“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” – Henry Cloud
The exterior walls of our homes protect us from the elements, unwelcome visitors and excessive noise that might prevent us from rest and a deep sleep. Upon stepping on the terra firma of a different country, new rules apply, a unique currency is utilized to exchange for what we need and often a different way of communicating is expected.
Boundaries communicate expectations, limits and a clear means to succeed in navigation, relationships and security.
As simple and as seemingly obvious having boundaries in our individual lives sounds, often it is the lack of them that causes the frustrations and pain that upon reflection we recognize we didn’t make clear regarding what we would and wouldn’t tolerate.
The decade of my thirties has been a journey in wanting to understand myself more fully and deeply, to recognize my unconscious behavior defaults and let go of what no longer serves me. And what I have discovered when it comes to pain I have experienced in relationships (romantic, friendships, family and work) is that much of the pain could have been avoided if I would have had boundaries and the confidence to implement them.
Subsequently, because I did not have boundaries, but would reveal myself, making myself vulnerable, hoping to make a connection, there were times when those who would have been denied into my life, had I imposed boundaries, caused great pain.
But wait a second. Aren’t we supposed to be vulnerable in order to connect, establish deep, intimate, healthy relationships, and live a rich life? (as shared by Brené Brown in Daring Greatly). Yes, but the piece that we often forget, or I know at least I did, the crucial piece, and yes, a hard piece to incorporate as it requires discipline and may alienate some who have become accustomed to never hearing “no”, is to put into place boundaries.
The marriage of these two components, boundaries and vulnerability, was a significant aha moment for me. A game changer, if you will. No wonder I didn’t trust being vulnerable. I had never consistently put into place a system (boundaries) to vet who I welcomed into my personal world.
As soon as I acknowledged I held the keys to meeting people I could trust so that I then could begin to gradually be more vulnerable and build healthy relationships, I began to see my confidence improve and then my social life blossom as well. A social life I actually wanted to partake in because I felt I had sincere connections and was respected for who I truly was.
Setting boundaries is necessary in order to maintain our health, our mental clarity, healthy relationships and self-respect.
Setting boundaries begins with understanding what you need, what you can do and still handle the life you wish to lead well. Once you know your limits, you can build your boundaries. However, you can have temporary boundaries in the meantime as you are learning and discovering what and with whom you will be most comfortable and safe around. And whether the boundary is temporary or permanent, the second most important part is to communicate them clearly and with grace, and most definitely as a declaration, not a question.
“Much of the time, the things we feel guilty about are not our issues. Another person behaves inappropriately or in some way violates our boundaries. We challenge the behavior, and the person gets angry and defensive. Then we feel guilty.” – Melody Beattie
In many instances, upon setting boundaries, you will be tested. Not everyone will do this, but those who are quite comfortable with how things have been in the past and aren’t excited about this new change may push back just to make sure you are serious. Stand firm. Depending upon the relationship, share some general reasons as to why; however, an explanation isn’t necessary. Simply stating “no, I cannot do that” is absolutely enough. Some people may try to guilt or shame you, this again is not a reflection of you, but of them and how they try to gain what they want. Who wants a relationship that is built on guilt? I’d prefer, and I think you would as well, to build relationships on love, admiration and respect. I want people to be with me who enjoy being with me, and visa versa.
Where exactly in your life do you need to place boundaries? The answer to this question will depend upon you, the life you want to live and the people you want to share it with. Below are just a few areas that may offer an answer:
Understanding your job’s expectations as well as how much energy and time you need to complete tasks will help you set boundaries to protect a productive work environment. As well, when you place boundaries, you become more comfortable leaving items incomplete until tomorrow as you know you will be able to produce quality work after some much needed rest.
There are many different boundaries you could implement at your home. It begins with what your needs are. It could be regarding where guests can wander in your home, or the way in which you keep your home organized and clean. Again, these boundaries will be entirely unique to you and those you live with.
