You know who doesn’t need to work on their boundaries?
And probably parrots.
Okay, let’s just say animals.
Animals know what they like and do not like.
They know what they want to do and don’t want to do.
Then they do it. For as long as they want and then they stop.
If they want you to pet them, they shove their face in your hand.
If they want you to stop petting them, they walk away.
But only IF we allow them to.
We humans are not great with boundaries – ours or theirs.
We frequently fail to state our own boundaries clearly, so that others can respect them. See: biting your tongue instead of saying “do not touch my dog!”
We constantly ignore boundaries that are being clearly communicated to us. See: growling. And “It’s okay for me to pet him. I’m really good with shy dogs.”
Animals have a lot to teach us about boundaries. Here’s what they do without breaking sweat:
- They don’t second guess themselves.
- They don’t worry about what anyone thinks of them.
- They don’t apologize or mumble when they say what they need.
- They don’t feel guilty for hissing, growling, or walking away.
- They don’t feel weird about changing their minds.
Animals clearly state their needs and limits. Then, depending on the circumstances and context, they will adjust their limits.
Healthy boundaries are firm and flexible. Animals let their boundaries change, based on their needs in that moment.
Old Boundary: I will hide under the bed for a thousand years before I allow you to touch me.
New Boundary: I’ve decided to sleep on your head.
Old Boundary: I will bark and lunge at any dog that dares to walk on the other side of the street from me.
New Boundary: I’ve decided I would like to sniff that particular dog’s butt.
Animals know what they want and ask for it.
They don’t worry about it being ridiculous or out of character or inconvenient or rude.
Obviously, it’s more complicated (kinda) for humans.
We’ve been ignoring our boundaries for so long, most of us aren’t even sure what they are anymore.
Even if we do know what our limits are, we’re too afraid, embarrassed, or busy trying to accommodate everyone else’s needs to assert ourselves.
Or maybe we feel conflicted and guilty because taking care of our needs means we might not be able to do ALL the things for the animals and people we love.
Let’s take a page out of the cat self-care playbook: They do not think it’s selfish to drink out of the kitchen sink or to warm their buns on our keyboards. They don’t feel lazy for taking their 17th nap of the day.
We love that about them.
We believe that animals are entitled to be well cared for and have their needs met, even if they don’t do a damn thing to “earn it.”
Well, we’re animals too.
With that in mind, here are some questions for you to explore:
What if you could approach your life the way animals do?
What would be different if you allowed yourself to pay close attention to what feels good and what feels unpleasant?
What would happen if you gave yourself permission to move away from what’s causing you harm or doesn’t serve you anymore?
Animals are always our very best teachers.
So the next time you’re not sure what a healthy boundary looks like, try to channel your inner cat.
Look that person right in the eye. Slowly knock everything off their desk. Then walk away.