Whether it’s a friendship, a boss or colleague, or a curmudgeon at home or church, don’t let them take up your head space rent free.
A basic principle of healthy boundaries is that you take the good in and keep the bad out, including the toxic junk of other people. Knowing where you end, and where someone else begins, can do a lot of good towards that end.
If you find yourself getting into arguments in your head with someone who isn’t there, or you just can’t get over something they did, said, or said by not saying, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve let them cross some boundaries that you neglected to put up.
A lot of us have been taught to live the role of a door-mat, rather than a human. Personally, I spent a lot of years thinking that being meek meant being passive & weak. I worked out of a perspective that said:
LOVE = Letting Others Vampire my Emotions
Thankfully, that’s not the case.
Accept others as they are, but don’t accept the hurt they do and the harm they cause.
My favorite analogy of boundaries was given to me by a 7th grade client who was studying human biology. He reflected that boundaries work a lot like blood cells: Healthy ones help bring in the affirmation, feedback, and even loving confrontations given by those we love, while at the same time keeping out (and even fighting against) the toxins dumped on you.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with another person’s junk, know that it’s alright to give it back to them; you don’t have to be responsible for their unhappiness or carry their load when they play the victim.
Be proactive. Be intentional. Be kind. But don’t be a door mat.
You may need to do something external, like leave your job, confront your friend, or ask someone to back off. Or it may be that your moves start inside you, meaning that you take responsibility for your expectations, hurt or resentments.
If you need a little motivation (and if bluesy, slide guitar moves you the way it does me), take a listen to ‘Joy’ by Lucinda Williams.