I should have been a carpenter or in construction because I am an expert at building walls.
Emotional walls, that is. Walls that intentionally keep people at a distance. I mind my own business, I encourage others to do the same and I am fiercely protective of my space. Period.
I can’t tell you precisely when all that happened because I know I wasn’t always like this, but I do know that it became an intentional practice in my early adult years and grew even more in later years. I also know that the wall building was born because of being repeatedly disappointed by people who I thought I could trust. Boyfriends, husbands, sister-friends, employers, co-workers … you name it, someone had disappointed me and the more it happened the less likely I was willing to allow it to happen again. It was like each time I was disappointed a new brick was added to the wall.
Many, many years ago I read the quote: High expectations breed despair. This has stayed with me and has caused me to change how I interact with people. It caused me to never expect anything from anyone ever, that way (in my mind) I will never be disappointed. If you don’t expect anything and you don’t get anything you can’t be disappointed. Conversely, if you don’t expect anything and you get something than it’s a really nice surprise. Win-Win, right?
Or is it?
It wasn’t until I decided to get back into the dating game after a 7-year hiatus that I was forced to look at things differently. While I was purposely single, the walls were not a problem. I wasn’t checking for anyone and no one was checking for me, so I never had to think about the walls. They were just there. But if I was going to be serious about having a man in my life than how was that going to work with walls?
It was a serious question and I did not have the answer. The walls were part of me. They were like my security blanket and they kept me safe. I had a conversation with a group of women on this topic and one of the women said you must have boundaries.
Boundaries? Boundaries. Boundaries!
When I thought about the concept of boundaries, I knew that I had to be willing to take a risk. I had to be willing to entertain the possibility of letting people in while protecting my peace, my energy and my privacy.
I learned that the problem with my wall – my security blanket was that it was deceiving me. I believed that I was keeping myself safe but all I was doing was isolating myself from the world and denying myself opportunities for relationships with new people. My walls were reinforcing my own fear and insecurity when it came to dealing with other people. The walls also magnified the fact that not only did I not trust others, but I also didn’t trust myself to make wise decisions. Conversely, being able to set clear boundaries helps to build trust and are a sign of confidence and self-awareness.
It was time to get rid of the walls. It was a slow process. I had to do it one brick at a time, I couldn’t use a bulldozer! It was a risk, but it was a risk that I was ready and willing to take. It’s about knowing who you are and trusting your gut. Once you really know who you are, protecting your boundaries becomes easy.
In other words, I had very little fear of taking down those bricks because I know who I am. People are still people and people will still disappoint. However, I don’t have to hide behind a wall because I have learned to set boundaries in order to protect my peace. I can recognize a person or situation that is not meant for me and walk away without a second thought. In fact, I have learned to love walking away from things that are not meant for me. For me, the action of walking away shows true wisdom and true growth.
Tear down the walls and set boundaries.