What are boundaries?
Personal boundaries are limits on permissible ways for other people to behave toward you. They are a set of rules dictating what you will or won’t do, or allow. A boundary can be described as where one person ends and another begins.
Having proper boundaries is vital to healthy relationships with others. However, many of us had parents with poor relationship skills and never learned how to do this, making it more likely to find yourself in a toxic or abusive situation.
When you were young, you had little control over how your parents treated you. However, as adults, we can learn how to create boundaries with others, which can influence our relationship with them.
Signs you need help with creating boundaries: you feel responsible for another person’s feelings, you feel tired or feel frustrated with your relationship, and you feel guilty when you say no.
Setting proper boundaries with friends, coworkers, and family has been the most positive change in my life. However, I wasn’t always a pro. Most of my life, I had a hard time saying no to literally anything.
I have always been the nice guy. I work late hours when my boss needs me to without complaining. I tolerate things in my relationship with my partner that might upset me, but instead of speaking about my concerns, I get angry later. I sometimes meet friends when it’s not convenient for me or I’m not in the mood.
I’m the peacemaker. I’m the one everyone comes to with their problems.
Everyone loves me… But do I love myself?
Does this make me happy? If all of this is so great, then why am I always so exhausted?
When I was growing up, my parents were alcoholics. I learned to put my mother’s needs ahead of my own. If she had too much to drink and I said the wrong thing — she would explode. I had to become the peacemaker when my parents were fighting.
As an adult, I struggled with relationships with others. I spent too much time worrying about how the other person might feel or if they might become angry. It left me always saying yes. I began to lose myself. When I decided to begin building boundaries, the same fears started to creep in. However, the results in my relationships made it worth it.
Caring for others is important to me, but I was beginning to realize that my fear was a holdover from childhood when I was taught to be fearful of the reactions of other people. I was more worried about the happiness of the other person than myself. Being an empathetic person is part of who I am, but at what point does it become unhealthy?
In the absence of healthy boundaries, I felt exhausted, angry, and frustrated. I decided I was ready to make a change. I had to.
So I did my research and came up with 8 steps that would help me create boundaries.
1. Create limits
Clearly identify what boundary you need to set.
Who do you need to set a boundary with? How does that person make you feel?
How would it look if you got exactly what you want? If you’re someone who hasn’t spent much time thinking about their own needs, start a journal. Write down what a healthy relationship with your partner, friend, family and co-workers would look like. What attributes and traits do you want in your ideal partner? What does your dream job look like? How will supportive friendships impact your life?
We have to begin to understand what makes us happy and what we want before we’ll ever be able to achieve it.
2. Give self-permission
This is the point where you have to stop worrying about the needs of others and focus on your own.
If your relationships are not within your limits, you have the right to say no and walk away. If you don’t believe you deserve it, why would anyone else?
It’s time for a little self-love. Discover what is unique and wonderful about you. Start to love you for who you are, rather than rely on another person for your happiness.
3. Be direct
Plan the details of your boundaries ahead of time. In a calm and firm voice, let the other person know what the boundary is and never waiver. Be very clear.
Be calm and respectful with your request. Remember, you’re asking a compromise. Try to avoid anger and never set a boundary during an argument.
4. Don’t apologize
If everyone in your life has been accustomed to you being a pushover, they will test your resolve and push your limits. Your family, friends, co-workers, boss, and partners are used to getting their way with you; many will not want to give that up. They will try to make you feel guilty.
If you need to, try the broken record method. Just repeat what you said over and over again every time someone tries to persuade you or change your mind.
5. Know the consequences
You may not get the response you are looking for, and you need to prepare yourself for that.
If you tell your boss you don’t appreciate the inappropriate comments he or she is making towards you, they could get angry or threaten to fire you, or they may agree and offer to change their behavior. If the boundary is not respected, you may need to file a complaint, sue the company or quit.
If you tell your spouse you need time apart, they may feel hurt or become angry. If you say no more cheating, it may still continue.
You can’t control whether others will respect your boundaries, but you can control whether they remain a part of your life after violating them.
6. Accept the outcome
It would be terrific if everyone immediately agreed to respect a boundary when you set it, but that’s not always the case. You may not like what you hear, but you need to accept the other person’s response.
The victory is not the yes from another person, but instead your action of drawing a line in the sand.
Don’t take it personally. You now know where you stand and can move on knowing you tried.
7. Take responsibility for your own needs
My entire life I have always depended on other people for my own happiness. This often happened in the form of flirting.
If I can attract the attention of a beautiful woman then there must be something great about me, right? Often it was like a quick fix, almost like a drug. I felt sad, lonely or depressed afterward.
Only when I began to accept responsibility for my own happiness did I begin to make progress in my relationships with others.
The good news is, you will have plenty of opportunities in your life to practice. You will have numerous chances with family, co-workers, friends, and partners to set boundaries that will make your relationships healthier.
In the beginning, you can practice with someone that makes you feel safe. Someone you know will never get angry or upset when you discuss difficult subjects such as these.
Boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships. When you learn to take control of creating your own happiness, you will find it easier to enforce boundaries that dictate the way other people treat you — or the way you allow yourself to be treated by others. It’s important to create these limits and stick to them, because if you don’t, nobody else will.