As I have grown up I have come realize that while blood may tie me genetically to certain individuals, it does not give them an automatic pass to take advantage of me. The old adage, “we’re family” is never an excuse to treat something poorly simply because one needs something. Boundaries within your family will be unique to each individual. And based on the checklist below, decide with whom you need to re-enforce boundaries and who respects you and the life you are trying to live even if your boundaries haven’t been as clear as they needed to be.
When you spend, how much you spend, on what you spend. Whether you share your income with your spouse and children, or are the only person funded by your income, be clear about what your financial goals are.
Everyone is going to have a different approach to dating based on a variety of factors. The key is again to know yourself, know what you’re comfortable with and be clear. One of the easiest ways to quickly discern if someone is worth getting to know further is if they respect your initial boundaries. Don’t soften them to please. Value yourself and others will value you. Those who don’t aren’t someone you want to go out on another date with anyways.
There are many different friendships we will have in our lives. From the colleagues at work who we share our “water cooler news”, but don’t spend time with away from the office, to our closest friends who know are deepest fears and everything in between, each friendship will have a different boundary based on the individuals involved. The key again is to communicate and gradually allow yourself to be vulnerable as they gradually reveal themselves to you. Almost like a tennis match in a way. Some friendships will take significant time to get to know each other, others rather quickly, but the procession is that it is mutually shared.
The boundaries we place online most definitely begin with understanding what we are putting online, how permanent what we share may be and who might see it. Protect yourself, be smart and simply be aware.
8. Our mind
The discussion of our minds have been quite prevalent here on TSLL, and it is a crucial place to set boundaries. Boundaries of what we allow ourselves to think, the self-talk we engage, and the ideas the outside world shares with us. Knowing how our mind works is a significant step to successfully setting boundaries. Click here to learn more about the power of our minds.
9. Our body
As a woman, but also as any human being, our bodies are ours, and ours alone. Period. What you do with your body is entirely up to you, but don’t be fooled into thinking anyone has a right to make decisions about your body except you.
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” ― Brené Brown
A question you may be asking yourself: How do I know if I need to establish better boundaries? Essential Life Skills provided a worthwhile list that is simple, clear and direct. Take a look:
- Going against personal values or rights in order to please others.
- Giving as much as you can for the sake of giving.
- Taking as much as you can for the sake of taking.
- Letting others define you.
- Expecting others to fill your needs automatically.
- Feeling bad or guilty when you say no.
- Not speaking up when you are treated poorly.
- Falling apart so someone can take care of you.
- Falling “in love” with someone you barely know or who reaches out to you.
- Accepting advances, touching and sex that you don’t want.
- Touching a person without asking.
The benefits of noticing, as I began to realize when I took time to self-reflect on my own lack of boundaries, is that we quickly understand that much of our angst in life is under our control to fix and change to greatly enhance the quality of our life.
Benefits of establishing healthy boundaries:
- Your ability to communicate effectively will improve in all arenas of your life, as you will begin to see how communicating clearly and respectfully your boundaries to others pays off. You will begin to carry this skill over into all other walks of your life.
- You will feel liberated from the expectations of others, as well, you will realize how capable you are.
- The drama in your life will decrease, and your peace of mind will soar.
- Clarity of your life’s purpose, direction and potential will be more readily available to you.
- An increased self-confidence will begin to grow organically, and you will begin to understand what you can control and how to do it well.
- Relationships will become healthier and destructive, hurtful engagements will be let go without shame or guilt.
- A more successful journey as you pursue the life of your dreams.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.” ― Warren Buffett
The gift of setting boundaries is that it then allows us to be vulnerable without welcoming unnecessary hurt. Does it mean we won’t get hurt? No. Loving others, caring for others is both an amazing and at times painful journey. The gift however is that the pain is lessened and more often prompted by what we cannot control rather than by what we can.
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.” – Brené Brown
Such a simple equation to learn. Depending upon how you were raised and who raised you, you may unconsciously establish healthy boundaries already, but for those who have not had it modeled, be patient with yourself as you learn this new and powerful skill. It will most certainly be worth your time and effort.
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