woman's face with half of it in shadows
Image by Joey Velasquez 

Boundaries... barriers... walls... All these words have similar meanings. They indicate a place where one must stop and go no further. In some cases boundaries and walls are wonderful. They stop us from falling over the edge of a cliff, they prevent us from "overstepping" into someone's "space", but too much of a "good thing" can become its opposite... bad.

Many of us, especially women, have read about and been told to put up boundaries to protect ourselves from abuse. In some cases, this does indeed afford protection, but in other cases all it does is put up a wall between us and someone else, between us and our good, between us and discovering something new.

I called someone the other day on their beeper. They did not recognize my number, so they called me back not knowing who they were calling... When I answered "hello" we both hemmed and hawed not wanting to be the first to divulge our identity. She didn't feel "safe" in being the first to say "this is so-and-so, you paged me?" and until I knew who it was I didn't feel safe in saying "This is Marie". Her comment was that it was sad that neither of us felt safe to divulge our identity.

Holding Back From Revealing our "True" Self

This made me think. How many times do we hold back from revealing our "true identity" or our "true beliefs" before we feel safe that the other person will agree with those beliefs, or be on the "same wavelength". This is especially true in the area of personal beliefs that we are in the process of changing. We do not feel secure in our new beliefs, so we hold back from expressing them in case someone will disagree with them, or ridicule us for them.

While in some cases, that might be wise, in other cases it keeps us from growing, from discovering other people who also are searching. In 1985, when I started InnerSelf Magazine as a local magazine in South Florida, many people said to me that there were not enough people in South Florida that were interested in personal growth and holistic health to have a viable advertiser base.

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I disagreed with them. I knew, and was later proved right, that there were many people living in the "closet" for fear of "exposing" themselves. They felt alone in their beliefs -- they believed that they were the only ones changing and becoming more attuned to their inner self. When these people discovered the magazine InnerSelf (or any other publication in the same vein), they realized that they weren't the "only ones" and that gave them permission to "come out of the closet" and be up front about themselves... about their beliefs and their dreams.

Putting Up Walls That Block Communication & Understanding

Boundaries by Marie T. RussellAre you living in the closet of your mind, of your fears, of your beliefs? Have you put up walls between yourself and the people around you believing they wouldn't understand? Are you hiding your truth from the people you work with, from your family, from the people you meet believing that they wouldn't accept you if they knew what you "really believed"... that you believe, perhaps, in such "strange concepts" as communicating with angelic beings, reincarnation, fasting, healing with the power of thought... whatever.

The main problem with our hiding behind our walls of safety is that the people around us do not get to benefit from our experience and from our newly acquired knowledge. Now, I'm not talking here about becoming a "preacher" trying to convert anyone and everyone to your new beliefs... whether it be a new diet, a new belief, or a new way of behaving. Sharing our truth with others is not about trying to convince them... it is about being honest with ourselves and with others. And yes, sometimes it can be scary.

Being A Pioneer Can Feel Risky

Yet, if all the people, who have had new ideas and concepts, had refused to share them with the world, we'd still be living without electricity, thinking the world is flat, and walking everywhere instead of flying or driving. While your new beliefs and knowledge may not be as "earth shattering" as a new invention, it may be very important to the person you share it with.

We never know when sharing from our heart will make a huge difference in someone's life. Sometimes they may have been waiting for a "clue" to guide them in a new direction, and your words helped support their decision. While that is a weighty "responsibility", we are not responsible for what people do with our sharing. We simply share because of an inner need to express what we feel is "our truth", and the other person then takes that information and applies it to their life... or they don't. That is not our responsibility, it is not our choice. But if we hold back and don't speak up, we are robbing the other person of the opportunity of making that choice. 

So many times, people say to me that the articles I write speak directly to them... That is perhaps because I am not writing to convince anyone... I am simply sharing the "newest" thought that's become clear to me... It's not a "new thought" at all... but to me it is newly "clear"... and perhaps to someone else it is new, or perhaps they simply needed reminding.

We never know when our truth is exactly what is needed at the time. Yet if we remain behind our boundary of safety, then everyone misses out. We miss out on sharing and giving light and love, and the other person misses out on receiving.

Respecting Boundaries, But Being Willing To Stretch Them

Now of course, one must respect other people's boundaries, but, we also must trust that sometimes those boundaries needs a little stretching. We can sometimes be very attached to our "comfort zone". Yet, a lot of times, growth comes to us when we have been shaken from that safe space.

Sometimes we are the ones being shaken, and sometimes we are the ones shaking others... gently of course. We do not need to convince or convert anyone, we simply need to be honest about our truth. If someone says something that you disagree with, or that you have a "different perspective" on that "truth", then perhaps it is your "duty" to share it... to let your light shine!

We Are All Teachers & Students to Each Other

How else do we learn except by being exposed to a different perspective, to information we were not familiar with? We are all teachers and students. I learn from you and you learn from me. In the same vein, you learn (hopefully) from the people in your life, and they have the opportunity to learn from you as well.

Sometimes we learn from people's mistakes, sometimes from their examples (good or bad) but always we have the opportunity to look around us and see "little mirrors" of ourselves. We are all in the same boat and if we start learning from each other and sharing what we have learned with others, perhaps we can get to where we're going faster. 

If everyone lives isolated behind their boundary, then each and every one of us has to reinvent the wheel... rather than benefiting from the fact that someone else discovered the concept and we get to apply it to our lives.

Peeking Out From Behind Our Boundaries

I encourage all of us to start peeking out from behind our boundaries... We may find that we have been living a lonely existence behind those walls, and that when we "come out" we have a whole group of people who also are waiting to "come out" when they see they're not alone. A good anthem for all of us may be the old song that goes "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. This little light of mine...". 

According to the book "Cultural Creatives", at the time it was written in 2001, we were over 50 million strong wanting to create change in the world... We can do it... Let your light shine and help bring those changes about sooner... Your light can help "enlighten up" someone else, and so on and so forth... 

We can do it! All together now: "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine..."

Related book:

The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and Sherry Ruth Anderson.

book cover: The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and Sherry Ruth Anderson.This book offers a more hopeful future and prepares us all for a transition to a new, saner, and wiser culture. Sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson draw upon thirteen years of survey research studies on more than 100,000 Americans. They reveal who the Cultural Creatives are and the fascinating story of their emergence over the last generation, using vivid examples and engaging personal stories to describe their distinctive values and lifestyles.

Info/Order this paperback book. Also available as a hardcover.

About The Author

Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.

Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com