“When you are close when you should be distant, you will be distant when you should be close.” — The Sages
Are you living a life defined by your own voice or one that is defined by others? Do you feel that your sense of self has been annihilated or overshadowed? Are you living a life on your own terms or on other people’s terms? We live in a world that exerts a tremendous amount of influence on our lives. With so many forces, healthy and unhealthy, inundating us — parental attitudes, social pressures, domestic and work demands — it can often be very difficult to find your own voice and live proactively on your own terms, instead of always reacting to other people’s influences or expectations.
The essence of living on your own terms is healthy boundaries. We hear the phrase “boundary issues” used in self-help literature and pop-psychology, but what does it mean? And, what kind of boundaries do you need to live on your own terms?
What Are Boundaries?
“Having healthy boundaries” means that you have defined what aspects of your life should remain outside, and which should remain inside. Your inside is your internal life: Your soul, your values and ideals, your passions, intimacy, and love. They are things that should be protected. On the other hand, your outside is the tools that you use to interact with the world around you, which includes surviving in a hostile world. Having boundaries means that you know when to allow others into your internal world, and when to shield your inner-self from outside influences. Lack of boundaries is when the lines are blurred between your inside and your outside life.
And paradoxically, having healthy boundaries also allows you to care and love others on their terms as well, and reach out to others for help, without being obliterated in the process. Good boundaries create a wholesome balance between the self and the other; between “If I am not for myself who will be for me?” and “If I am only for myself, what am I?”
How to Create Boundaries
One of the biggest obstacles to living on your own terms is the effect that parents, teachers, and the culture at large have had on you. You must look carefully and honestly at which parts of yourself are authentic, and which parts you acquired as a reaction to the outside forces around you. Once you have sifted it out, it’s time to draw some boundaries. Here are guidelines for those boundaries:
- What will you let into your home, your inner sanctum?
- Whose opinions will you internalize? And whose will you ignore?
- Which rules do you follow? Which do you transcend?
- How do you handle pressure to do things in a way that is not true to your inner-self? Do you have a strategy?
Exercise: List your vision for what it would be like to live on your own terms. Go through the list point-by-point, analyzing how boundaries could facilitate the actualization of your vision. Journal about it in MyMLC.