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5 Things You Need to Know If I Flex My Boundaries for You

It’s taken me the better part of my 34 years on this planet to learn I’m allowed to have boundaries and I don’t just have to accept life happening around me. Discovering I have a say in what is allowed to have an effect on me was one of the most freeing and profound things I’ve learned. It’s through a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that I defined the aspects of life that needed boundaries in order for me to remain functional. Anxiety has so many triggers, from simple things to control like diet and television, to the more difficult things like work and friendships.

Most of the people close to me understand the boundaries I’ve placed around myself. Those who don’t understand have no idea what trying to push those boundaries can do to my mental health. Rest assured, these boundaries are here not only to protect my mental health, but also to protect our friendship. I’ve learned how to cut away from people and situations so easily that you’d think I’m a cold-hearted person.

Very rarely, I cross my own boundaries. Test them, so to speak. I like to know if I’m changing or getting better at dealing with some things, or because I really love someone and want to experience something with them that my boundaries normally wouldn’t allow me.

I don’t like to do that often, though, and so I thought about how to explain my boundaries to other people. Why can I flex them for some things and not others? What does it mean to me when I allow myself outside of my comfort zone?

I think a lot of us in the mental health awareness community can relate to this, so I present:

Five Things You Need to Know If I Flex My Boundaries for You.

1. I don’t go outside of my boundaries lightly.

It’s taken me years to carefully plot and define my specific boundaries. My boundaries keep me safe, and more importantly, they keep my anxiety from becoming aggravated by controllable influences. My controllable influence is, bluntly, how you and I interact. I can be callous and cold if I’m uncomfortable, and that’s not fun for anyone.

If I flex my boundaries for you, please understand I do so because I love you and because I trust you not to push me too far.

2. When enough is enough, respect it.

My boundaries are not usually flexible. But, when I do push against them for you (going to an unfamiliar restaurant, hanging out at your house, traveling outside of my normal times), please do not push further. It’s not OK to change things willy-nilly without allowing me to choose whether or not the change suits me. You don’t have to know my boundaries, but you must respect them when I tell you no.

3. I’m allowed to change my mind.

If I choose to go against my instincts for you, I might pull back and decide against it — at any time and for any reason. I won’t argue about it, I won’t defend it. If you feel guilty, I’m sorry, but it’s my prerogative to go from being OK to not OK and I don’t have to feel bad for choosing my mental health when I’m uncomfortable.

4. Don’t change the plan.

Nothing is worse than a last-second change of plan. I’ve built up our time in my head around how I will arrive and when and where. A change throws all of that out of the window and leaves me feeling uneasy. When plans change, I’m already at a disadvantage at enjoying myself because I’m not prepared for what’s to come. If you need something to change, please, please let me know early on and allow me to decide if that change of plan will also work for me.

Don’t be surprised if I cancel.

5: I must love you an awful lot.

If I willingly push my boundaries for you, I probably love you. That shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it’s important for you to know I can’t just rearrange my boundaries for just anyone and for any reason. I do it to show you I care for you and our relationship. I do it so you know how I feel about our friendship. It’s not easy for me and chances are, I know you know that.

I appreciate that you’re not offended when I bail on plans at the last minute or that I have to leave halfway through our night out. I love you for not making me feel guilty and for still asking me to do things on another day.

I know being my friend comes with a lot of added responsibility. And I love you for accepting me for who, and how, I am.

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash