Have you ever found yourself doing things for others that made you uncomfortable or angry? Have you acted out of guilt or fear? Do you sometimes respond to the emergencies of others as if they are your own?
This happens to us when we have weak personal boundaries. Weak personal boundaries open us up to abuse, disrespect and general unhappiness with our lives.
For a long time, whenever I heard the word “boundary,” I thought about trying to change someone else’s behavior. At first, it may sound that way, but creating healthy boundaries is more about protecting yourself.
Personal boundaries are the imaginary lines that we draw to protect our minds, bodies, emotions and time from the behavior or demands of others. Healthy personal boundaries show that we respect ourselves and, in turn, others can respect us too.
Many of us never learned to set healthy boundaries. Most of what we know about relationships comes from modeling the behavior of people we spent the most time with when we were young, and then our family and friends as we got older.
When we have trouble setting boundaries, we may find ourselves complaining, feeling taken advantage of or feeling powerless. For me, it’s the uncomfortable feeling that I get in my heart when someone asks me to do something that I don’t want to do or that conflicts with my values. These feelings are signs that I need to make some changes.
The most important thing to remember when setting boundaries is that they are designed to protect and take care of you and your values. Setting healthy boundaries with others is most effective when we act from a place of love, not fear.
Learning to set healthy boundaries is a journey where progress is far more important than perfection.
Below are six tips for setting healthy boundaries that can help you create the life that you want.
When boundary setting is new, we first have to shift the way we think. Realize that healthy boundaries are not only good, but necessary for our well-being. They show others what we consider acceptable/unacceptable behavior based on our values.
Start by being aware of your feelings. Becoming aware of when and how others cross your imaginary boundary line is the next step. Do you sometimes say yes when you’d rather say no? Do people say or do things around you that make you uncomfortable?
These are clues that our boundaries are being crossed. This may take some time for you to learn, but will allow you to set healthier boundaries.
As you become aware of your feelings, make lists of instances where you feel uncomfortable, angry or disrespected. Does it happen more often with specific people? Are your boundaries crossed more often at work, at home or with friends?
Take as much time as you need to work on the list. You may want to spend a few minutes each morning or evening jotting down specific occasions where your boundaries were crossed. You will likely see a pattern emerge.
Once you have identified the people who have crossed your boundaries, sit down and communicate your new boundaries with love and kindness. Let them know how they have crossed your boundaries in the past. Ask them to respect and support your new boundaries in the future.
Some people in your life, unhappy about the boundaries you have set, may push against you. This is to be expected. The goal is to create healthy, loving relationships with the people in our lives.
As you practice setting or affirming your personal boundaries, you will learn that flexibility can be necessary. Being too rigid with boundaries creates just as much difficulty as weak ones.
Your boundaries create a new way of relating to the people in your life. In time, if you are consistent, they will learn to respect your boundaries and will respect you more, too.
Believe in yourself and trust your intuition and feelings. You know better than anyone what makes you happy and what causes you to feel stress and discomfort.
As you develop healthy boundaries, you will be a happier person. When you say yes, it will be with your whole heart.
Establishing healthy personal boundaries allows us to cement healthier relationships, feel more empowered, and have a healthier sense of self-worth by choosing love. Once you start setting healthy boundaries, get ready for your life to change–because it will.
– Robert Frost