to do that if the other person didn’t allow it.

See how weak the other person’s boundary is? In those instances, not only is the other person taking power away from the person with weaker boundaries, the weaker person is allowing that exchange by not upholding their boundary.

One of the most common reasons people are unable to uphold personal boundaries is because they don’t want to cause conflict or rock the boat. They mistakenly believe that standing up for themselves is somehow selfish, and they are afraid that they will be perceived as attacking the other person. They don’t want to do that, and so they allow others to run over them – sometimes even accidentally or unintentionally.

It is not selfish to love yourself just as much as you love other people.

You also have the opposite effect in a lot of instances. The person who is overstepping their boundary actually believes they are just upholding their personal space.

How to Uphold Personal Boundaries Without Overstepping

There’s an easy way to tell what’s really happening, though, and it involves looking carefully at the words you are using or the words that are being communicated to you.

If you are upholding a personal boundary, you are making statements about yourself. “I feel…” “I am…”

If you are overstepping your personal boundary, you are making statements directed at the other person. “You are…” “You shouldn’t…”

When you make statements in an attempt to shame someone or judge them, what’s really happening is you’re asserting your own moral superiority and making yourself “better than,” whether or not you actually realize it. You’re trying to overtake their boundaries.

Your disapproval of their actions is completely fine – for yourself. But the minute you take what you believe to be ok for yourself and attempt to force that onto other people, you start to slowly encroach on their circle.

Someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of boundaries will generally feel threatened when you stick up for yourself, and that’s ok. If you’re worried about a misunderstanding, just make sure that you are making statements about your personal feelings and what you allow in your space. “I do not believe that.” “This doesn’t make sense to me because…” Feel free to explain why you don’t believe that. It’s a natural discourse and it’s an attempt to create understanding.

If you’re afraid that you might be overstepping your boundaries, once again – check that you are making statements about yourself and not attempting to make those statements apply to everyone. Here’s some examples:

Instead of: “You shouldn’t say those things. It’s wrong.”

Try: “I am not comfortable sayings those things to people because I feel….”

Asking for someone to clarify what they’ve stated before you respond can also be helpful in creating understanding rather than conflict.

And finally, the easiest thing you can do is walk away.



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