First of all, my apologies on the tardiness! Sadly, small electronics seem to be capable of a lot more trouble than you'd expect. I'm going to need some professional help to dredge all the iced tea out of my macbook (resultant of my sweet toddler trying to bring a glass to me, but tripping and spilling all over my lap, and, well, laptop), but in the meantime, here are some stories.
Being an incredibly social creature by nature (and growing up with a reputation for clowning, animated story-telling, performing, and bringing the fun energy to gatherings), meant that for most of my developing and adult life, it just didn't occur to me that not everyone had to, or should, have the same level of access to me - that I was allowed to decide, nay, that it was beneficial to decide who could hear what was inside my heart, and when. Before this revelation, personal details of triumphs and failures were dropped into any conversation by whomever asked, regardless and without much consideration. Just about any acquaintance, old friend, or newish friend could find out the details of how my day truly was going. While I can remember feeling like it was a bit uncomfortable at times, I considered myself more 'unabashed' than an over-sharer, and shrugged it off.
There is no real defining moment I can gloriously detail about how I began to change my way of thinking on this. I can say, that at one point, that the first time a trusted adviser told me that not everyone had to know the ongoing struggles of my family's finances, I felt like I had caught my first deep breath after an asthma attack. "Yes, that feels better," I remember thinking. The rest though, has just been a slow changeover to a new way of thinking, and beginning to understand that throwing something you value (or just yourself) before the mercy of just anyone and hoping it all works out is haphazard and foolhardy at best.
It's been nearly a decade of practicing life with boundaries in place. Before, I was the 'my life is an open book' girl, and I thought that was just the way I was built, no two ways about it. The problem was that even though it always felt true, it didn't feel, for lack of a better term, safe.
I'm a big fan of the word 'intent.' Not insomuch as it has come to be known (somehow synonymous with intend), but in the classic sense. With intent, and with purpose, I take this life of mine and point it, with my love, my skills, passions, talents, and whatever I have to offer, toward my targets. I care for myself by letting only proven, trustworthy friends have access to the deep things in my life and heart.
I'm not going to go into a great deal of specifics about what that means, because realistically, it will be completely different for you. A good place to start, though, is to define what's non-negotiable for you, and move from there. Anyone who tramples on one of your non-negotiables is the first to be placed at a distance, while you see if they react well to your asking them to adjust their hurtful behavior.
If they can not, or if you're meeting someone new, remember that your inner circle and your outer circles have different levels of access to you and no one is going to take care of those boundaries for you. It's my own job to carefully guard my fences.
So, if you see me at a party and may be confused, because I seem bubbly and warm while entertaining or making people laugh, but my arms are still crossed, it's just because I'm holding my sleeves in close to my heart.