The Fallacy of Setting Boundaries

Everyone is setting boundaries.  In the workplace; at home; in relationships.  It is the latest self-help fashion, fuelled in no small part by the best-selling book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab.  It is possible that the pandemic might also have played some part: where governments have imposed limitations upon our activities and behaviour, even to the point of advising how close we should stand from one another, what is more natural than for the individual to want to take back some measure of control of their lives and to impose some boundaries of their own?

These boundaries take many forms: setting limits on working hours; controlling channels of communication; placing restrictions on personal relationships.  In a world, which can sometimes appear chaotic, it is a way of feeling personally empowered.  As I say, everyone is setting boundaries.

Except, of course, they are not.  Because that is the fundamental problem with setting boundaries, if everyone was doing it, it simply wouldn’t work.  Your boundaries are only achievable until the point where they clash with my boundaries.  It is not a design for living for the masses, just a selfish standpoint for a privileged few.  It is like forever living in a personal gated community of one, or an all-inclusive hotel complex, which caters solely for the individual’s needs and cares nothing for its effect on the wider world beyond.

When in history have setting boundaries ever been a cause for celebration?  More conflicts must have arisen over disputes involving boundaries than anything else; the rift between Remain and Leave supporters over Brexit a case in point.

I prefer to think of a world in which rather than setting boundaries, we attempt to tear down boundaries.  That is the way to empowerment.

© Simon Turner-Tree

That said, Simon Turner-Tree continues to maintain a strict boundary with his next-door neighbours.

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