Holding personal boundaries
IN THIS SERIES OF TWO IMPACTFUL PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT TOOLS, WE WILL LOOK AT SETTING AND KEEPING YOUR BOUNDARIES. THIS WILL FREE UP YOUR TIME SO THAT YOU CAN INVEST SOME IN YOURSELF. SOMETHING MOST OF US ARE REALLY POOR AT DUE TO THINKING OF EVERYONE ELSE’S NEEDS OVER OUR OWN.
TOMORROW THIS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A GUIDE TO SAYING NO. Hmmmmmm… I AM QUITE CAPABLE OF SAYING THE WORD ‘NO’ YOU THINK…BUT DO WE? MAYBE YOU ARE AT WORK, UP TO YOUR EYES IN IT AND AND FEELING THE STRESS CREEPING IN. SOMEONE COMES IN AND ASKS YOU TO DO THEM A FAVOUR AND YOU INSTANTLY SAY YES, BECAUSE YOU LIKE THEM. YOU ARE NOW EVEN MORE STRESSED!!
There is one area of personal development that can make or break your self-esteem and your ability to have healthy relationships: it’s the ability to set and implement healthy personal boundaries. Personal boundaries are the imaginary lines we draw around ourselves to maintain balance and protect our bodies, minds, emotions, and time from the behaviour or demands of others.
You can liken it to a weighing scale, where we balance our own needs against the needs of others. and try and hold an awareness of both. Eg: a friend needs to talk to you when you are struggling with time etc.
Some people suggest that it is a foundation of good self-esteem that allows us to set appropriate boundaries.
They provide the framework to keep us from being used or manipulated by others, and they can allow us to confidently express who we are and what we want in life. Without healthy boundaries or with very weak boundaries, we struggle to have healthy relationships.
You give up a part of yourself to be available or accommodating. Or you become so entangled with another person and their needs that you lose your own identity. This undermines your integrity and leads to a loss of self-respect — and probably the respect of those around you.
What makes it at times difficult to draw boundaries? Balancing our own needs with the needs of others certainly; maybe also fear?. The fear we won’t be loved, that we aren’t good enough or deserving enough just as we are, that if we give into that extra hour (when we really wanted to go home) we will have let someone down?
Types of boundaries
Boundaries reflect more than our need for physical space.They include any aspect of our interactions with others:
- including our relationship with ourselves (for example avoiding self-sabotaging activities)
- our environment (protecting ourselves from noise; as I get older and am out having meals at a busy restaurant, I sometimes struggle to hear all of what people are saying!)
- material boundaries (whether you give or lend things like books, money, clothes)
- emotional boundaries (separating your own emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s)
- physical boundaries (your personal space, privacy; do you handshake or hug?!) amongst others.
Boundaries reflect our core values (we would explore these in a session prior to this), our respect for ourselves and our need for safety and protection. They include being able to say no and mean it, or saying yes and meaning it (GUIDE COMING TOMORROW)
Some of the challenges
I don’t know anyone in my circle of family, friends and work colleagues that don’t struggle with them sometimes trying too hard to “do the right thing”.
We probably all recognise some of these challenges:
- Saying no when you mean yes or yes when you mean no
- Feeling guilty when you do say no
- Acting against your integrity or values in order to please
- Not speaking up when you have something to say
- Not calling out someone who mistreats you
- Allowing yourself to be interrupted or distracted to accommodate another person’s immediate wants or needs.
- Becoming overly involved in someone’s problems or difficulties
- Not defining and communicating your emotional needs in your closest relationships
When you hit these challenges over personal boundaries, its powerful to observe that these act of compliance, self-denial, or neediness chips away at your own self-respect, let alone the respect that others have for you.
In a professional context, I feel I am fairly comfortable about setting boundaries. I know my boundaries as a coach but am happy to be flexible when it is appropriate and I personally have to keep a check on my personal boundaries as I can get lost making sure everyone else is OK and stop attending to my needs.
How about you? Were there clear boundaries when you were growing up? ‘People pleasing’ comes from not thinking about boundary setting and monitoring.
A few thoughts on setting boundaries:
- Statement of the obvious, but important to recognise that having personal boundaries is OK. It doesn’t mean you are selfish or unloving. It is both completely acceptable and absolutely necessary for healthy relationships to trust your instincts and feelings about what you do and don’t want in your life. No one knows better than you who you are and what you desire
- It’s worth sitting down and think about your boundaries and if and how you might be accepting situations that are really unacceptable to you. Make a list of things that people may no longer do to you, say to you, or do around you. Decide how you need physical and emotional space
- Work on the courage to talk to the people involved in crossing your personal boundaries and kindly remind them where they are. Let them know you have spent some time thinking about what is important and acceptable to you and what isn’t. There may be some defensiveness and push-back from those involved: however, they’ll get used to your new boundaries over time. It may be that some people in your life may fall away as a result of your outlook and demand for respect
- It may take some time to train yourself and others around your limits. Continue to reinforce them so that you are taken seriously and respected. Practice saying no when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do
- Remember that respecting boundaries goes two ways. Examine your own behaviour and words to see where you might be crossing another person’s boundaries. Work to change those behaviours so that you are reflecting the respect and support you want for yourself
- There’s a difference between healthy boundaries and rigid boundaries. The goal is a healthy relationship with those close to you, balanced by a sense of understanding, mutual support, and give-and-take. There may be occasions when you choose to bend your boundaries or allow someone to cross the line: when someone is hurt or sad, needs extra support, asks for an exception with respect and kindness
All in all, creating and holding onto personal boundaries is a lifelong developmental and complex thing to do, and often easier said than done. A dollop of self-awareness, listening to intuition and learning to state our needs as well as balance the needs of others means that we can all get what we want more often than not.
Love as always, Jayne