If you desire safe, loving, supportive and nurturing relationships in your life, then you will need to know how to set personal boundaries. If this is something that perplexes you, learning how to set and maintain personal boundaries will change your life.
Boundaries are lines in the sand in relationships that clarify clearly where the space between where you end and the other person begins. It establishes your personal needs, wants and values and communicates them to the other person.
For many of us, we lived in families and had upbringings that made setting boundaries difficult. There was a parent or other important person in our life who didn’t know how to set boundaries themselves so they weren’t able to teach us how to set them as we grew up. Boundaries are something you learn growing up, and if you had caregivers who expressed and set boundaries, you would have learned healthy boundary setting and it will be second nature to you. For those of us who didn’t learn, we can end up in abusive and toxic situations later in life because of our inability, and lack of skill set when it comes to setting those boundaries. But, all is not lost. Setting boundaries is something that can be learned now matter what your upbringing. It can take a while to change your relationship process and re-wire your understanding, but here are some basic steps to get you started setting boundaries in your relationships so that you can experience healthy, supportive and nurturing dynamics.
IDENTIFY AND ACCEPT YOUR OWN FEELINGS
This is one of the most important places to begin when learning to set your own boundaries. You might be surprised at how difficult it can be to acknowledge or even know what you are feeling day to day. Once you can receive that information from yourself, you can start to assess day to day how you feel about how someone talked to you, what someone did or didn’t do, or how you were treated at work or at home. Was that comment hurtful? Did you feel disrespected when that person showed up late? The difficulty with most of us who grew up with leaky boundaries, or none at all is that we often have no idea how we feel and we are so enmeshed in the other person we don’t realize that we are even upset or why we are upset. When you take the time to reflect and assess how you are truly feeling then you can bring clarity to the blurred lines and know what is you and what is the other person. Then, you can objectively and maturely decide what you need from that person moving forward. This level of communication is paramount in healthy relationships.
KNOWING WHEN YOUR BOUNDARIES HAVE BEEN CROSSED
Once you have taken the time to reflect and acknowledge how you truly feel about a situation, then you can assess if it has crossed your boundary or not. When someone crosses your boundary, it doesn’t feel good. Once you learn to identify those feelings and work out what upset or hurt you, then you can safely settle on the truth that your boundaries were crossed. The important part here is to avoid judging your feelings. If it bothers you, it is important. It is only our job in relationships to know how we feel, and to express it respectfully and truthfully, it is not our job to protect others from our truth. How they respond is on them, not you.
SETTING YOUR BOUNDARY
Do you have a client who is always late on payments? A friend who constantly borrows money and doesn’t return it? A family member who disrespects you by constantly criticizing you? It can be anything – the key is that whatever it is, caused you to not feel good about it. The next step is to be clear that this persons behaviour is not acceptable to you. REMEMBER: Loving someone does not justify allowing behaviour that crosses your boundaries. When you love someone it is your responsibility to inform them when they have.
VOICING YOUR BOUNDARY
“Look, I don’t appreciate you talking to me like that, please do not do it any longer” Once you have established your boundary, it is time to voice it to the person who crossed it. In a respectful relationship, the person will hear you and respect your request. Often, in toxic relationships the person will push back, argue or get very angry. This is why your boundaries have been weak up to this point. You have known that expressing your concerns will result in over reaction and disrespect. It is important you do it anyway. This is when you can start to identify who in your life disrespects you and who is toxic. There are many signs of disrespect, and ignoring your boundaries is one of them.
When your boundaries are ignored, disrespected or met with anger, hostility or the silent treatment it is extremely important that you stand your ground. You will want to give in to avoid the drama and the intensity and you might think that it’s not worth it – It is. Your feelings are important and if this person cannot respect that, they are showing you their true colours and you might need to assess this relationship moving forward. If things get too intense, it might be best to walk away or calmly state your boundary again “I can see that this upset you, lets take a break right now and re connect later to talk about it when we are calm” – Sometimes that person will refuse to accept your boundary even after taking a time out. Then it’s time to take stock of that relationship.
It is very difficult for many of us who grew up with a family with leaky boundaries, co-dependency or addiction to learn how to take care of ourselves, avoid enabling, being a victim or becoming abused. Boundaries will protect you from those scenarios before they even happen because they will show you the truth of that person and how much they respect and care about what is important to you. This understanding can make you suddenly aware of toxic relationships in family and marriages and it can cause considerable grief and upset on your part. This is completely understandable. Your new awareness of this persons toxicity can be alarming – especially if you’ve known them for a long time. Honour this loss, allow your pain because it is a normal reaction. Taking care of yourself is not easy to do, that’s why many of us abandon ourselves to ‘keep the peace’ – but your inner peace is non negotiable. Follow through, be your best protector. You will find your trust in yourself will start to grow and you’ll feel stronger and stronger knowing that you will not allow people to treat you badly.
DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
You’ve realized that this person just will not change, cannot change or just refuses to acknowledge a problem in your relationship. Now it is time to do what needs to be done to protect yourself from further violation. And lets be clear, when someone always ignores your boundaries, it is a violation and it is emotional abuse. To stay out of victim, you must be your own hero and assess that this relationship must end, or must have some distance to offer you the peace of mind you deserve. This is difficult, it can break your heart, but it is your heart, and if you won’t protect yourself, who will? It’s time to make changes. You will find that when you honour yourself like this, healthy, empowering and supportive people will come into your life more. You attract what you believe. So, start believing in yourself and demanding the respect and love that is your right.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
LET GO OF ASKING ‘WHY’
This process can be very difficult for those of us who are sensitive, compassionate and do care about others. We cannot understand why this person we love just won’t listen, won’t care and doesn’t want to see what is important to you. This is not how you would behave, and you’ll never be able to understand it. Asking Why? will never get you an answer, and that persons behaviour will never make sense to you. This is when it is truly important to accept this person, forgive them ( not to justify their behaviour, but to release yourself from expecting it to change and holding on to resentment) and realize that it is not about you, it is about them and their limits of understanding currently. They may eventually change one day, or they may never – it is not your responsibility to carry that burden. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and live your best life.
When you begin to honour your boundaries, protect yourself and love yourself it can be extremely difficult as you may lose friends, family and even spouses. Be sure you find support in counselling, a healthy empowering relationship, a mentor or any other healthy relationship – you will need someone to help you stay strong, stay true and to weather the storm as you journey to the land of self empowerment, strength, compassion, integrity and authenticity.
Warrior on friend, you can do this! #JustReal #WarriorWords