Prioritizing raw human connection in the age of relentless boundary setting
Establishing connections with others is a fundamental human need. While navigating relationships, there's value in enforcing boundaries when necessary to safeguard our mental and emotional wellbeing. When we overcorrect on these needs in one direction or the other, we begin feeding into one of two archetypes:
The passive people-pleaser who never arrives at a deep understanding of self, remains silent in the face of disrespect, prioritizes "keeping the peace," and mindlessly absorbs and serves the needs of others to earn their acceptance and avoid conflict.
The boundary warrior (often a recovering people pleaser) asserts their needs and boundaries in a scripted and decisive way that prevents the other person from responding. This creates distance, introduces an unnamed tension, or outright terminates the relationship. The warrior doesn't realize it yet, but they're slowly paving the path to loneliness and isolation in pursuit of an unachievable goal: Get every need met by every relationship and establish uninterrupted peace of mind.
Our digitally advanced world is noisier than ever before. Humans' emotional well-being is more at-risk than ever following the pandemic. This makes the need for human connection stronger than ever, yet we're expecting more from relationships and we're quick to withdraw entirely when imperfections arise.
Relationships can be complex, but sometimes things are more simple than we think. We make them complicated so that we have an excuse not to put in the work, move through heavy emotions, and have difficult conversations.
Overcomplicating creates false narratives from which we can opt-out of putting the forth effort required to sustain relationships. In addition to leading ourselves into overwhelm to the point of inaction, here are 3 more false narratives commonly created in our minds to avoid effort:
Labeling: Diagnosing the other person as "toxic" or"narcissistic." This narrative we design in our minds affords us the following opt-out: "why put effort into someone who is this inherently bad?" Other people's behavior is often informed by many factors beneath the surface, including the energy and behavior we give. It's satisfyingly conclusive to make assumptions and judgements, but for relationships to work, we need to consider the other person's experiences, needs, desires, and limitations (not just our own). *If someone is legitimately exhibiting abusive behavior, yes- get out of it.
Rejecting the purpose: We forget that every human is capable of learning and growing. "What's the point? Nothing will change." Self awareness, calm and honest dialogue, and finding common footing is unlikely to take place in an atmosphere of shame, fear, doubt, avoidance, and ridicule. We are more alike than we are different. Understanding one another is simpler than we make it seem.
Lazy Mindedness: Lazy-mindedness sounds like "We'll get over it" or "Things will sort themselves out." Relationships are strengthened with mutual, ongoing effort and clear communications, not a mystery of fate.
The Solution: Prioritizing human connection in the age of relentless boundary setting by developing both self awareness + relationship management skills
There is a growing trend to prioritize self-care and boundary-setting above all else. While boundaries are important in situations that truly warrant self-protection or to address a prominent condition for a relationship to function, boundaries can be taken too far. This has been dubbed "therapy talk," and it involves a tendency to center too much on the self, which leads to abruptly ending relationships and avoiding conversations perceived as difficult in the name of "setting a boundary" or "protecting my peace." Our self-care should not become an obstacle to authentic human connection. The right balance of self care and effective relationship management can be attained when we practice raw humanness.
3 Principles of Raw Humanness
One way to prioritize authentic connection while still enforcing boundaries when necessary is to approach relationship challenges with raw humanness, which takes the following commitments:
Avoid the desire to put on a show as a masterful self advocate and boundary-setter. This leads to perfectionism and over-scripting ourselves, slowly chipping away at our raw humanness. Reciting talking points and rhetoric to sound smart is a recipe for disingenuous conversation. Don't strive to sound smart, to assert power, or to "win" the conversation. Instead, strive to be real, authentic, present, and raw – the very conditions for human connection.
Be genuinely curious and interested in learning about the other person's point of view. In the pursuit of perfecting our own sense of 'peace' through self-preservation, we lose sight of the whole entire human on the other side. That human has their own set of experiences, ideals, interiority, and desire to be understood.
Be willing to put in effort and have difficult conversations, rather than avoiding conflict or cutting off relationships altogether the moment shit gets tough. Mutual ongoing effort is part of the social contract of our cherished relationships. Of course, there's a time and place for ending relationships, but that shouldn't be the solution for minor disruptions and disagreements. *When it comes to dating: No, this does not mean to settle for less than what you're looking for (be clear on what that is). Seek qualities like open-mindedness and a willingness to learn to help you determine whether a potential romantic relationship is one you're willing to pour mutual effort into.
Relationships can be complex, but they are also our greatest source of fulfillment. The value of this arena of our lives cannot be diminished by black-and-white thinking. By prioritizing authentic connection while still enforcing boundaries when needed, we can build healthy relationships that stand the test of time. It's not always easy, but our best lives are not lived in perfect ease and safety. With practice and intention, we can learn to strike this balance and cultivate relationships that bring us joy and fulfillment.
Personal Development Coaching