Whose Boundary Is It Anyway?

Sponsored by Next Step Goals LLC
Written by Julie O’Keeffe Henszey 

Self-imposed and culturally-prescribed boundaries can hold you back.

I know of a person in the South who won’t drive her car for more than a couple of hours by herself. She feels she lacks the capacity as an adult woman. It seems to be based on traditional southern cultural norms around male and female roles.

My friend in Arizona, on the other hand, drives herself three hours to the nearest airport, my sister and I have each traveled alone to Africa, and sixteen-year-old girls now attempt to sail solo around the world.

So let’s talk boundaries! Ask yourself these questions:

1. What boundaries are holding me back?

2. Are they self-imposed or culturally-imposed?

3. Does anybody really care what I do?

4. What if I walked over the boundaries?

Boundaries can be a good thing, particularly with speed limits, murder laws, and required immunizations. It’s best not to drive too fast, kill anyone, or forget to immunize your child.

On the other hand, what about wearing white after Labor Day? Or pulling your 13-year-old out of school for a week to go hiking in the Grand Canyon?

It’s time to walk over unnecessary boundaries! Bust through them so that you can get on with your life. Let’s break it down.

  1. Examine the belief embedded in the boundary. Who invented this boundary and what is their belief? For example, our forefathers allowed men to vote but women were outside the boundary. It was well intended but eventually the beliefs behind it became out-dated. On a more personal level, you might only allow your child to take the car if they are back by 11 pm, based on the belief that too much mischief happens late at night. While your child might not like the rule, the belief is likely solid enough to stick to your guns. And as examples of boundaries that probably should change: Women, have you ever denied yourself a fun weekend get-away with friends based on the belief that your family cannot manage without you? Men, do you suppress your emotions because men are expected to be tough?
  1. Ask yourself whether the boundary has changed over time. Did your parents go to all of your junior high basketball games or tennis matches? What’s your expectation with your own kids? There could be an engaging activity you’d like to try if you didn’t feel obligated to adhere to culturally-prescribed roles as a parent. Or did your parents call into work twice a day when they took you on vacation to Niagara Falls in the 70’s? So why do you check your email on vacation? Business seemed to carry on without your parents’ involvement back then. Perhaps the dog will eat your phone the next time you leave on vacation. Sounds a bit nice, right?!
  1. Consider to what extent the important people in your life observe the same boundary. Some Protestants in specific Midwest towns won’t mow their lawn on Sunday for religious reasons. Such practices only fall by the wayside if groups no longer value them. How would others view you if you change your behavior around common, unquestioned practices? Will the important people in your life embrace your decision? Can you gain their support if you value it? Perhaps you can have Thanksgiving dinner catered one year when you’re juggling too many other things. Or perhaps it’s time to start drawing names for Christmas because the extended family has grown.

Here’s what I say: Ask the guy/gal out. Set an unrealistic goal. Sell the house, quit the job, and go get your Ph.D. Laugh too loud. Drive all night. Hitchhike to Alaska. Life is more fun when you ignore arbitrary boundaries and disregard limiting beliefs! What boundary are you ready to ignore at no one’s expense??

Julie helps women and seniors successfully take action and navigate challenges through her two businesses Next Step Goals LLC and Peace of Mind Transitions LLC. She herself has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and completed 60 sprint triathlons while divorced with two kids.


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