healthy boundaries

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly in impossible situations because you cannot say NO or speak up about what matters to you? It’s the worst feeling, isn’t it? You end up building resentment towards the person or the task, just because you want to be nice or not rock the boat. It’s truly one of the most frustrating qualities to deal with.

Welcome to boundaries. In our journey through life, we often encounter situations where we find ourselves torn between our desires to please others and our need to protect our well-being. These moments, where our boundaries are tested, serve as pivotal points in understanding ourselves and our relationships better.

But what exactly are boundaries? They are like guardian angels, forming a fence around the things that matter to us, keeping us healthy, and ensuring our safety. Boundaries come in various forms – physical, emotional, time-related, financial, and more. They are the safety measures we put into place, guarding our hearts to maintain effectiveness in our work and daily lives.

Picture it as a love note to yourself, an agreement that says, “I value my peace of mind, and respect my values and I won’t compromise it for anyone.”

It’s not just a line drawn in the sand; it’s a sacred pact we make, both with ourselves and with others, to honor our emotional well-being.

Why we don’t set boundaries or have issues around them:

  • We want people to like us
  • We are afraid of people being angry at us
  • We want to keep the peace
  • We want to be on the same team
    There’s a feeling of safety with people

People lack boundaries because they have a high level of neediness, or in psychology terms, co-dependence. People who have co-dependence have a desperate need for love and affection from others. To receive this love and affection, they sacrifice their identity, their values and remove their boundaries.

Some people who don’t set boundaries will have a hard time setting boundaries for themselves. When others set boundaries, you might think that they are strict, unkind, controlling, harsh, etc., but that’s not the case. Setting boundaries teaches others how to set them and how to treat you. We have been trained to respond to texts immediately, say yes when we mean no, etc.

When you put a boundary in place – when it’s acceptable to communicate, etc. – other people may not receive it well and give you a different level of respect. People without any boundaries at all will not respect you.

There are also 2 types of boundaries —internal and external.

Internally, we set boundaries to protect our energy and preserve our sanity. For instance, if there’s a friend who always leaves us feeling drained, we might decide to limit our time with them. It’s about acknowledging our needs and making choices that honor our mental health.

Externally, boundaries are the lines we draw in our interactions with others. Think of that nosy relative who’s always prying into your personal life. Setting a boundary with them might mean kindly but firmly telling them, “I appreciate your concern, but I don’t wish to talk about that right now.”

Yet, despite their importance, many of us struggle to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Society often teaches us to prioritize being “nice” over protecting our own needs and desires. We fear saying no, afraid of disappointing others or causing conflict. However, this reluctance to set boundaries can lead to a host of negative consequences.

What does bad boundaries look like:

  • Taken advantage of
  • Have a hard time saying no
  • Doing things you don’t want to do to keep peace
  • Compromising to keep the peace
  • Relying on validation of others to feel good about yourself (which is a a trap)
    Being scared of other people not liking you

Now, let’s address the other elephant in the room as to why we struggle to set boundaries, even when we know they’re necessary. It’s because we confuse boundaries with barriers. A boundary is a gentle reminder of where our limits lie and what we value, while a barrier is a fortress we build in defense.

Setting boundaries isn’t about building walls; It’s about saying yes to ourselves, even when it means saying no to others.

And the most difficult part: setting boundaries isn’t always well-received. People might resist, get upset, or push back. And that’s okay. Setting boundaries isn’t about pleasing others; we’re not responsible for how others react. Our responsibility lies in honoring ourselves and our needs.

Let’s look at 5 examples of how this may play out:

1. Expressing Parenting Preferences. When you express your preferred parenting approach, you may be confronted with disapproving glances, eye rolls, muttered criticisms, or, even more distressing, outright dismissal of your words, leaving you more exhausted and stressed.

2. Limiting Availability. When you communicate to your family and friends about the importance of bonding with your newborn over the next 40 days. You express your desire for minimal visits during this crucial time, you may expect understanding and support, however, instead of receiving empathy, you might encounter criticism and unwelcome comments

3. Declining Invitations. When you politely decline an invitation or a request due to personal reasons or prior commitments. The person extending the invitation may feel rejected or disappointed. Or you may encounter resistance and pressure to comply from others, making you feel unheard, selfish, and invalidated.

4. Communicating Personal Needs. Expressing your needs or preferences in a relationship, such as requesting space, time alone, or specific actions from your partner, might initially be met with resistance or defensiveness if they perceive it as criticism or a threat to the relationship.

5. Addressing Unacceptable Behaviour. Confronting someone about their behaviour or setting boundaries around how you expect to be treated can lead to discomfort or conflict, particularly if the individual is resistant to change or unwilling to acknowledge their actions.

These examples are reasons why we may not set boundaries. However, in the end, setting a boundary and not setting a boundary can both be difficult. The choice becomes, which difficulty are you willing to embrace?

Tolerate behavior that feels hurtful or controlling or feel resentful and tired for doing things you don’t want or betraying your values? The other person may very well get hurt or angry but you are not responsible for their reaction. You are responsible for communicating honestly and with love.

HOW DO YOU FIX IT?

Be clear and specific:

  • “I can’t do that because…”
  • “That’s a personal matter and so I’m not open for discussion.”
  • “I can’t be in conversation with you when you’re screaming at me…”
  • “I’ve made my decision, and I would appreciate it if you could respect that.”
  • “I love having lunch with you, but every time I have lunch with you, you’re late. I’m going to have to leave 10 minutes earlier because it makes me late for everything else.
    “I need some time alone to process this.”
    “Can I get back to you in the next day or two?”
    “I FEEL patronized when you do that and it feels very uncomfortable”
    “I feel sad when you don’t listen to me”

    Setting boundaries requires clarity, honesty, and courage. It means being clear and specific about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. It involves communicating assertively but respectfully (can me hard at times), and not about being harsh or controlling. 

    Remember: being loving is being real, authentic and courageous. It is not all words of affirmation and rosy language.

It’s essential to recognize that setting boundaries is not only an act of self-preservation but also an act of love – both for ourselves and for others. By establishing clear boundaries, we give others the opportunity to respect and honor our needs, thus fostering healthier and more REAL relationships.

It’s crucial to remember that we are not responsible for how others react to our boundaries. Their response is their responsibility, not ours. We do not need to over explain or justify our boundaries – a simple “no” is enough.

Let’s flip the coin: if you don’t have boundaries, perhaps you’re disrespecting others? Because when you put boundaries in place for yourself, you’ll recognize when others put boundaries which is good because you may have been violating their boundaries or disrespecting them without even knowing it.

I encourage you to take a good look at your life. What are you tolerating? What are you accepting that’s not aligned with your values? Where and to whom do you need to set boundaries? Are you perhaps disrespecting someone’s boundaries?

And, you can have boundaries that protect you and others and protect your relationships and still be a lovely human being who loves others.

Love,
Irene