You need to realise that having problems setting boundaries is normal.
Imagine, you’ve gotten roped into staying late at work. Again. Or you’ve committed to something that you didn’t want to but felt you had to.
Now you’re beating yourself up because you know you should have better boundaries, but you don’t seem to understand how to form them. What do you do?
You need to set boundaries.
You’ve probably heard the phrase before, but maybe you’re unsure what it means. Just what ARE personal boundaries, and what difference do they make in your life?
To understand it, you have to understand what a boundary is. Let’s start at the dictionary and go from there:
bound·a·ry (noun) a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
Most dividing lines are pretty easy to see. The world is full of fences and dividers, clearly marking off space. A personal boundary does the same thing, only on a more undetectable and internal level. Let’s look at this on a little closer.
What are boundaries?
1. It tells you what your responsibility is in a given situation.
You already have some boundaries at work or school. These are the parameters of your job or your responsibility as a student and usually, are marked out pretty clearly when you took the job or where enrolled.
On a personal level, a boundary tells you who you’re responsible for (yourself of course, but you might also be a caregiver). But what about your other responsibilities such as paying your bills, or taking care of your pets?
2. It keeps you safe.
Many of these should go without saying – such as abstaining from drinking and driving. But sometimes you have to set some such boundaries for yourself.
Such as whether or not it’s healthy to be in a relationship with a particular individual.
3. They tell us who we are.
Are you a good person? A bad person? A selfish person? A pious one? Our moral code becomes the boundary that defines us.
4. It clarifies your needs.
What things need to be in place in your life for you to be happiest and healthiest? What protects you for overwork or abuse?
5. They define your relationships.
What are the parameters of your relationship? Is that healthy? What is your responsibility to that other person? How are they responsible for you?
With all that, it makes sense that having strong boundaries is a good idea. Especially when you take into consideration these facts:
…give you a better idea of who you are
…help others to understand your needs
…give guidelines in your relationships
…make for healthy interactions with other people
And perhaps most important of all, they are an integral part of self-care.
As a side note remember this: Boundaries need to be revisited occasionally and re-evaluated.
As we grow and change, our boundaries will change as well.
With all this at stake, it’s no wonder we give boundaries such a lot of attention. Boundaries can mean the difference between a happy and healthy life and a life of drudgery and resentment.
Is it time to learn where to draw the line? So let’s examine why we don’t like setting boundaries.
The number one reason we don’t do anything is generally fear. When you don’t know what the outcome is going to be when you first set that boundary, it’s bound to be terrifying.
2. It would be selfish.
After all, why should your needs come before anyone else’s?
3. Taking care of yourself is unusual.
This point is an extension of the last one. Not only is self-care selfish, but it would take time and resources from caring for others. Forgetting of course, that we can’t take care of anyone if we don’t take care of ourselves first.
4. Someone’s going to get mad at you.
Which of course will lead to conflict and maybe even a confrontation. You might find yourself thinking that setting a boundary in these situations is just not worth it.
5. Doing it the other way is a habit.
It might be that you’re used to being asked to stay late at work – every day. Now it’s a habit to stay. The problem is, habits are hard to break, which means setting that boundary doesn’t just involve putting your foot down but changing an entire way of thinking.
6. There’s a price to pay for saying ‘no.’
If other people trample over your needs to get their own needs met, then when you do say no, you know there’s going to be a negative repercussion. And who needs that kind of commotion in your life?
7. It’s not all that important anyway. Is it?
That has more to do with self-esteem than anything. And yes, your boundaries are just that important.
So how do you go about setting boundaries when that’s unusual for you?
Start by asking for what you want – and be specific.
Be open to compromise.
Have an exit strategy if they say ‘no.’ What will you accept?
Be ready emotionally for a negative response. Not everything will be a ‘yes.’
Don’t take rejection personally.
Boundaries don’t have to be terrifying. Understanding why you don’t set them is the first step toward establishing positive change.
When you use what you know to set solid boundaries for yourself, you will discover peace and happiness that you never knew was even possible.