Setting Healthy Boundaries – What does that even mean?

Every year I like to set myself an intention, in 2020 it was connection

My intention this year is to figure out what my boundaries are and to respect them. 

2020, as tough as it was, made me realise that I don’t need to be doing something all the time. 

Before 2020, I would over-commit and over-schedule. I didn’t realise that I could say no to something I didn’t want to do. I worry that I’ll let someone down, even if I don’t have time or it will make me feel bad. I also didn’t realise I could say yes to something I wanted. That I can put my needs first sometimes and it’s not selfish. 

So when life returns to full speed again how am going to avoid booking out every second in my diary? I’m going to practise setting boundaries. 

**Edit: I started writing this post at the beginning of January (2021) and found myself stuck, unable to get the words out. It’s because I’m still rubbish at setting boundaries and how can I write about them if I can’t live it? I’ve found over the last couple of months things have pushed my boundaries and triggered responses. I am becoming aware of how boundaries apply to the different areas of my life. Of me, physically, emotionally and spiritually.**

What do we mean by boundaries? 

“Boundaries are basic guidelines that people create to establish how others are able to behave around them. For example, they may involve what behaviour is okay and what is not and how to respond if someone passes those limits.”  

Dr Tracey Hutchinson.

Before you can set a boundary you first have to figure out what they are. For most people, this is the difficult bit! You won’t realise where a boundary needs to be until it’s been crossed a few times. You need to pay attention to how you feel in certain situations. 

Having healthy boundaries means a good level of self-awareness, which is why I’ve been rubbish at setting them.

How do you recognise when a boundary is being crossed?

You might feel:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Angry
  • Resentment
  • Upset 
  • Pissed Off

When one of your boundaries has been crossed it can throw up all kinds of emotions. If the boundary you’ve set is in relation to another person then these emotions can often be directed at somebody.

When you are feeling any of the above emotions, it’s crucial you ask yourself why? Was it that you didn’t want to be somewhere? Or you wanted to do something but you didn’t say yes? Recognise what you are feeling and what has triggered. If there’s a pattern, a boundary needs to be set. 

Where can boundaries exist?

This one is interesting to me. When I first starting writing this post, boundaries only existed in the physical. How much my body can take, the space I need, the time I need to finish work to collect my son. 

But as I continue on this journey I realise they exist in the emotional. “I can’t carry that right now, I can’t deal with that right now. 

The spiritual (this one is my favourite as I’m a believer in energy medicine) – “I can’t take on your energy right now, those lower vibrations are bringing me down.”

Boundaries can exist in the physical, emotional and spiritual. 

That might translate to:

  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Work 
  • Friendships 

Why do we say yes when we want to say no? (or vice versa) 

I recognise boundaries as saying yes when I actually want to say no. For example, the never-ending list of social engagements (pre-covid ;)) – why do we do this?

Fear of not being liked – this is huge and I’m sure dates back to our cave-people past where being liked, and a part of a group, meant safety. More recently I believe it’s social conditioning; popular = good, unpopular = bad 

Expectations – expectations for you to be, or do or deliver in certain situations. This can amount to a huge amount of pressure making it difficult for you to say no

FOMO – something I have struggled with in the past, especially as a young adult, is the fear of missing out. If I’m not there are they going to have the best time ever? If you don’t want to be there, does it matter? 

Peer pressure – seeing everyone around you doing or acting a certain way can be a huge driver behind not setting boundaries. Self-awareness is critical to figuring out what you want 

Shame trigger – something I’m learning about more recently (via the brilliant Brene Brown) is shame and what triggers it. These are gremlins set deep within our conditioning and can make it hard for us to set a boundary. If you believe deep down that what you’re feeling isn’t okay – why would you set a boundary? 

How to set boundaries?

You have to have self-awareness. Check-in with yourself when you’re upset and try to work back to the cause of why. This can sometimes be hard by yourself so do ask for help, advice or support if you’re struggling. 

Practice!! This one is vital because you won’t get it right the first time, or every time. Practice saying no – write down a list of your boundaries and practice your response. Practice by yourself and then practice when people ask. It’s not going to be easy but it will be worth it. 

Give yourself space, “discomfort over resentment” (another Brene Brown quote) – you don’t have to give someone an answer right away. At that moment the pressure can build and you sometimes  say yes to avoid discomfort. Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable – it’s not something that comes naturally to us. The discomfort of saying no, in the long run, is better than the resentment of saying yes. 

Communication. It can be easier for you to set and stick to boundaries if people know what they are. This might be small conversations with the people you love. Or more formal, structured sessions with someone you work or live with. For those that love and respect you the setting of your boundaries should be as important to them as they are to you. If they don’t respect or agree with them is that a relationship you want?

Don’t beat yourself up – if you cross one of your boundaries because you didn’t say no or let something go. Don’t be hard on yourself. It takes practice and practice takes time. You’ve got this 🙂 

The Round-Up 

  • Boundaries can be physical, emotional or spiritual 
  • A boundary is likely being crossed if you feel; uncomfortable, angry, sad, pissed-off 
  • We don’t always set boundaries for fear of not being liked or being judged 
  • Self-awareness is important for setting boundaries. As is; practise, communication and space to say no (or yes)

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Recommended Reading:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-way-to-build-and-preserve-better-boundaries#1

https://humanparts.medium.com/the-honest-truth-about-why-some-people-cant-set-boundaries-aac273c456fa

https://humanparts.medium.com/the-honest-truth-about-why-some-people-cant-set-boundaries-aac273c456fa

https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/

Photo by Nicholas Gercken on Unsplash

One response to “Setting Healthy Boundaries – What does that even mean?”

  1. […] different sessions, we worked on communicating my needs, implementing boundaries, connecting to my intuition, reprogramming old/negative thoughts and creating space for joy in my […]

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