We all have them.
Some of us have long ones. Some of us have short ones. Some of us have nice ones. Some of us have mean ones. Some of us pretend to not have them at all. And some of us just whip ‘em out at any old time, and use them as manipulative weapons of mass destruction.
No matter the size, the length or the age.
We always keep these hidden from sight. And we know the entire thing by heart.
On page 42 it might say, “If you see that I’m upset, you’re supposed to ask me what’s wrong.”
On page 128 it might say, “If it’s Christmas, you’re supposed to know what I want and get it for me.”
On page 387 it might say, “When you see a beautiful woman, you’re supposed to be struck blind momentarily and give me extra attention just because she walked by.”
On page 956 it might say, “When you’re upset, you’re supposed to talk to me and make me feel included.”
Basically, we carry around encyclopedia-set-sized invisible instruction manuals titled “How You Should Make Me Happy; Volumes I - Infinity.”
The problem is that these manuals are an ongoing project. There are undefinable loop holes. And horribly irrational penalties. There are blatant contradictions everywhere. Constant edits and ceaseless reprints. Written and re-written to offer an endless supply of hoops for the people in our lives to jump through.
And our people?
They always fail.
Because no matter how much we love someone.
No matter how kind we are.
How smart we are.
How cunning we are.
It’s impossible to follow all of the rules. All of the time.
Because it’s impossible to be in charge of making someone else happy.
Joy. Happiness. Peace. Love. Gratitude.
These are not states of being that can be created for another human being.
We’ve been seriously duped into thinking that someone else can make us feel. We’ve been taught to believe: You followed my rule = I am happy. You didn’t follow my rule = I am mad/sad/jealous.
But here’s the truth: happiness can’t land on you. It can’t get painted on you. You can’t borrow it and wear it. It’s not a hand-me-down. It can’t be given to you by anything other than you.
We are happy when we choose to believe happy things. When we choose to focus on the positive. When we choose to love.
And this has nothing to do with whether or not someone followed your rule.
People break rules. They screw up. They check out a girl’s ass. Or forget your birthday. They text too much. Or not enough. They ignore you when you’re sad. Or forget to pick up toilet paper at the store.
And if we’ve set ourselves up to make our emotional state dependent on another person’s ability to follow our invisible manuals.
Then we lose. Every time.
And what about boundaries? Right? That’s what every student asks after they learn that they’ve gotta burn their manuals. They mistakenly believed that their manuals were boundaries. They think that by burning their manuals - they will become doormats of epic proportions. And that’s not the case. We’ve just been really confused about the difference between manuals and boundaries.
If manuals are titled “How You Should Make Me Happy.”
Boundaries would be titled “How I Make Me Happy.”
Boundaries are invisible manuals written exclusively for ourselves. They aren’t instructions for another person. They are only instructions for ourselves. They are never written out of anger. Or resent. Or manipulation. They are never written to make someone else behave. They are only written with the full acknowledgment that people do what they do. And we get to feel how we feel. And we get to choose to follow through with our own consequences.
On page 2 it might say, “When I don’t get a call back. I will send an email instead.”
On page 5 it might say, “If you are drunk, I will not have a charged discussion with you. I will leave and come back later.”
On page 6 it might say, “When I don’t want to do something, I will tell the truth.”
On page 11 it might say, “When I am upset, I will take responsibility to bring myself back to calm.”
On page 15 it might say, “If I want something for Christmas, I will ask for it. And if I don’t get it as a gift, I will make sure to get it for myself.”
On page 19 it might say, “When someone is late, I will still hold to my own time frame.”
Boundaries are tough. They require a ton of self-awareness, rationality and emotional maturity. They require vulnerability, willingness to uphold consequences, and often they risk the very thing we’re trying to protect: the relationship itself.
They prevent us from becoming doormats. And hold us solely responsible for our inner state of being.
Boundaries are about self love. And love of others. They are about caring for yourself and others. They give us new guidelines for inner peace.
And most of importantly.