How to have kick-ass boundaries
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
Getting our boundaries right is fucking hard when we're lonely.
But they are such a profound gift of self-respect back to ourselves.
Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma and shame we feel is real, and it takes a lot of courage to even engage with the subject.
Thank you for being here. I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Indeed, some of you may be first time guests on my site and have come here because you know Kevin. If so, welcome! Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.
I'm so very excited to present this article to you. It's been written by my friend, Kevin Moran. Like many people in the loneliness field, I met Kevin through Instagram. We connected and are now in almost daily contact. Kevin is a Hawai’i-based queer health and wellness coach, who provides preventative mental wellness services to the LGBTQIA+ community, helping to transform the ways in which we see ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
Kevin loves talking about the importance of boundaries – knowing them and maintaining them – through his work. This love is evident in the words you’re here to read. I know you’re about to feel seen by his words and beautiful insight.
That's enough from me for now. I'll let you get to Kevin's wisdom. I’ll see you at the end.
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We’ve all done it.
We’ve all had those moments where someone has walked all over us and we are left in the rubble of the aftermath, thinking to ourselves, “What the fuck have I just allowed to happen?”
We’ve all been in those situations where we have said, “Yeah, sure, it’s fine” when, deep down, it really wasn’t fine.
We’ve all experienced times in our life when we have struggled with implementing boundaries.
Establishing boundaries for ourselves and for our relationships with our loved ones, fuck buddies, partners, friends, colleagues, family members, supervisors, etc. is one thing, but to practice said boundaries is an entirely different ball game.
As a mental health coach who specialises in working with queer folx, I often assist my clients with establishing their own boundaries. Many of us weren’t taught about boundaries growing up. We might have heard phrases like “my body, my choice” and “you are allowed to say ‘no,’” but for most of us, that was the extent of what we learned about boundaries.
It’s no wonder why, as adults, there is a great majority of folx like you and I, especially within the queer community, who face challenges with knowing what our boundaries are AND implementing those boundaries that we have set forth for ourselves.
The reason why boundary-setting is even more challenging as queer people is because for so much of our life (perhaps even currently), we received messages that we are “less than” in some way, shape, or form because of our sexuality and/or gender. As a result, we tend to throw ourselves to the wolves for someone to love us, to see us, to know us, and to care for us. And we don’t realise the damage this causes us until something negative or unfortunate occurs that brings us pain and causes us to re-evaluate our boundaries (or lack thereof).
Let’s pause here for a moment to get this out of the way:
Boundaries are fucking hard.
They are hard to define for ourselves and they are hard to implement.
However, they are such a profound gift of self-respect back to ourselves. When we can communicate what our boundaries are AND when we are able to follow through with the boundaries we have implemented, in those moments, we are essentially saying to ourselves, “I am worthy of being seen, known, and loved in the ways that I want and deserve. I am worthy of being treated in the ways that I want to be treated. I am worthy of a life that is in alignment with my beliefs and my values.”
This is also why boundaries are so important and why it’s necessary to spend some quality time here, determining what our boundaries are.
What are boundaries?
For a bit of education, boundaries can be defined as the metaphorical line that distinguishes what we will allow or permit for ourselves and what we won’t. Described differently by TherapistAid.com, boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.
Types of boundaries
There are two main branches of boundaries: personal and interpersonal.
Personal boundaries relate to boundaries that we establish for ourselves for our own behaviour and actions. These boundaries align with our own self-monitoring of the things we do and say to ensure that we are living in respect to our guiding principles, our guiding values, and our guiding beliefs.
Interpersonal boundaries relate to boundaries that we establish for ourselves about our connections with other people. These relate to the rules and limits we set for ourselves regarding our interactions with others, including our family, partner(s), friends, co-workers, neighbours, etc.
To further classify boundaries, both personal and interpersonal types of boundaries can be categorised as rigid, porous, or healthy.
Rigid boundaries are the boundaries that are hard-and-fast rules for ourselves and for our interactions with others. These boundaries can be recognised as the things that we wouldn’t think twice about doing. They are very cut-and-dry within ourselves; they are clear boundaries to us and we don’t hesitate to implement them.
Rigid boundaries are often created out of fear. We typically create them with a positive intention: to keep ourselves safe. However, with the rigid boundaries that relate to our interactions and connections with other people, generally, rigid boundaries are out of balance, meaning they are causing more harm to us than they are benefitting us.
While we establish rigid boundaries to keep ourselves safe within our interactions with other people, rigid boundaries can lead us to avoiding intimacy and close relationships with others. When we have many rigid boundaries set within ourselves, we are unlikely to ask for help from others, we are likely to have few close relationships (if any), we are likely to be very protective of personal information, we are likely to seem detached in the relationships that we do have (even with our romantic partners), and we are likely to keep others at a far distance in order to avoid the potential of feeling rejected.
Porous boundaries, conversely, are those personal and interpersonal boundaries we set for ourselves that are so loose that they wind up not serving any functional role.
In daily life, examples of porous boundaries would be over-sharing personal information, having a difficult time saying “no” to the requests of others (even to those things that are a serious red flag for our souls), having an over-involvement with other’s problems, being dependent upon the opinions of others for our own well-being, accepting ourselves to be misused and abused by others or disrespected by others, and fearing rejection by others if we do not comply with their interests, wants, and desires.
We often set porous boundaries out of an intention to please other people. We think, “If I set this boundary a little more loosely, then that will provide me with more opportunities to connect with other people… If I set these loose and porous boundaries, then more people will want to connect with me in a way that I want and I deserve.” Unfortunately, more often than not, porous boundaries lead us to hurt and to pain because, for lack of better words, other persons end up using them to walk all over us, even if they are not intending to do so.
We can objectively recognise that, likely, rigid boundaries and porous boundaries are neither the ideal for our life. Rather, whether we realise it or not, we are most often striving to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves and for our connections with those around us.
Healthy boundaries are ones that allow us to stay safe, but we also get to decide if and when to adjust them. Healthy boundaries are not too rigid and not too porous; they are just right. If we begin to feel that they are too tight, then we can adjust them. If we feel they are too loose, again, we get to adjust them.
Healthy boundaries look like valuing our own opinions without compromising the values of others. Healthy boundaries look like sharing personal information in an appropriate way (again, here, we get to define what’s appropriate for us); with healthy boundaries, we are not over-sharing or under-sharing — and the rubric we are using to measure the over-sharing and under-sharing scale is one that we have defined for our own selves. Healthy boundaries look like knowing and respecting our personal wants and needs and communicating them to ourselves and to those around us. Healthy boundaries look like saying “yes” and “no” when we need to, when it feels appropriate for us to do so. Healthy boundaries look like accepting when others say “no” to us when they are practicing their own boundaries.
Hot-wiring connection through porous boundaries
A challenge we are likely to face at some point throughout our life, as queer people who experience loneliness, is the temptation to set porous boundaries to find connection. As mentioned earlier, one of the intentions we frequently have when setting porous boundaries is, “If I set this boundary more loosely, then that will open the door to getting more people to love me and see me for who I am.”
Unfortunately, this tends to lead us to getting hurt, bruised, and pained; we are the ones who frequently are damaged by the impacts of porous boundaries.
And if we continue to do this over time, we will be left feeling like a welcome mat who everyone gets to trample over. And that’s not fair to us, ourselves.
It’s understandable and logical that we want to set porous boundaries when we are feeling lonely to quickly find connection.
However, the question becomes: would you rather want hot-wired connection that comes through porous boundaries or authentic connection that might take a bit more time but that derives from healthy, empowering boundaries?
Loneliness is a bitch.
It fucking sucks. It’s hard. It hurts. It’s painful.
It’s uncomfortable and we want the discomfort to pass as quickly as possible.
When you notice yourself being pulled by desire and temptation of loosening up your boundaries to please another person, pause in that very moment and ask yourself, “Is it worth it to let some of my boundaries go to make someone else happy?”
It’s not. Rather, we can take a deep breath in that moment, jump into the driver’s seat of our own life, and say to ourselves, “It might take me a little longer than I’d ideally like and I might have to sit in the discomfort of this loneliness for a few more minutes than I expected; however, I deserve to live a life respective of my authentic boundaries. I deserve to live a life that is lined up with and reflective of my personal beliefs and values.”
And the beauty of this is that when we put ourselves in this driver’s seat and begin to search for those human connections that reflect our authentic boundaries, that reflect what we want from ourselves and what we want from our interactions with other people, we are able to find those genuine connections that we are ideally looking for that are respectful of our boundaries — even if it takes a bit longer.
You are worth it, my friend.
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Ah, there it is: the link to our boundaries and our worthiness.
Let me repeat what Kevin just wrote: You are worth it, my friend.
If there’s one thing that loneliness makes us all do, it’s to question our worth as a human. You’re worthy of kick-ass boundaries: ones that serve you AND teach others how to treat you.
Kevin, thank you. I know that you've helped someone, somewhere to reflect on how they’ve set their boundaries – or not – as a gay man or queer person experiencing loneliness.
Thank you for serving the global queer community.
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If reading this post has made you uncomfortable or made you think and you need some help, remember that I’m here to help. I have resources on my page if you need crisis help right now. I’ve also built a team of amazing coaches – including Kevin – and human connection experts to help you make sense of your loneliness and to help you towards connection. These coaches and connection experts can be found here and can help you learn from your loneliness and help you towards feeling connected.
Also, for a small monthly fee, you can join the growing community of other gay men who are all prioritising their connection according to the three pillars of connection. I help the group to set weekly connection intentions, share my own and then help to keep them accountable in a supportive way. Contact me on socials or send me an email if you’d like to know more and get the help and support you deserve as you work out how to give the world the authentic, beautiful human you are.
Want more advice on setting kick-ass boundaries from Kevin? Join us for a coffee and a chat in the upcoming episode of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ from Thursday 28 October 2021.
Where to now?
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~ Thank you ~
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own/the authors and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.