HOW ARE YOU AT SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES?
Do you know what healthy boundaries are?
Do you find yourself making time for everyone else but not yourself?
Do you feel like people take advantage of you but you don’t say anything a loud about it?
Do you feel guilty telling people no?
You have boundary problems!
A healthy emotional life is dependent on healthy boundaries.
Setting healthy boundaries are a necessary step to living a healthier emotional life.
Sensible personal boundaries can be a step of getting “unstuck” in your life.
WHAT ARE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES?
- Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are,” Dr. Dana Gionta, psychologist and coach
- They define what is me and what is not me
- They are rules of behavior that show where I end and you begin
- Healthy boundaries define who we are in relation to others
- They set limits on others and self
- They will give me a sense ownership – knowing what is mine to own, allows me to take responsibility for my “stuff”
- Are based on your beliefs, thoughts, emotions, needs and
- Are firm, clear and maintained rules and expectations that can be flexible
- Are a form of loving self-care
- Are like invisible bubbles
- They are not walls but connecting points because they provide healthy rules for navigating relationships of every type.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES?
- They teach others who we are
- They teach others how we want to be treated in relationships
- Good boundaries protect you
- Help you have a good sense of your true self
- Because we can’t change other people or make them behave correctly, boundaries allow us to set limits on our exposure to people who behave poorly
- Good boundaries communicate to other people that you are valuable
- Control your personal space, body, emotions and belongings
- Improve self-esteem
- Improve relationships
- Freedom from other’s unrealistic needs and expectations
- Protect relationships from becoming unsafe
WHERE IN YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES?
Your personal space:
- You don’t have to hug or be touched if you don’t want to.
- You are allowed space around you that people can’t evade.
Your belongings – you should have control over your:
- Can you pay your bills if you loan money?
- Do you have time in your day or week for your required activities if you help out someone?
- Will the activity take the energy that you need for your own important activities/work?
- You can always say NO.
- People cannot tell you what or how to think.
- Ignore people who mock or dismiss your feelings
CONFUSION AROUND BOUNDARIES
Some people think that setting boundaries is the same thing as building a wall around yourself, thus hampering the relationship. In reality boundaries are just the opposite.
Boundaries actually don’t keep people out, just their bad behavior. Think of it like this, boundaries let the good behavior come in and keep the bad behavior out.
People who struggle setting boundaries are often confused about what;
- their responsibility is
- what is theirs to own
- what is another person’s responsibility and ownership.
They think things like this;
- Can I be loving person if I set limits?
- Are there any real legitimate boundaries?
- What if my boundaries hurt or upset someone?
- How do I answer someone who wants my time, love and energy, or money?
- I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries.
- Aren’t I being selfish when I set boundaries?
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF POOR BOUNDARIES
- Your needs often go unmet
- which can easily develop into anxiety
- or compulsive behaviors such as overeating, addictions, or working too much.
- It becomes too easy to take on the emotions of other people, thus leaving you emotionally drained.
- You lose a sense of who you are and what you are feeling.
- You feel responsible for people, situations that aren’t yours to own.
- You will be over involved in other’s lives.
- You could become hypersensitive.
- You are doomed to a life of people pleasing.
- You will become a fixer of everyone else’s problems.
- You will find yourself over committed.
WHY DO PEOPLE OFTEN HAVE WEAK BOUNDARIES?
People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the
- and sometimes the real needs of others.
They are afraid if they say no, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply but are inwardly resentful. Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something, other times the pressure comes from your own internal beliefs.
Some of the fears behind the lack of boundaries are FEAR OF
- Hurting the other person’s feelings
- Abandonment and separateness
- Being shamed
- The other person’s anger
- Being thought of as bad or selfish
- One’s over strict, critical conscience
- A desire to be totally dependent on another
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR BOUNDARIES NEED ADJUSTING?
If you –
- Feel unable to say no
- Feel responsible for others’ emotions
- Are concerned about what others think to the point of discounting your own thoughts, opinions and intuition
- Find your energy is so drained by something that you neglect your own needs (including the need for food, rest, etc.)
- Feel like you must make everyone else happy (people-pleasing)
- Avoiding intimate relationships
- Have an inability to make decisions
- Believe your happiness depends on others
- Take care of others’ needs, but not your own
- Believe others’ opinions are more important than your own
- Have difficulty asking for what you want or need
- Go along with others vs. with what you want
- Feel anxious or afraid
- Are not sure what you really feel
- Take on moods or emotions of others around you
- Overly sensitive to criticism
HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
CHOOSE YOUR LIMITS
You won’t be able to set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. You need to identify your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual limits.
