Someone unsubscribed from one of my newsletters the other day. When you unsubscribe, you are given the option to say why. Here is what he wrote in the box:

I had thought that we were friends until your Twitter unfollow showed that you do not reciprocate. I wish you well.

So many layers in just 21 words.

What had happened was that he was someone I had met at a conference once. At the time, I was really active on Twitter, and he followed me there. But these days Twitter is a dumpster fire, and it’s been years since I truly enjoyed it – in fact, I barely have a presence there at all anymore. But recently I have been trimming it down, weeding out the noise, to see if there is still value there for me. And that has meant unfollowing some people I used to follow there.

Including this guy. Who I have not spoken directly to, or been spoken directly to, for at least five years. Like, nothing. He hasn’t interacted with me, on social media or in real life either, at all. But because I unfollowed him, he took it personally.

I could spend hours talking about the ways in which Social Media deludes us into the appearance of connection without the reality of it. But the bigger point I want to make is this:

Nobody has a right to all of you.

As a friend once said about me, my life is well documented. I have an Instagram account, open to the public. I have a Twitter feed, open to the public, that he still could follow – I was just choosing to not follow him. I have a couple of Facebook pages, open to the public. I have two newsletters that go out every week where I share very personal things.

All of that is open to him, but because he did not have access to this one part of my life, he got mad.

Nope, nope, nope.

You have a right to boundaries, a right to decide how much of you is available, to decide how much of your life, your time, your story, your pictures, your memories you wish to put out into the world. You get to decide how much of your life you want to share with people, and you get to decide that on a person-by-person and event-by-event basis.

Every relationship has boundaries. Every single one. It is the boundaries I have around my relationship with my wife that make her my wife and not my roommate. And in every single interaction we have with anybody, we are teaching them how we want to be treated.

If you answer a text from a client on Saturday, you just taught them to text you on Saturday. If you let your coworker talk to you like you are trash, you just taught them that is OK. We have to teach people how to be in a relationship with us.

As Prentiss Hemphill says, boundaries are the distance at which I can love both you and me at the same time.

But if I have to choose, I will choose me.

2 thoughts on “Boundaries”

  1. thank you for such an eloquent reminder that it’s okay to have boundaries! you absolutely spoke to me today, and i also want to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your life and journey, and i look forward every week to reading and learning with you. again, thank you, hugh, for being there – xo

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