A groyne is a rigid hydraulic structure built from an ocean shore to prevent beaches being washed away by longshore drift. I spend my days hopping over them, swimming between them, or sitting on them on the beach at my home in West Sussex. It was only this morning that they helped me realise what I’ve been thinking about A Little Book of Permission and boundaries.
I’m a bit of a funny duck and despite everyone rushing in to convince me otherwise when I say this out loud—I’m a bit of a slow learner. Not a slow learner of intellectual things, but of the great and wonderful “uh-oh-really?” parts of this life. The truths that are self-evident to many others, but perhaps I’m just getting introduced to now. For these to have an impact on me now, at this age, they not only have to be taken in to my understanding—how can it be true if I existed without it all this time? And also digested for what the heck that means if it is true. And then the final step is taking action around that truth in my own life. This could mean changing some pretty entrenched behaviours!
One of these uh-oh-really concepts is that of healthy boundaries. There are a lot of reasons why I have historically had far too porous boundaries. I was sexually abused as a child by a family member and had a whole bunch of natural boundaries around my body, the truth of my experience, etc totally dissolved at a really young age. I am a woman and was conditioned by our patriarchal society to get much of my value from pleasing others. I am really empathetic to other people’s emotions. I was born Canadian and there is a serious threat of cultural disowning if you aren’t perceived as nice. I worked in customer facing industries. On and on.
So it won’t surprise you that it took me almost a year after publishing A Little Book of Permission to realise it was also about boundaries. You may have got that from the start (laughing at myself here).
Just like many things in this complicated world we inhabit, boundaries can be used for both good and bad. Like the internet, money, humour, etc ... Over-built boundaries keep the world out, push away intimacy and opportunity, encourage xenophobia and a false sense of safety, support hoarding, and repel exchanges of ideas, goods, love, and support. Under-built boundaries hold no space or priority of self existence and thriving. People with low boundaries take on emotional, financial, and physical burdens that aren’t theirs. Little to no boundaries leads to a lack of reserves and self value. Oversharing. Over-giving. Not telling your truth whether it’s about what to have for dinner or what you really believe. Low boundaries increase susceptibility to being taken advantage of or even just feeling that way because you didn’t express the truth of what you really wanted out of an exchange.
In A Little Book of Permission I write things like:
You don’t have to answer the phone.
You don’t have to show up.
You don’t have to listen.
These are examples of boundaries that could be used to create healthy boundaries or over-built boundaries depending on the situation. It depends what my intent is. I’ve got permission to not do everything—because that is always a choice. I can lay them boundaries down everywhere!! And if you’ve never had them it kind of looks a lot like that when you realise you can. But the next step is understanding what life I’m building with my boundaries. Where have I mistakenly made them so high I’ve blocked the flow of good things? Where are they too low and I can see myself leaching away?
Like most important lessons I’ve learned it is one that I’ll have to work at forever as my life and priorities change. (I once walked a marathon and was so disappointed that wasn’t it and I would therefore be that fit forever more so you can understand my level of disappointment when faced with ongoing work). But my freedom and ease is inherent in knowing that I can adjust my boundaries at any time. You wouldn’t want to have to live now with the boundaries you set ten years ago. And you don’t have to.