Are your boundaries crystal clear or do you have, as Robin Thicke calls them—blurred lines? Healthy relationships require clear boundaries. When we have weak boundaries we are vulnerable and likely to be manipulated, abused, or taken for granted. Weak boundaries can leave us feeling drained, confused, and hurt. Brené Brown, Ph.D. says it perfectly:
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice”.
So what are healthy boundaries anyways? A boundary is a covenant with yourself or another person that supports your welfare and comes from a place of love. In the most basic sense, boundaries provide the parameters for what we expect from others.
Boundaries reflect how much we love ourselves and is a reflection of our self-esteem. Its self-respect and knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Its understanding what your limits are.
So….how do we build and preserve better boundaries? Here are some guidelines that have been beneficial in helping me with mine:
- Understand your limits. We can’t set our boundaries if we don’t know what our limits are. What can you tolerate and what will you choose not to accept. Write it down! I do this now, especially as a single woman. It’s important I know what I will and will not except BEFORE I choose to get into a relationship. Too many times, I have found myself feeling broken and used. I am positive it is because I didn’t know what my limits were and allowed people to take advantage of me. If we don’t know how we want to be treated, how can we expect others too?
- Tune into your feelings. Are you feeling resentful, used, exhausted from a relationship? Reflect on what you’re feeling. You or someone may be pushing your personal boundaries. If an interaction feels inappropriate or uncomfortable, the chances are a personal boundary is being tested or crossed or a need is not getting met. We need to reflect and be honest with ourselves about who or what is depleting us or violating our boundaries. Where are you giving your power away?
- Be direct with communication. It’s sometimes hard to vocalize our boundaries because we have fear of being rude or disliked. We need to understand that having boundaries is the key to building relationships that are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Express your values and be upfront with your boundaries with direct dialogue. Remember people aren’t mind readers, so they may not know what your boundaries are. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, be assertive and communicate what exactly is troublesome to you. If your boundaries are not respected, it may be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
- Leave your guilt at the door. Setting and enforcing our boundaries can cause feelings of fear, guilt, and self-doubt. There have been times when I was afraid to set boundaries due to these feelings. I had an employer who asked me to stay and work over-time for several weeks in a row. It was hard for me to say no, afraid that I was giving off the wrong impression. However, I was feeling exhausted and guilty about spending little time with my daughter. I had to reflect on my personal boundaries and realize that I was not going to be a productive team member at work if I didn’t learn to say no when I needed too. I gave myself permission to say no, and it was such a weight lifted from my shoulders.
- Make self-care a priority. Boundaries are critical for self-care. Women have a tendency of overextending ourselves and putting other’s needs first. This can affect us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Make yourself a priority. Tell yourself you have a right to self-care. The energy you are using in taking care of other people should also be used to take better care of yourself. Realize that you “can’t poor from an empty cup”!
Setting boundaries is not always easy, but it is a skill that you can master! Setting boundaries takes courage, patience, and support. The more your practice enforcing boundaries, the more assertive you will become.
Trust and believe in yourself! Remember you are important and you deserve to be valued!
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