Visualize A Boundary
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
In our May First Thursday discussion in the Bid Boss Clubhouse, a group of us started talking about setting boundaries. We talked through why it's so hard to determine where your boundaries should be, how difficult it is to communicate your boundaries to others, and why socialization as women makes it more challenging to have you boundaries accepted.
But then I asked a question I'd been hoping we'd get to...
What do you visualize when you are talking boundary setting?
Let me take you on a journey really quick. Read this segment, then take a minute to really think about the questions calmly and with patience.
Clear your head, take a deep breath and imagine a boundary that is really important to you.
What is it keeping out? What is it keeping in?
What is the shape of it?
Is it solid? Liquid?
Can you see through it? Is it clear or opaque?
Do you visualize yourself in relation to the boundary?
What kind of boundary did you visualize? Does this represent all of your boundaries, or just the particular one you were thinking about?
This exercise can take you in so many different directions!
For me, personal boundaries have - almost without exception - been a form of a wall.
A brick wall maybe. Or concrete. Something you could build a castle from. Those boundaries are solid and firm and designed to protect what it inside from whatever harm could come to them. Much like a castle wall protects the community inside from attackers and brigands.
But that's just me!
My socialization and my own personal history means that I found the idea of super solid, inflexible, and impenetrable boundaries super helpful.
Over time though, I've found that boundaries are more useful for me when they come with some type of flexibility, adaptability, or scalability. The idea of a window became a helpful visualization tool, with the option to open or close the window, or draw the curtains, or add a layer to keep out a draft.
Those different visuals have made me realize that how we visualize boundaries can have a very real impact on their effectiveness.
When I asked the question during our First Thursday chat, the answers I got illuminated just how many different kinds of visualizations for a boundary there could be. AND why those different visualizations can help us when setting and communicating about the boundaries we need in our lives.
What do these different kinds of boundaries make you think?
Visualizing what a boundary looks like can help both with understand what kind of boundary you need - and with communicating it to others.
A brick wall can be strong, but drafty.
A fire break can protect one section of forest from a fire in another section.
A transparent dome - while a little on the nose for the panorama - can protect you while making it easy to see through.
A swimlane can help you stay in your lane while enjoying the same pool as others.
A canal can keep things moving smoothly within its borders.
A window can let you peek out to see what else is out there.
All of these different visualizations can give you a different way of looking at your boundaries.
We're all entitled to set boundaries. Whether it's protecting what is important to you, or keeping stresses at bay, boundaries are essential to maintaining your personal sanity and safety.
Establishing and communicating your boundaries is within your control.
If you aren't implementing and sharing your boundaries, no one is going to do it for you, and you may find yourself depleted. Don't be afraid to say no and let other people what you need to succeed.
At the same time, I want to acknowledge that women, especially women of color, often have a difficult time communicating boundaries and having those boundaries respected.
Whether it's the conditioning of being raised to be accommodating and pleasing, or the very real truth of being perceived as angry when simply asserting your needs, women can often find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we need to communicate our boundaries clearly and firmly, but on the other, we need people to hear and respect those boundaries.
We'll be exploring that further, but in the meantime, these are a few examples of language that you can use when expressing professional boundaries:
I could do that, but in order to do so I would need to hand off this other project to someone else.
This approach does not work for me. Can we try a different strategy?
I have determined that I do not have time.
I considered whether I could make time to do that this weekend and I decided not to. Here is an alternative timeline.
I want to be able to do that for you, but my other priorities are too urgent.
The most successful strategies we identified as a group were 1) being clear about what the boundary is, 2) communicating boundaries before a stressful situation, 3) adapting or flexing boundaries temporarily, like the end of a proposal calendar, and 4) staying solution oriented as much as possible.
And of course, having a little time to vent with friends in the Clubhouse certainly needs to be a core part of any effort to set and maintain boundaries.