For me, there’s a difference between maintaining my personal boundaries and
drawing the line.
My personal boundaries signal self-validation and affirmation while drawing the line can be motivated by changeable circumstances and variables. My personal boundaries are non-negotiable, but I may choose not to use indelible ink when I feel compelled to draw the line.
I have made an internal choice to take care of myself and, consequently, I limit how far I allow another person to step into my personal space. It’s like having an invisible shield when people are acting in ways that are not acceptable to me. Then the line I draw is indelible. I have no need to defend, debate, or over-explain my feelings: “You may not yell at me. If you continue, I will have to leave the room.”
On the other hand, I may draw the line with a friend about lending her money, believing she needs to take responsibility for herself. Under different circumstances, however, I might freely assist her financially because the line I drew at the time was about her, not about standing up for myself.
I may have drawn a line about salary and determined to settle for nothing less than a certain amount –but what if taking a job that pays less than I believe I am worth is strategic, giving me a chance to survive and negotiate later? Not allowing anyone to devalue me is one of my personal boundaries, but deciding to accept a position that does not utilize all my skills only means I believe in myself enough not to have drawn the line about salary with indelible ink.
For me, learning to set personal boundaries is all about self-awareness. I pay close attention to situations that cause me to lose energy, feel a knot in my stomach, or make me want to cry. I will not remain in an environment that is not affirming, respectful, friendly and empowering. The highest paying job is not worth tolerating an undercurrent of tension, anxiety or conflict.
Having said all this, I choose not to draw the line out of fear, hate, prejudice or ignorance. These emotions are poison and will tear me apart from the inside out. Tolerance, forbearance, open-mindedness –even broadmindedness– these attitudes are just as important to me as my choice to protect my personal space. In fact, I believe it is the only atmosphere in which I may cultivate internal peace.