Setting Boundaries 101
Do you feel taken advantage of or unappreciated by the people around you? Do you feel overstressed and overworked? Do you harbor resentment for anyone or anything?
You might feel invisible as if your opinions, thoughts, and feelings are not considered by others. You may feel unappreciated or taken advantage of. If this is you, you may need to start setting healthy boundaries.
Through the journey of emotional healing, it is important to understand and accept your feelings and limitations. This will allow you to set the boundaries needed to maintain optimal emotional and physical health.
Boundary setting is a skill most people do not learn. It can be even more difficult for women because from the moment we can walk and talk we are taught to be the nurturers, caretakers, always have manners and never be assertive as to not seem “bossy”. We are taught to be considerate of our men and make any sacrifices needed to make the lives of our husbands and children as comfortable as possible, even if that means we are uncomfortable and fail to live contently. We may tell ourselves that the sacrifices were worthwhile, and while that may be true for the people those sacrifices were made for, you are still left with discomfort, resentment, and possibly regret.
Here is a list of steps to start setting and maintaining boundaries:
First: Ask yourself what you are feeling. Where is it coming from and how did it get there. You can do this through deep meditation or simply taking some time every day to sit and write those questions and answers down. Keep in mind when doing this that it is normal to have feelings of guilt and sadness. It is important to understand this is part of the process and not a sign that you are doing something wrong. Living your life on your terms is never a bad thing.
It is also normal for your suppressed feelings to bubble to the surface when practicing this. Not only is it normal but recommended. Allow yourself to feel the anger, anxiety, depression, worthlessness, or any other emotion you may have trapped deep inside. Let it rise and let it out. Crying, screaming, and curling up on the floor like a baby is perfectly normal and common. This MUST happen to understand and build compassion for yourself. These can be feelings that have been bottled up for years, or triggered responses from recent events. Don’t be afraid to let it out.
Second: Be direct and clear about what you want or don’t want. This can be difficult in romantic relationships since setting boundaries can lead the other to feel rejected or confused. If the other party has become accustomed to receiving what is asked for, they may be left feeling punished. It’s ok to tell those persons that this is not about them. Try not to feel guilt for this. Remember that this is about you, and you are the most important person in your life.
Everyone has their own unique communication style. One person may feel challenging others' opinions is healthy while the other may just feel disrespected or disregarded. It is ok to convey your feeling to your loved one. Remember, that no one has the right to dictate how you should feel and think.
Everyone needs alone time and that may look different to each. It is important to be clear and consistent about the time you need to take care of yourself. Whether it’s a hot bath or a couple of hours of yoga, that is your time, and everyone needs to understand and respect that. The only way to ensure this happens is to be direct with everyone.
Third: We have all been in a situation when asked to take on a task we were not intending on doing such as another project at work, run an errand for someone, house sit, babysit, lend money, etc. If the task being asked of you raises your anxiety to an unhealthy level or impedes your ability to do your everyday work, in the famous words of Nancy Reagan it is ok to just say no. Explain what you are feeling and that this time you will not be able to help. It is important to honor your feelings to maintain those boundaries.
It is also important to understand that not everyone will be happy for you. There will be people who will change their attitudes and feelings towards you and even jump ship. That is ok. Accept it and keep doing what you are doing. If you lose that job because you are being true to yourself, then the job was never meant for you in the first place. If you lose that friends’ or spouses’ respect, love, or support, it’s ok too. Those people are not meant for you and you will be much happier when you just let it happen.
Fourth: Practice gratitude every day. It’s easy to forget to be grateful for the people around us. Those people who love us unconditionally and will have our backs in any situation. It’s easy to take for granted that our bellies are full and we have shelter over our heads. This seems so simple, so basic, but it is essential for our survival.
This can be done through meditation, writing down three things you are grateful for every day, or simply taking a stroll through the neighborhood and enjoying the fresh air afforded to you by mother nature.
Lastly: Always make self-care a priority. Whatever that looks like to you. Without guilt. Putting yourself before anyone or anything will empower you to become a better spouse, parent, friend, and co-worker. You will gain the energy and focus needed to make the best decisions for you and your life. Self-care through meditation, exercise, engaging in activities that make you smile, and healthy eating will also give you clarity on your environment. Sometimes this means you may realize you need a change of environment, friends, and even spouse. Don’t be afraid to make these changes, because these are the sacrifices that will bring you contentment. Keep in mind It is also ok to do these activities alone. This means if loved ones want to join you will have to say no, and that is ok. Simply explain you need alone time and you are not ready to engage with other people at the moment.
Keep in mind that setting and maintaining boundaries is a learned and practiced skill. The more you do it, the quicker you perfect it, and the closer you move to attain inner peace.
Be kind to yourself.