“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” ― Prentis Hemphill. I love this tongue in cheek definition of boundaries.
Boundaries are a key component of nurturing your mental health and maintaining healthy, thriving relationships. Let's explore the whole concept of boundaries and come up with some effective and creative ways to set them in our individual lives.
If boundaries are so healthy and beneficial for us, why is it that so many people shy away from them?
Perhaps they did not have boundaries modelled for them in their family of origin
Fear of rejection - worried that people will think they are unapproachable or aloof
Low self esteem and lack of self respect
Fear of change or the unknown
They lack a clear sense of identity
The need to please others at all times
The benefits of setting healthy boundaries are undeniable. Here are just a few examples:
Surprisingly, people will actually respect you more when you demonstrate firm, clear and consistent boundaries.
Have you ever been guilty of over-committing yourself to multiple requests for your time and energy? Learning to say "no" to some of these unwanted obligations can be freeing and great for your mental well-being. It's an important step to avoiding burnout.
Not only will others respect you more, you will also gain some much needed self-respect when you learn to assert yourself in a healthy way.
Nobody likes to have others disrespect their rights and make decisions for them based on someone else's preferences. Boundaries help protect your rights and preferences.
The above examples all deal with mental or emotional boundaries, but there are also boundaries that protect your physical space. Maybe you're not a huggy kind of person, and it is within your rights to assert this as a physical boundary.
What does a healthy boundary look like and how do you establish them in your life?
A boundary gives you the ability to say "no" and at the same time, also allows you to accept when someone else says "no" to you. It goes both ways.
Having boundaries means the ability to clearly state your preferences and needs. This requires a level of self awareness and being in touch with your likes and dislikes.
A boundary means being uncompromising on your own values, while learning not to be rigid about it.
A boundary means respecting other people's values and beliefs even when they are different from your own.
What are some actual steps to setting healthy boundaries?
Determine your values. What do I believe in, what do I stand for? Where is my "line in the sand:?
Trust your intuition. Listen to your inner voice and your gut instinct. Rarely have I gone wrong when I followed the intuitive part of myself. When an important line gets crossed, you may feel uncomfortable and have a sick feeling in your gut. Don't ignore this feeling - it is trying to tell you something vitally important.
Learn to say "no". This can be very challenging and even threatening if you have never done so before. Start with a small issue that will not have huge consequences. Remember, it is a process and it will take time for you to become comfortable with this new approach.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don't apologize for or justify your behaviours and decisions, (I know this is difficult for us Canadians who apologize ourselves out of existence!) Make sure you follow through with what you have said.
Be clear and concise in your communication. Lengthy explanations only muddy the waters and weaken your stance.
Be conscious of your tone of voice. State your boundary in a calm, polite, but firm tone of voice. There is no need to raise your voice or use a condescending tone.
Remember, boundaries are not about changing or fixing others. We can not change what others do or think. We can only change ourselves. By establishing boundaries, you are stating by your actions that you are worthy of respect and that you are taking full responsibility for your life.
Stop your people-pleasing behaviour and take time to celebrate the person you are!
Others will respect you for setting boundaries. You will enjoy a new level of mental wellness, richer relationships and a greater sense of happiness!