YOU HAVE RIGHTS THAT SHOULD BECOME YOUR BOUNDARIES
Your basic human rights are:
- You have the right to say no without feelings of guilt.
- You have the right to be treated with respect.
- You have the right to make mistakes.
- You have the right not to meet all the expectations people put on you.
- You have the right for your needs to be important.
You may initially feel awkward about saying no. Guilt and doubts will arise either from within you or from the other person. Remember that in the long run, these new boundaries will serve you well. You will feel less resentment, less stress, more freedom to be responsible for yourself and the other person will hopefully learn to be more self-sufficient.
LISTEN TO YOUR FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS
Get to know your innermost thoughts, feelings and choices. If you don’t know yourself you will have trouble defining your boundaries.
There are two key feelings that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment.
Dr. Gionta, suggests thinking of these feelings on a continuum from one to 10.
Six to 10 is in the high zone. If you find yourself in this zone you need to ask yourself-
- What is causing this discomfort or resentment?
- What is it about this person’s expectation or the interaction itself that is bothering me?
Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s usually an indication that we’ve pushed ourselves beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us.
“When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary,” Gionta
So to start setting boundaries consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable and resentful. These feelings help us identify what our limits are.
YOU WILL NEED TO BE DIRECT AND ASSERTIVE
Don’t assume people are going to read your mind and know that there are new limits in play.
You need to tell them, before the situation arises again about your new policies. Be it a limit of time spent working on their behalf, how much, if any money is available, etc.
And you need to be able to tell them in the midst of a situation that you are uncomfortable and something needs to change.
You DON’T need to explain or justify yourself. Actually the more you explain yourself, the more they have to argue about.
STAY OUT OF JUDGEMENT
Learn to have compassion for others without having to “fix” them
- Learn to have compassion for yourself.
- Learn to accept for yourself
- Learn to practice positive self-talk
Recognizing what is going on in your inner world can help you stand strong in your decisions.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Are you feeling resentment and discomfort again? Check the situation – are your boundaries slipping? Are you accepting the guilt from the other person and feeling guilty about your decisions?
Boundaries can also clue us into behavior that might be harmful. Imagine that someone burst through the door of your home, you know that there’s a problem. The same when someone tries to bully their way past your boundaries.
EXPECT RESISTANCE WHEN YOU START SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Image each relationship you are in as a dance. In each relationship a “dance” has evolved. They move this way (A), you move that way (B). You move to C, they step to a D. These dance steps may not be healthy but they are familiar and have strange payoffs for the “dancers”.
When you begin to change your boundaries it is like you have changed the dance. There will be resistance from your dance partner, they will fight back. They don’t want the change, they like the way things were. They were enjoying the unlimited access to your time, money etc. This resistance can come in many different responses – all with the intent of getting you back into the old dance.
- Anger – yelling, cursing
- Shame and guilt – you aren’t a good parent if you don’t…
- Physical violence – hitting, throwing things
Just know that these angry people are
- only thinking of themselves and the impact your new decisions will have on their lives
- mad because they have lost control over you
- have a character problem
- your bad boundaries have been reinforcing their problem
- have a sense of entitlement (to anything that is yours)
You must realize that you setting boundaries is NOT the problem! The other person has the problem. Boundaries in the long run are good for everyone. They protect and support the boundary setter and can help grow maturity and self-sufficiency in the other person. Boundaries help each person truly become valued individuals.
JUST A QUICK WORD ABOUT ANGER
It is only a feeling inside the other person. You can let the other person be angry but stay separate from it. Actually he will need to feel his anger for him to get better. It is when you try to rescue him from it or take is upon yourself that stops his maturity and keeps you in bondage. Another person’s anger is NOT a cue for you do act. Don’t let the out of control person be the reason you change course. Let them be angry and you decide what you need to do.
Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with the consequences of your choices. And you are the one who maybe keeping yourself from making choices that could make you happy.
So think about that thing that makes you feel so resentful, look at it honestly, ask yourself
- Why am I resentful?
- Do I feel like I don’t have a choice in the matter?
- Do I feel manipulated by shame or guilt?
- Am I drained emotionally, physically or financially by this person?
This situation is where you can start asking yourself:
- How can you do this differently?
- What restrictions would make you feel less resentful?
This blog is one in a series of 5 blogs, on getting Unstuck in life.