Updated: Jun 14
One of my personal attributes is a general lack of shame. It's not that I’m perfect- heck no. Quite the opposite. I am impeccably flawed. Yet, it takes a lot to flush these cheeks.
Lately, however I’ve been wondering if my shamelessness means I actually have terrible boundaries.
I’ve always regarded this quality as somewhat of a superpower. If I let my guard down early, show my imperfections and my quirkiness, I feel that people feel safer to connect with me. And that is what I love; creating safe spaces to connect with people.
But, this question came up as I’ve been researching boundaries for an upcoming project. For a person whose boundaries are more like Swiss cheese than cement walls, this has me very curious.
What are boundaries?
How can we learn our boundaries?
And what happens when we don’t honor them?
What is a boundary?
Google defines it as a line that marks the limit of an area or a limit of a subject or a sphere of activity. They can be physical, emotional, or the use of our time and our energy. Joaquín Selva shares this view “Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally you are stable” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.).
Our good friend Brene Brown explains in Daring Greatly that people with good boundaries have a higher regard for their self worth than those with weaker boundaries.
I have come to understand that boundaries can be defined as practices, disciplines and agreements that honor our values and self worth. Both with ourselves and with others.
People with a higher sense of self-worth generally have a higher self awareness of their own values and their own value. Thus, they are less willing to compromise their values and boundaries and jeopardize who they really are.
The next step is to understand what we mean by values and self worth.
Our core values are the principles that we live by and our self worth is simply a sense that you value yourself. Values are more than cute words we put on wall art and bracelets to make us feel warm and fuzzy...they are how we live our lives. Values are the choices that we make.
Do you know your values?
Here are a few just to try on for size:
When you pause to really consider what your core values are and how you define them, you can really begin to embody them. They become a divining rod by which to make decisions and hence set our boundaries. For example, a person with a high value of HEALTH, would likely choose to eat salads over french fries dipped in milkshakes (no judgement), hence, setting good self care boundaries.
Understanding and living your values is critical to understanding your boundaries.
Upon discovering this, I quickly feel at ease about my “terrible boundaries.” My porous social filter actually honors my high values of community, trust and fun. By letting my guard down early through sharing something humorous about myself, I create connections which build trust and community.
Do I go too far sometimes?
Yes I do.
Am I inappropriate?
A little, but usually not when being inappropriate is inappropriate.
Because I also value respect.
Moving on…. self worth is how you value yourself.
Let me say that again so you really get it… self worth is how you value yourself. Researcher Courtney E Ackerman writes: “Self-worth is at the core of our very selves—our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intimately tied into how we view our worthiness and value as human beings.”
Mirram Webster defines it as: “a sense of one's own value as a human being”
I contemplate this as I consider a friend who has been negotiating boundaries in communication with a new beau.
Like me, she’s quite transparent which makes her feel connected at first, but vulnerable later. She’s a smart, beautiful and successful woman, yet struggles with issues around dating.
Which is how she found herself overextending to a guy she’s dated and felt a real connection with. After several dates, she thought things were going really well. Then, he ghosted her and he’s been really too “crazy busy” to like, even send a text response…
She caught herself tolerating this and justifying his behavior by making excuses, but clearly this guy was done. She minimized her own self worth and became willing to tolerate quite poor communication, while simultaneously contemplating if she shared too much too soon.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this line, and it won’t be the last. We, women especially, are very quick to compromise our values and worth in romantic relationships, just a teeny-weeny-tiny bit. And as communication can be blurry in the world of technology and social media, knowing our worth and values is even more important.
Author Mark Manson says “Boundaries are hot.” I think what he means is that the person who knows their worth actually commands it.
Whether your boundaries are firm, ridged, cement walls or Swiss cheese, if we have any doubt about them, we’ll get clear real fast when they’ve been crossed. We feel overwhelmed, angry, disappointed and burnt out. These are the signs that it is time to closely look at our boundaries.
Do you know where your boundaries are?
Do you know your WORTH and your VALUES?
Do you know where you COMPROMISE your worth and your values?
I invite you to pause today and truly consider this. When you live aligned with your self worth and your values, your boundaries will become much more clear.
And perhaps with this awareness you will feel more purposeful about choosing Swiss cheese or cement walls.
To stay in touch with me and learn more about an upcoming program on building boundaries, subscribe at www.NewGrowthCoaching.com
Anna Scelfo CPC, ELI-MP
New Growth Coaching LLC