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Boundaries: The Building Blocks to Healthy Self Esteem

Just for a moment imagine you were recently awarded a contract with your dream client. Excited you poured your heart and soul into this engagement. Upon completion, you are understandably proud of the results. Your client seems very pleased as well. After your engagement is complete and the case study is published, you go to dinner with a group of colleagues. One of them, whom you greatly admire, has read the study and makes the comment they thought it light and not fully substantiated.

How do you feel?

How do you respond?

Maybe your chest constricts with anger or you inwardly cringe with embarrassment. Maybe you feel the onset of a full-on shame attack. Do you admit it was yours? Change the subject? Ask questions to determine why the person feels this way?

We have been talking about the importance of having self esteem in order to live a life where our sense of worth does not fluctuate based on data from our environment - in this case the feedback people are giving us about ourselves.

We are going to begin talking about the importance of boundaries in relation to maintaining our sense of self worth - our self esteem. Specifically, we will look at the internal listening boundary and the internal talking boundary.

Before getting started, let's touch briefly on the functions of boundaries and the different types which exist. First the functions.

Boundaries exist to:

  1. Keep people from coming into our space and hurting us

  2. Keep us from going into the space of others and hurting them

  3. Give each person communicating a way to embody and own "who we are"

Boundaries help us know where we end and the other person begins. A life with boundaries is much more peaceful than a life with no boundaries. Imagine the difference between the following scenarios.

Before leaving for work one morning, you pack yourself a lunch. You are particularly hungry for avocado on toast and some ripe, sweet watermelon. You make the sandwich, place it in the bottom of a plastic container and add several bite-sized pieces of freshly cut, juicy melon on top of it.

Well, we all know what happens next - a soggy lunch. We should have created partitions while packing - compartments that are sealed off; that do not allow the liquid to come into the space of the solids.

Personal boundaries are just as important. If we don't want our relationships to be a mess, we need to create a safe container for ourselves. We need the ability to keep out what may come into our space to harm us. We need boundaries!

What parts of ourselves and our lives need boundaries?

There are three major types of boundaries. They are the external physical boundary, external sexual boundary and internal boundary. The internal boundary is split into two parts: the internal talking boundary and the internal listening boundary. In my next article, we will begin taking a look at the listening boundary.

Which areas of your life need boundaries? Which relationships in your life could benefit from implementing better boundaries?

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