Standards and Boundaries
We often struggle to find balance between our standards and our boundaries. As a result from this struggle we feel frustrated, misunderstood or disrespected. Standards and boundaries are essential to achieve a happy and healthy relationship with others and also with the self. The first step is to discover and assess what they are.
We define our own standards and boundaries. They are unique to each and every one of us. Of course we can endorse or take on societal and collective ones but we want to make sure that we do so authentically and consciously. I will choose to embrace a given standard because it aligns with my values and I set this boundary because this is where it is comfortable for me to do so. Before I identify what they are for me I need to understand what defines them.
Thomas Leonard summarized Standards and Boundaries in a way that I found most eloquent. A standard is a “Yes” and a Boundary is a “No”. He says: “Boundaries are what you have determined that other people or environments cannot do TO you. So, Boundaries are basically a No! “No, you cannot be rude to me.” “No, you cannot ignore me.” “No, you cannot dump that task on me. Standards, however, are the behavior/excellence that you naturally hold yourself to. So, standards are basically a Yes! “Yes, I treat others well.” “Yes, I am honest.” “Yes, I am someone who learns quickly.” “Yes, I do not tolerate much.”
It is hard work to set healthy boundaries that truly serve us without becoming too rigid or letting them be too loose and also it takes time and patience to set them especially around those who have know us for a long time for they may welcome this process more or less easily. A lot of us were raised to serve, obey, be nice and we were taught that saying no is not polite. It can also be seen as a sign of weakness because if I am strong I should just bite the bullet until things get better. Well, I do not know for you but I am not a mind reader and I do not expect others to guess what my thoughts are. Therefore, my primary responsibility is to express what is acceptable or not for me. I can make compromises when the situation requires it and that is what boundaries are about. They can be physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual or sexual. It is crucial that I understand where they are for me so that I can effectively teach others how to treat me and believe me it is a work in progress.
Standards are a bit of a different beast. As I define who I am I assert and raise my standards when I am ready to do so. Standards are where we humans have been given the opportunity to become great, to develop into our highest selves. They are how we choose to behave and our lives get better as we raise them. It is important to invest efforts and challenge ourselves in raising standards that truly reflect who we are otherwise it only becomes another “should” to the already long list we may have. It is interesting to match our standards with our needs. As we do so, our needs that tend to drive us will disappear and be replaced by peace of mind and a strong sense of self. If you choose to live by your standards and raise them on a regular basis you become a more authentic you.
Like any work that we do on ourselves it may appear tedious at first but sooner rather than later we acquire new automatisms. This type of work is essential to feel good in one’s own skin. We no longer get confused by trying to become who we imagine others want us to be. We affirm what is important and meaningful to us. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and I believe that living within my highest standards is the way to participate in being that change.