SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Many people know what the word “boundaries” means, but they have no idea what they are. You might think of boundaries as something like a “brick wall” used to keep people out but boundaries are not rigid lines drawn in the sand that are clear for all to see.
Boundaries are a way to take care of ourselves. When you understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you can avoid the feelings of resentment, disappointment, and anger that build up when limits have been pushed.
The ability to know our boundaries generally comes from a healthy sense of self-worth, or valuing yourself in a way that is not contingent on other people or the feelings they have toward you. Unlike self-esteem, self-worth is finding intrinsic value in who you are, so that you can be aware of your:
- Intellectual worth and boundaries (you are entitled to your own thoughts and opinions, as are others)
- Emotional worth and boundaries (you are entitled to your own feelings to a given situation, as are others)
- Physical worth and boundaries (you are entitled to your space, however wide it may be, as are others)
- Social worth and boundaries (you are entitled to your own friends and to pursuing your own social activities, as are others)
- Spiritualworth and boundaries (you are entitled to your own spiritual beliefs, as are others)
Knowing our boundaries and setting them are two very different hurdles to overcome. Setting boundaries does not always come easily. It’s often a skill that needs to be learned.
Steps of Creating Healthy Boundaries
- Clearly identify your boundaries.
Get really clear with yourself about what the boundary is that you need to set. Do you need your friend to stop calling all together or can she call you under certain circumstances? If you are not clear, you wont be able to communicate your expectations.
- Understand why you need the boundary.
This is your motivation for setting the boundary. If you don’t have a compelling reason, why are you going to follow through with setting a boundary that’s out of your comfort zone?
- Be straight forward.
Don’t be purposefully vague thinking you’re going to spare someone’s feelings or avoid a conflict, the kindest and successful approach is to be direct. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- Don’t apologize or give long explanations.
This kind of behavior undermines your authority and gives the impression that you’re doing something that requires an apology or justification.
- Use a straightforward one.
Keep your own anger in check. Don’t try to set boundaries in the middle of an argument. You want your message to be heard. Yelling, sarcasm, or a condescending tone all put others on the defensive and distract from the real issues.
- Start with tighter boundaries.
It’s always easier to loosen up tight boundaries than it is to tighten loose boundaries. When you meet a new friend or start a new job, naturally you want to make a good impression, be agreeable, and fit in. As a result you’re likely to over-extend yourself, agree to commitments or viewpoints that don’t sit well with you.
- Address boundary violations early.
Small problems are always easier to manage. Don’t wait until someone violates your boundary a dozen times before you speak up. It is not fair to assume that others know your boundaries until you’ve explained them.
- Use a support system.
Starting to set boundaries is tough! It can bring up a lot of questions, uncomfortable feelings, and self-doubt. Having a support system is invaluable whenever you’re doing something challenging.
According to Brene Brown, Ph.D., people with strong boundaries are the most compassionate. Does that surprise you? Often people think that setting boundaries is mean or wrong. You may feel guilty when you set boundaries because you think you don’t have a right to ask for what you want or need.
Boundaries aren’t mean or wrong. It’s kind and respectful to tell people what’s okay and what’s not okay with you. This sets clear expectations.
“You best teach others about healthy boundaries by enforcing yours” – Bryant McGill