Setting Healthy Boundaries
As defined by the dictionary: Boundary “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line”
Bosses, parents, in-laws, spouses, children…a never-ending list of people and demands. It’s no simple task to manage all of the demands and take care of yourself. But we can do something about it. It’s called “Setting Boundaries” and they are essential in all relationships.
Most people are afraid of setting boundaries in fear that they will be seen as selfish, rude or uncaring. This is simply not true. By setting a boundary you are showing people that you have standards and respect for yourself and there are lines in your sand.
Setting healthy boundaries in life goes deeper than just creating our emotional space. Communicating them is essential for our health, well-being, and even our safety.
So how do you set healthy boundaries in life?
Navigating your own boundaries can be difficult because boundaries can be hard to define. It can be hard to set limits for yourself because it requires discipline and self-awareness. Some of the most important boundaries you will ever have to set will be with the people who are the closest to you. Here’s the reality – for you to be less stressed, have more time, be happy and live a more fulfilled life you need boundaries. Don’t feel guilty about setting them.
Be clear on your position. Identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual boundaries. Think about what you can accept and what makes you uneasy or stressed. For instance, do your in-laws tell you how to raise your children? Always telling you what they did and how they did it and expect you to do the same? This probably makes you feel inferior, angry, resentful…Set your limit, your boundary, by letting them know that although you appreciate how much they care, you are uncomfortable with them telling you how to raise your children. Ask them to reserve their comments and if you need their advice, assure them you will ask them. If you don’t communicate your boundary, you can expect them to continue to advise you and expect to be frustrated, annoyed and resentful!
Be Direct and honest
You can’t expect people to accept or respect your boundaries unless you have communicated it clearly and honestly. You also have to explain why it’s important to you. Using a calm clearapproach to what your boundary is allows others to fully understand and respect what is acceptable and what is not to you. For example, in a romantic relationship “time” can become an issue. I had a boyfriend that wanted to see me every day and at first, I thought it was so sweet but it soon made me feel anxious. I found myself unhappy with always “having” to make time and be available for him. So, I sat him down one night after dinner and said “honey, I love how much you want to see me but I’m finding I don’t have enough time to do the things I want to do for myself so can we only see each other on weekends?” He was totally cool with it and respected that I told him how I felt.
Give yourself Permission.
Fear, guilt, and doubt are potential difficulties when setting boundaries. We mayfear another person’s reaction if we set and apply our limitations. We may feel guilty if we say no to a family member. We might wonder if we deserve to have boundaries at all. Boundaries are not just a sign of a healthy relationship, they are a sign of confidence. So give yourself permission to set limits and work to preserve them.
Consider Your Past and Present
The way we grew up and the role we play in the family can become an additional obstacle to setting and maintaining boundaries. Playing the role of caregiver, you learn to focus on others, allowing yourself to be emotionally or physically taken advantage of. Ignoring your own needs may have become the norm for you.For example, a friend of mine grew up
in a single parent household where her mom would cook different meals based on her children’s likes and dislikes. She adopted this behaviour and when she had her children, she did the same thing leaving her frustrated, full of anxiety and shopping almost daily for the “perfect” meals for her 2 kids. When I taught her about setting boundaries, this is the first one we set. She sat her kids down now ages 7-9 and told them that there was only going to be one meal cooked each night and that they could choose to eat it or make themselves something basic from what is in the fridge and the rule was they were not allowed to use the stove. It took a few weeks but they got it and now she cooks one meal, leaving her with more time and zero frustration at the dinner table!
If you have trouble with boundaries, get support, whether it’s from a group, church, coaching, or good friends. With friends or family, you can even make it a priority to work together to set boundaries and hold each other accountable.
Setting healthy boundaries is very important. You may want to please everyone and make them happy, that’s a good thing. But remember, the goal here is your happiness first. No one is going to judge you for setting healthy boundaries and if they do, that’s their issue and not yours to take on.
– Brene Brown
For those looking to dive deeper into their relationship with boundaries, Dr. Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D. LPCC-S, recommends the following: