January 26, 2021
Boundaries protect your personal self by setting a clear line between what is me and what is not me. A lack of boundaries opens the door for others to determine your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Defining boundary is a process of determining what behavior you will accept from others and what you will not. Setting good personal boundaries is critical to creating healthy relationships, increasing self-esteem, and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
Boundaries are not just about getting what we want; they are about creating healthy, workable relationships.
Boundaries include physical boundaries, as well as emotional boundaries. Physical boundaries include your body, personal space, and privacy. Violations include standing too close, inappropriate touching, even looking through your personal files or your phone.
Emotional boundaries involve separating your feelings from another’s feelings. Violations include taking responsibility for another’s feelings, letting another’s feelings dictate your own, sacrificing your own needs to please another, blaming others for your problems, and accepting responsibility for theirs. Strong boundaries protect your self-esteem and your identity as an individual with the right to make your own choices.
It is important to remember that others don’t have to agree with your boundary in order to respect your wants and needs. Boundaries are like a fence around your home. They aren’t personal. They are created to protect the space of the person who lives there.
I am not saying there aren’t boundary negotiations that may need to be had especially if we live with someone and have shared space. There are times where we need and want to be flexible with our boundaries.
We can also respect someone’s boundaries and offer a compromise and the person has a right to say no to us.
As important as this may sound, most of us have a difficult time setting healthy boundaries consistently. At times it is difficult to identify when our boundaries are being crossed. We may even fear the consequences to our relationships if we set them.
To identify when your boundaries are being crossed, stay tuned into your feelings. Red flags include discomfort, resentment, stress, anxiety, guilt and fear. These feelings stem from feeling taken advantage of or not feeling appreciated. Think about the people who you feel this way around. Do the following statements ring true: I can’t make my own decisions, I can’t ask for what I need, I can’t say no, I feel criticized, I feel responsible for their feelings, I seem to take on their moods, and I am often nervous, anxious or resentful around them.
Once we start to set our own boundaries, we may start to realize where others have violated our boundaries or whether we have violated others’ boundaries. This doesn’t mean either is a bad person or was doing this on purpose. This is something that we recognize and bring to our current and future relationships.
Unhealthy boundaries are often characterized by a weak sense of your own identity and your own feelings of disempowerment in decision making in your own life. This leads you down the road to relying on your partner for happiness and decision-making responsibilities thereby losing important parts of your own identity. An inability to set boundaries also stems from fear; fear of abandonment or losing the relationship, fear of being judged, or fear of hurting others’ feelings.
Make a list of boundaries you would like to strengthen. Write them down. Visualize yourself setting them and finally, assertively communicate with others what your boundaries are and when they’ve crossed them. Remember, this is a process. Start with a small, non-threatening boundary and experience success before taking on more challenging boundaries. This is also an amazing topic to review with your therapist and work together on what you have.
Boundaries to start with:
Say no – to tasks you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do.
Say yes – to help.
Say thank you with no apology, regret or shame.
Ask for help.
Protect your time – don’t overcommit.
Ask for space – we all need our own time.
Speak up if you feel uncomfortable with how someone is treating you or your needs are being infringed upon.
Honor what is important to you by choosing to put yourself first.
Drop the guilt and responsibility for others.
Good boundaries are a sign of emotional health, self-respect and strength. We teach people how to treat us. Set high standards for those you surround yourself with. Expect to be treated in the same loving way you treat them. You will soon find yourself surrounded by those who respect you, care about your needs and your feelings and treat you with kindness.
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