If I had to name the most important interpersonal skill one could have, I would say building and maintaining healthy boundaries is top number one and most important skill to possess.
Many people -- including me at one time -- think of boundaries as a line in the sand, the Do Not Cross This Line conversation we imagine having to have with someone who is abusing us. In fact, boundaries are internal mechanisms
Boundaries are your windshield to the world.
Here’s how it works: imagine a bird poops on your car’s windshield. What happens? Does it seep into your very being and poison you? Do you cry (well, maybe if you just washed your car! LOL)? Does that bird poop get inside and touch you? NO! It plops onto the glass, slides down, dries up, and then is washed away without ever reaching you.
Imagine you have a nasty sibling who makes snide remarks to you, taunts you, teases you, or makes backhanded, passive aggressive comments at family gatherings. That really gets to you, doesn’t it? Always has. It is the basis of family fights, sibling rivalry, and many many hours of tears, arguments, screaming, and The Silent Treatment.
Now imagine you have your boundary, your internal protection mechanism, your Windshield. Imagine your sibling is the bird. Her words are the poop. Your boundary is the windshield. She taunts you, the words hit your boundary, and they do absolutely nothing to you. You are uninjured, and so is your ego.
Oops, did you hear that last part? “So is your ego.”
That’s where you get tripped up, and that’s where your boundary isn’t strong enough. You let those things affect your ego: your feelings get hurt, you feel marginalized, and you feel disrespected. You want to fight back because it feels better. It feels good to lash out!
At least for the moment.
These feelings of disrespect, ego injury, and being marginalized are the result of your thoughts; your thoughts create feelings, and your feelings feed your thoughts. You think therefore you are emotional, and you get more emotional because you latch onto those thoughts.
So, what do you do?
Stop thinking about it!
Put up your windshield and don’t let those words get through, and when you feel yourself starting down the road of disrespected, hurt, and angry crying, just stop. Consider this: What did those words do to you? Did they penetrate the windshield and stab you? Or enter your bloodstream and poison you? No. They remain on the outside, and you are safe inside your boundary. Let the words roll off, and don’t give them another thought.
Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you. Or, to quote today’s pop queen, “Shake It Off!