The Happiness Connection  

Good fences make good neighbours

Setting boundaries

When I first moved into my house, I had the back yard landscaped.

I have what’s known as a bare land strata. I own my house and surrounding property, but it’s maintained and overseen by a strata council.

I wasn’t quite sure where the boundary between my place and the house next to me was, so I only landscaped the section that was obviously mine. That leaves a segment that’s like a no man’s land.

I’m sure part of its mine, but I don’t know exactly how much. I spoke with my neighbor about it, but we have different ideas of where the boundary is. That leads to confusion over who’s responsible for that piece of property.

That wouldn’t happen if there was a fence or visible boundary between our houses. Like Robert Frost states, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

When you know exactly where your property ends and someone else’s starts, it’s easier to avoid confusion and disagreements. This principle also applies to your life.

Take for example the idea of personal space. How do you feel when a stranger or someone you don’t really like stands very close to you? It can be extremely uncomfortable. They’re invading your personal space.

Just how close someone has to be before you feel uneasy, varies from person to person. There’s no rule about what area around you is yours. Whatever the size, a healthy boundary is one that states no one should enter your space without an invitation.

If they do, you can choose to let them remain there, step back to re-establish your space, or tell them they’re too close. Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries will help your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Without boundaries you can get sucked into the exhaustive behaviours of others. This can lead to physical, emotional, or mental fatigue.

I find negativity draining and I have a boundary around it. My family and good friends all know this about me. I can only be in negative energy for so long. Then I’ll tune out or walk away.

U.K.-based psychologist Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo defines having personal boundaries as knowing how to separate your feelings or “stuff” from someone else’s.

“As human beings, we have our own thoughts, memories and lived experiences, and sometimes that can become very blurred with someone else’s,” she says. “Boundaries are healthy for helping you identify and keep that space.”

Healthy personal boundaries also promote a sense of autonomy. That means you feel a level of control over your life. Rather than being a victim to the actions and desires of others,. You get to establish what is and isn’t acceptable for you. Doing this is both empowering and can help keep confusion to a minimum.

Setting boundaries is about communicating what’s right for you when it comes to how you want to be treated and what things you’re willing to do.

It can take courage to create boundaries, especially if you’re not used to establishing them. Start small. Notice when your energy is being drained by a person or situation. What change could you make to limit or eliminate that sense of depletion? This is where a boundary needs to be set.

It’s important to recognize that these invisible lines are not just for your benefit. They not only communicate the behaviours you’ll accept from others, they also allow the people you interact with to understand what behaviours they can expect from you.

If you don’t want people hugging you, you’re unlikely to hug them either. A clear boundary will help others to understand this about you. Clarity makes life so much easier than confusion does.

Boundaries also make it easier to identify when someone has stepped over the line. You don’t wonder if you’re imagining your feelings of discomfort or frustration when you know where your line is.

I think it’s fair to say that just like good fences make good neighbours, good boundaries make good relationships.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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