The COVID years have forced everyone to set a high standard for their health and well-being, and those standards don't always align from person to person. "Since the pandemic, we can't ignore boundaries anymore," says Cheyenne. "If you want to wear a mask and someone doesn't want to wear a mask around you, you have to really ask yourself if you're going to be willing to hang out with them or not. Or if you're comfortable traveling, or have to go to a wedding. You're going to have to have that hard discussion."
This discussion hit a fever pitch over the 2020 and 2021 holidays when many folks opted out of large-scale family celebrations in favor of new traditions that honored their COVID boundaries (whether that meant vaccinations, a negative COVID-19 test, or direct family only). These boundary centric conversations have bled in 2022, and Cheyenne hopes they'll outlive COVID-19 and become an outspoken part of every relationship in our lives.
"When we go within, we remember that they don't know our boundary, and we have the opportunity to respond with our boundary." —Yasmine Cheyenne
Look: Talking about your boundaries isn't easy; it's a negotiation—and practice is the only way to make them (kind of) perfect. "You're going to have to have a conversation with the person about whether they are going to be able to meet your boundary. And if not, what the compromise is going to look like," she says.
While some boundaries need to be rigid—for example, if someone's using harmful language—most boundaries are soft and dependent on dialogue. "You can protect yourself and value yourself while also valuing other people's boundaries. When we start saying no, it's exciting. Like no. 'Nope, nope, nope, nope. I don't want do any of those things.' And eventually, it's like, 'Oh, yeah, there's other people here with their own boundaries,'" she says.
Boundaries are a constant dance with the various characters moving through our lives. And, of course, when people break our boundaries, there's a tendency to narrativize their intentions into something malicious or uncaring. For example, "this person asked me to work on a project pro bono, and I deserve to be paid." Cheyenne says to keep an eye out for these types of reactions. "When we go external, we start to attack, and we start to project," she says. "When we go within, we remember that they don't know our boundary, and we have the opportunity to respond with our boundary."
That way, we're not exacerbating the violation by stacking an untrue stroyline on top of it; we're simply establishing a boundary and moving on. "When we approach boundaries from [a place of calm], we don't accuse people or project onto them things that they wouldn't have known, and we remind ourselves that we can enforce our boundary anytime we need to," says Cheyenne.
To continue with the paid work example, this type of convo could consist of saying, "Hey, I appreciate you thinking of me, but I'm only taking on paid opportunities at this time." That way, you're paving a future relationship with this person that honors your boundaries and invites them to establish their own. (It's just like Thanksgiving 2021, right?)
Overall, your boundaries will be fluid, ever-evolving, and more malleable for some folks than others. But talking about them is never a "bad" thing. In fact, it can help you wade deeper into your relationships. As the last few years have taught us: Health and well-being are precious resources and protecting our boundaries is a deep and essential act of healing.
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