Sum of Parts vs. Whole: Dichotomy of Creating Healthy Boundaries

Updated: Aug 30


Written by: Aarohi Parakh



I am sure you must have heard this a million times from different people, that it is better not to have expectations in life. 


However, I feel given how we are emotionally and mentally invested in relationships, work or the things that we do, we are bound to have expectations. I have practically lived all my life basis expectations from others, not realising how my approach on managing the same was being detrimental to my mental health and state of mind. I couldn't see how reactions of other people affected me so much that I had forgotten to listen to my inner voice. And funnily enough, these thoughts although take years to develop, the realization that dawns upon you happens in that one moment. That one moment when you feel lost and can't recognise yourself in the mirror- because well you were looking at yourself through other people's eyes and their external validation. 


Taking therapy for betterment of my mental health was one of the scariest yet boldest step I had taken. Scary because I suddenly didn't know why was I feeling lost, and bold because I had accepted my truth, and I wanted to work on turning that around. Working on shifting my thought process on these aspects, and to see it in a new light was the key to the sessions. The focus in my thoughts slowly started changing from "others" to "self". And it helped me see that having expectations is fine too. What needs to be the focus is our reaction when those expectations are not met. If I have given 100% to the process , even if the end result doesn't match my expectations- it shouldn't affect me so deeply that I start feeling bad for myself. The larger picture of enjoying the process and learning from my mistakes if something didn't work out is something that needs to be kept in mind.


This is not to say that you ignore your feelings when you feel disappointed and pulled down- but  to remember that, if fundamentally people/situations are aligned to your core belief and values, everything over and above is like a bonus. It is like that fresh frosting on the cake, even though the sponge of the cake is equally good. And reminding yourself that the choices you make are out of self love and compassion. This organically will lead you to realize that you stop giving other people and/or external factors, the power to affect you negatively. This is where it becomes important to draw healthy boundaries from what we expect from people and situations. 


Putting the burden of all our needs and expectations from one person is unfair. More often than not we tend to do this with our partners. Our partner cannot be our friend, philosopher, guide, care taker etc all wrapped in one. We often start expecting the sum of parts of our life from only one person and that can lead to toxicity in the relationship. It is equally important to maintain the balance with your friends, relatives, hobbies (the aspects which shaped us long before we met our partners!!) because we derive meaning, purpose from all facets of our life and that cannot be placed on just one person. Yes, there is a purpose of growth and nourishment with your partner which is for the rest of your life, but, it should not come at the cost of cutting off previous ties or even at the cost of losing yourself. 


My counselling sessions with Charvi has helped me realize exactly this, that it is important to draw healthy boundaries in every aspect of your life, personal or professional. This helps to create a balanced mindset and at the same time not lose focus on 'self'. I have to admit that this change has been a difficult one for me to embrace personally, but has equally given me hope that I can build my life around 'myself' and not others. It's something which will require continuous efforts but will also lead towards a well rounded happier life. 


This dichotomy of sum of parts being greater than whole or not is thus, complex and beautiful at the same time. 


Aristotle said "The whole is greater than sum of its parts" -only with people, more often than not, the sum of many parts grow to be something great.



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