Recently, I took a break from household and childminding duties to watch an educational video about music therapy. It felt like a breath of fresh air. Not because of any ground-breaking content, but because it had been so long since I was in my ‘element.’ So long since I had heard someone speaking my language – talking about the area I had studied and worked in. I felt a scholarly and professional comradery with the video-taped members of the audience, despite my vast removal from them, as a stay-at-home-mom who no longer works in that field.
After watching the speech and taking notes on it, I felt as though something had come alive in me again. Something I had been ignoring. But why had I neglected that part of myself for so long?
Having unique interests, and allowing yourself time and freedom to explore them, is a part of what it means to have healthy personal boundaries. A person with healthy boundaries will also:
- Have their own opinions, without fearing what others will think – and will respect the rights of others to do the same.
- Have a unique identity (sense of self) that is not consumed by any one particular role, or person.
- Know that their value is innate, and not dictated by what they do or how other people view them.
- See their personality as valid and overall good, rather than berating themselves (for being too shy and quiet, perhaps; or, too loud and exhuberant). They will also enjoy and respect the personalities of other people.
- Be aware of their own feelings, and take personal responsibility for them. (See this post.)
In short, a person with healthy boundaries will respect him or herself, and also be respectful of others.
Cultivating a healthy sense of personal boundaries is a skill that does not come naturally to everyone. Perhaps you grew up in an enmeshed family, where these unique aspects of who you are were not nurtured. Instead, you were expected to change or hide them in order to please other members of the family.
If this is the case, the same tendencies may continue into adulthood. For moms of young children (a role that can be all-consuming), the topic of personal boundaries may be of particular importance. I’ve heard moms say that they have forgotten who they are. I would tend to identify with this statement. Our responsibility to love and care for our children is essential for their well-being. However, it is better (for ourselves and our children) that we also retain some sense of self, apart from being moms. In this way, we will avoid using our kids to meet our own emotional needs. We will also show them the example of a parent who enjoys her life, is able to care about others, and makes unique and positive contributions within the family and beyond. That is an example I would like my kids to follow!
We’re allowed to have individual interests and opinions. We’re allowed to say ‘no,’ and ‘stop.’ We can be ourselves: our personalities are valid and acceptable just as they are. We each have failings but are not condemned by them, because we can receive forgiveness and are able to grow in character.
To develop this in my own life, I am becoming more aware of my wants, likes, and dislikes. I even express them verbally from time to time. I’m trying to be ok with standing in a crowd. (Even if I feel awkward or funny looking.) I’m researching educational and career options within the realities of my life. I’m trying not to berate myself for the things I cannot do. Rather, I am focusing on the things I do well.
For whatever reason, God wanted one of me. So here I am.
What have you lost yourself in? If you are a mom, how do you retain your sense of identity? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Note: If you are interested in learning more about personal and relational boundaries, I would recommend consulting the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It is the source of much of what I have learned on the topic.