So many of our issues in our personal and professional relationships have to do with boundaries that are either non-existent or are being violated. Let’s take a look at how setting boundaries will benefit you, as well as others, in those relationships. In setting healthy boundaries, you are protecting your time, energy, values, and emotions. Time is the most precious commodity on earth, and we are only given so much of it. It’s something we typically don’t ever feel like we have enough of, so why are we giving it away so freely and wasting it on things that aren’t important to us? There are many tasks we do that could be delegated to someone else, people who demand our times unreasonably, and people and things we let interrupt us from what’s truly important. In setting boundaries around your time, remember that sometimes it’s not only other people you have to protect your time from, it could also be yourself and those distractions you let get in the way. Everything you do takes energy, and when you give and give and give without replenishing, you have nothing left. Think of your energy as a glass filled with water. Every time you do something throughout the day, you pour a little out of your glass. Eventually, unless you refill that glass, it will be empty. And when you lack healthy boundaries, your glass becomes empty much quicker because you aren’t careful about what you are pouring your energy into. When your feelings are constantly being hurt because we lack boundaries or our boundaries are being violated, it’s difficult to love and car for others, and yourself, the way that you are capable of.
Please remember that setting healthy boundaries is NOT a selfish act. When you see boundaries, other people will see you as safe, secure, and reliable to be around. They will understand who you are and how you move through the world because you will communicate clearly with them, without confusion. They will also feel safe to grow in your presence because you have mutual respect and caring between you and you both have permission to be yourselves. It’s also kind and generous to set boundaries. Like I mentioned earlier, we are constantly giving of ourselves. When you have healthy boundaries, you only give what you want to and that means you have energy left to give to more people and activities that bring you joy and create even more energy for you. Setting boundaries also means your time management will improve, so you will not only have more energy for those values you hold dear, but you will have more time for them as well.
But it might be challenging at first. People around you may not be used to you being assertive and setting boundaries. Some people in your life may be used to getting their own way 100% of the time, but be persistent and remember that practice makes permanent. I would like to take a moment to address what obstacles you may face in the process so that you can be prepared. So why do people allow their boundaries to be violated, even though they know it’s not okay? Well first, many people have a fear of rejection and even abandonment. They are afraid that if they start setting boundaries, that person will leave them. Or perhaps they have a fear of confronting the person about their behavior. Now, if you are in a physically abusive relationship, it may not be safe for you to confront your abuser and attempt to set boundaries with them, so I absolutely suggest working with a professional. They also may feel guilty for setting the boundary. We typically are not taught to set boundaries much as we grow up, and so unless you had healthy relationship role models, it may feel awkward to you. Know that one of all of these feelings may come up and that it is perfectly natural. But you may be surprised how well others begin to respond to your adding structure to your relationship. You may begin to get more respect from the other person, and they may have had no idea you felt the way that you do. It will increase your self-esteem, and therefore change the way others see you in a positive way. You will be treated more as an equal when you stand up for yourself and start making healthier choices and taking responsibility for your feelings, choices, and actions.
The first step in setting healthy boundaries is to identify where you need to set boundaries in your life. When you identify a boundary that needs to be set, address it in a calm, clear, respectful manner but be firm and concise with your wording. It’s important not to get emotional, and to not apologize that you are setting the boundary. Remember that each person is responsible for their own emotions, so their reaction is not your responsibility. You might be tested by the person you are setting the boundary with trying to change your mind, make you feel guilty, or try to control you as they have been able to do in the past. Stay strong and calm. Remember that you have the right to feel the way you do, and to take care of yourself.
So how do you define which boundaries you need to set? Well, whenever you feel resentful, angry, irritated, or start complaining or whining about having to do something, that is a clear indication that there is a boundary issue there. Pay attention to those feelings, and then figure out what you will need to do or say to establish that boundary and communicate it clearly, not when someone else tells you. Please remember that setting the boundary in itself isn’t enough. What if the person doesn’t respect that boundary-again? You have to be willing to enforce that boundary with consequences. So how do you communicate what the consequence will be for violating your new boundary? First, make sure you are very clear and calm in stating the boundary itself, and the actions you are ready to take if the boundary is crossed. Remember that you don’t want to be too loose, or too strict with your boundaries, so it’s best if they are somewhat flexible and not an ultimatum. You can simply let the person know you will be bringing their boundary violation to their attention and ending the conversation if it happens again. Old habits die hard, so sometimes a mutual agreement to let each other know if either or you slips back into unhealthy habits is a good first step in changing the dynamic of your relationship. You can also let them know that if the behavior continues you will be limiting contact, asking them to leave, or cutting off the relationship all together depending on the severity of the violation and your relationship to that person. But be careful not to give a consequence that you aren’t prepared to follow through with. Boundaries don’t work without the follow-through. But if someone is not willing to give you the care and respect you deserve, are they truly someone you want to spend your time with? Setting boundaries and limits with the people in your life plays a very important part in your quality of life and the quality of your relationships. They are worth setting and sticking to.
If you’d like to explore further what having the support of a mental wellness coach looks like, let’s talk.