If you find that you are often are in a position of discomfort or upset in the way you are treated or addressed by others, it may be time to take a closer look at your personal boundaries. This is never easy at first, especially if you have been taught to always be kind to everyone, no matter what. We can be kind, while still being assertive enough to remain in our power. Setting strong and clear personal boundaries is paramount to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Now of course, setting boundaries does not always ensure that someone is going to give you the respect you deserve. This is especially in the case of dealing with a narcissist for example – but that’s a topic to be addressed in another post.
Boundaries make it clear to others that you have solid self-esteem and won’t take any mistreatment from them. This also reaffirms it to you, for yourself. And it can take some practice. Healthy self-respect will create boundaries that show you deserve to be treated well and that you simply won’t settle for less. Healthy and strong boundaries can also protect you from exploitative relationships and help you avoid getting too close to people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
Whenever you set boundaries, make sure you stand firm when enforcing them.
Otherwise, people won’t take them seriously. You may know someone who talks to their children about consequences for bad behaviour, but never really follows through on those consequences. Granted, it is a struggle in this day and age as almost anything a parent does or does not do is judged openly by the masses. As with any relationship, it is important to cut out the outside noise and drama, and get clear on your values and desires for healthy living. Once you are clear on these values, it is time to communicate them as clearly as possible.
Once you create boundaries, remember it will take some time for people to get used to them.
However, you should remind them when they cross the boundaries. One idea for helping children adjust to new rules of behaviour and boundaries is to have a behaviour chart for them. There are plenty of behaviour chart ideas to find on the internet, have look around and see which method would suit you and your family best. As for adults, one idea is to implement a three-strikes-your-out rule and remind them that you have been clear with them. This is especially helpful when dealing with repeat offenders.
Remember that sometimes, compromise is called for when setting boundaries.
This is of course, a two-way street. If you are setting up boundaries and expectations on other people but won’t yield your own, people are going to become discontent. Remember to respect other peoples’ boundaries if you are expecting them to respect yours – it’s about common sense and mutual respect. This can take some practice, especially if you have struggled with gaining solid footing in relationships in the past. It is important to take pause when you are uncertain of how to proceed with another in any given situation.
Communicate with those who will be most affected by you setting firm boundaries.
Whenever possible, allow those closest to you to take part in the boundary setting process. Children can come up with ideas on their behaviour charts of what sorts of rewards they may receive at the end of the day (or week, depending on age, etc.) that they may receive for positive behaviour. With both children and adults, there will be less resistant to any changes when they are included in the process of making new rules. Be sure to hold them accountable when you say you will, however – lest the process become an exercise in futility. And that, of course, will not ultimately help anyone or anything in the end.
When setting boundaries, don’t set too many all at once.
You don’t want to create overwhelm when you embark on setting new boundaries. Take the time to lay out a plan and allow some leeway for divine timing. Set them in stages and get a sense of how people are reacting (or preferably, responding) to them. Setting boundaries requires change, and it is human nature to resist change initially.
Boundaries are not always about restrictions – this is important!
Sometimes, you need to actually give yourself permission to do something – permission to expand into new areas and territory that you may not have previously. In this case, the boundaries are lifting the restrictions you place on yourself. Sometimes we can be much too strict with ourselves – often out of fear of the unknown. It is only within the realms of the unknown that true change can occur. You can set boundaries and commit to not letting that happen – such as by removing overly negative or non supportive people in your life.
If the boundaries aren’t working, be open to changing them.
If it will help, you will of course want to consider discussing it with everyone involved. The idea should always be to set and clarify your boundaries as keenly and kindly as possible, so as to lessen any potential or negative push-back. There is never anything wrong with making changes to what has been established. In fact, change is inevitable. It is the only thing anyone can ever be fully certain of. Embrace change, and when it feels right or is necessary, allow your edges to be safely pushed.
Helpful Points to Ponder:
- Consider someone who has crossed your boundaries and confront them. If you have let it go for a long time because you didn’t want to make waves, it will be harder for you to do this. However, it’s not impossible. Muster up some courage and let them know what they were doing is not right. Do this anytime you feel crossed. The sooner you speak up, the better.
- Find a situation in your life that is chaotic and figure out if it can become less so by setting boundaries. For instance, if people are doing whatever they want at work and there is no structure, set up a set of goals for the people on your team and hold them to it. The boundaries will contain what each person is responsible for.
- Make a list of every situation you feel requires boundaries. Once you identify them, you can take the appropriate steps to implement those boundaries. Sometimes, discussing these can make you and those around you uncomfortable. This is especially true if there was nothing in place before and people acted as they saw fit. It will take some adjustments, but if those boundaries make sense, it will be good for everyone.
Some Deeper Reading: