Boundaries… I haz them

…as should we all. Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries keep us balanced. Boundaries let us be individuals. I’m not sure when it actually happened. It seems that little by little as time has passed, people have given up their privacy in the name of freedom… and waltzed way past boundaries in the name of false entitlement… ok, maybe a little license there, but this is a bit of a rant.

I’m not knocking freedom or liberation. I firmly believe in the right of free speech and thought. However, privacy and boundaries are something that has become more and more fluid with the popularity of social media and the revelations about technology and the ability of agencies and individuals to not only observe the intimate details of life but possibly even steal a few of them. Even in the midst of outcries for breaches of privacy and accusations of even the government overstepping some boundaries of what they should and should not have access to for private citizens, people still willingly share private information via social media with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, followers… the world (for those who like to go public on their profiles). Boundaries between what is personal or private versus what is suitable for others to know and consume have blurred to the point of near invisibility for some. I do not necessarily say it is a bad thing to be open and trusting, but I personally have reservations with airing all the aspects of ones life with the public at large. I also believe that while you are free to express yourself, you are also free to experience consequences that accompany that expression, positive or negative. Just keep that bit in mind.

In truth, people do not need (and should not have) access to your intimate life constantly. Everyone should have some sort of sanctum sanctorum, fortress of solitude… batcave? Ok, so overly dramatic, but still there should be some place, even non-physical to which an individual can retreat and be private. Even family and partners need some way to have their own space, sometimes if it is merely in the privacy of their own thoughts. It is exhausting and can be somewhat unhealthy to be constantly exposed, even if to a limited audience. What has become disturbing about the open-book philosophy and current trends of oversharing is that certain entities gain a false sense of entitlement to lives that are not their own. What do I mean by that? Well, it has become almost common place for friends, family, employers, coworkers, and employees to feel they are entitled to know the details of the lives of anyone and everyone no matter their relationship to the individual in question. They want to know about your interests, your family, your stresses, your struggles, and of course your failures. They want all the minute, intimate details, and those who choose not to display personal items or pictures of loved ones or don’t feel as free sharing private scenarios or feelings are sometimes perceived and labeled as negative, stand-offish, cold, angry, or not participating in the culture of the group. In the workplace, individuals who keep to themselves and choose not to share details of their time away from the office or office hours engender suspicion and occasionally criticism.

In the non-work relationships, the phenomenon can be observed in slightly different ways. Terms like “vague-booking” have arisen to describe social media posts that are cryptic, dramatic, and lack the excessive detail to explain the personal matters that have become expected. Friends and family sometimes become offended or feel injured if they find that events have transpired without their knowledge. Nothing, it seems, is sacred.

But some things should be. Boundaries are good. They need not be seen as divisive, because separations of individuality can be a remarkably positive thing. It prevents emmeshment. Division does not have to mean antagonism. Difference doesn’t necessarily presuppose disagreement. I read recently that empathic people (no, I do not mean Counselor Troy from STNG) have a difficult time with boundaries. They feel what other people feel, and they have an uncanny ability to draw complete strangers into telling their life stories. It is a gift, but it can also be amazingly taxing emotionally and psychologically. It can also be invasive, intrusive, and unpleasant for others who may not feel comfortable with that level of interaction. Yet another reason boundaries can be a very good thing. Just because you can pick up on the emotional tenor of others doesn’t mean they want you to share it or even ask them about it.

So, sometimes the message to the world at large needs to be, “No, you do not get to rent space in my head.” The space and time of my life to which you have access is of my choosing. None of us need permission to step away and recover. We have a right to be able to do just that. Additionally, the details of your private life and mine (and they harm none) are the property of no one else.

I can set my boundaries. It may have taken me an undisclosed number of years to learn the trick of it, and I’m still working on my skills in this area. We all need to realize that we don’t have to give anyone or everyone access to our inner most thoughts and feelings, and it should always be our choice. Choose your boundaries and set them knowingly, recognize those of others, and perhaps we can all be a bit healthier in our interpersonal interactions.

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