I’ve posted a lot about boundaries lately that focus on establishing barriers between oneself and others. As with most things, you can either have too little or too much. In this article, we will focus on what it looks like to have boundaries that are too rigid.
Boundaries are learned. If we don’t learn how to contain our energy, emotions, thoughts, and actions, we can be depleted, hurt, and exhausted. Some of us respond to that by putting up walls. This is what rigid boundaries are about. They are walls that go up to keep us safe. We create them when we’ve had bad experiences that we don’t want to repeat. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for people to get to know us so we often feel misunderstood, isolated, and lonely.
Let’s take a look at what this looks like.
You Might Have Rigid Boundaries If…
- You’re requests are more like demands. They don’t allow for any wiggle room.
- Your tone or words let’s others know how they have failed or are stupid.
- Outsiders are kept out. This could be people outside the family, a work group, or friend group.
- You know you’re right and are willing to argue for your point.
- You want things done your way.
- People say it’s hard to talk to you because you don’t listen.
- You don’t have a lot of close friends. People find it hard to warm up to you.
- You can’t get vulnerable with people because you find them untrustworthy.
- It’s hard to tolerate dumb, bumbling, inefficient people. And there are a lot of people like that.
- People have said you can come across as harsh, cold, and unfeeling.
- When things get tough, you often “take your ball and go home” rather than be flexible.
- You’re alienated from family.
- You tend to do things yourself rather than ask others because it’s just easier that way.
- It’s hard to tolerate the messiness of life.
- You don’t need other people’s input. You know what you want or what to do.
- You’d rather be right than happy.
Some people are surprised to know that these things can be related to boundaries. Maybe they think it’s just part of their personality. No, these are defenses. They are not permanent parts of who we are. They can be changed. Nobody needs to erect the Great Wall of China to be safe. A simple fence with a gate will do.
Making sure that you’re the one in control assures that dangerous situations are kept to a minimum. However, this creates walls that keeps out so much of the joy of life. If you control how other people behave, they aren’t going to want to be around you. Would you like that? It may be better to learn more skills to deal with adversity than to try to control it in advance.
If you keep out anything that is not within your control, life gets pretty boring and sterile really quick. New ideas can lead to breakthroughs. Unconvenience and inefficiency are sometimes a small price to pay for connection. Kids are messy and slow. Imagine a world without kids! It would be a whole lot less fun. It may be more rewarding to learn flexibility than to go through life alone.
Boundaries are meant to be barriers, not walls. Too little flow of feeling and interaction isn’t life affirming. It makes you an island. We all need each other – even the messy parts. You’ve got messy parts. What if no one wanted you around because you’re simply human? When you tolerate, or even embrace, the differences in others, it makes it a lot easier to love yourself.