Thursday, March 14, 2013


This image of plate tectonics is here not because I am going to write about what happens when one plate rubs against another creating an earthquake, tidal wave or volcanic eruption but to outline what can happen with absence of boundaries. Violent shaking, town-destroying waves, huge or small eruptions out of that which may have been placidly passing the time previously.

My parents have a big garden. When volunteer plants sprout up (the extras that sprout randomly, when not even planted) my parents move them to places where they have more room to grow, more access to sun and water, space so they don't get so entangled into another plant that both become stifled.

Without boundaries, lines blur and the capacity for friction as described above in the plate tectonic example above can manifest in all kinds of unhealthy ways, ways described in this blogpost more eloquently than I could convey them. 

I am a firm believer in the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries, perhaps in part because I did not always have them. Today though, I am comfortable saying no. The lines one has to maintain by professional mandate can get blurry in a small town but these guidelines have to be respected to protect all parties. In the context of personal lives, the importance of boundaries is probably pretty obvious. This goes back to my favorite example of not just social worker self care, but self care and personal boundaries in general: 

I cannot seem to shut up about this but it's so true that's why I can't stop. I don't want to forget. I have to put the oxygen mask on myself before I can put it on anyone else. I can't help anyone else if I don't have enough oxygen to breathe myself. This is a metaphor for everything else. Other smart people tell me I can't transmit what I do not have. Having healthy boundaries is a self-care practice and by practicing this method, I am more likely to be able to be of service to all the people in the life I am so grateful to be living.  


  1. Jessica, you have provided a great reminder (and good images) for something that I have had to work at over the years. I too was one of those people who just kept taking on more by not saying no to anyone. It takes work to build boundaries with others and in the same action protect yourself. It is the only way you can continue to do this type of work, especially in rural settings where you are likely to encounter the same people in different settings.

  2. Thanks for the reminder of healthy boundaries. I find it is so easy to feel empathetic for our clients and want to help them with everything. Learning to say NO is something we have to practice or else we will run ourselves ragged doing everything for them. This can lead to enabling them and the "what can you do for me" syndrome. Then the relationship/rapport gets tangled/misconstrued just like your picture up top :)