Boundaries are limits that create healthy relationships with others. When we fail to identify and express our limits in relationships we run the risk of getting involved in difficult, drama-filled, and chaotic relationships. These relationships are usually a roller coaster ride with weeks full of bliss followed by weeks of hell, mixed in with an intense breakup and a passionate reunion then rinse and repeat. For some people, boundaries are a hard concept that is challenging to conceptualize let alone apply.
Boundaries are established by our core beliefs, perspectives, values, and opinions, which come from our early social environments, and life experiences. Boundaries are most challenging for people who struggle with low self-esteem because of their desire to be liked and accepted. Their negative core beliefs can often drive the need for validation. This often causes individuals to engage in behaviors like people-pleasing. People pleasers attempt to gain self-worth by assuming responsibility for the welfare of others at the risk of losing their self-identity but the need to be loved many times outweighs placing boundaries in relationships. Low self-esteem individuals can also be extremely needy and expect others to be responsible for their emotions and actions setting up unrealistic expectations in relationships that often lead to disappointment.
Creating boundaries will create healthy relationships that promote security and free you to be authentic in your relationships.
Here are 7 ways to start setting boundaries today!
1. Name your limits
You can’t set limits until you know what they are. Start by discovering your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits. What will you tolerate and accept in a relationship? What makes you uncomfortable and stressed out? When you don’t set limits you open yourself to others doing things that can be upsetting or harmful.
2. Pay attention to your feelings
Don’t ignore your feelings they are internal alarms that warn you that you’re violating your boundaries. Explore the relationship especially when you are feeling uncomfortable or resentful. Lean in to what you feel instead of avoiding the uncomfortableness the feelings may bring you. Using mindfulness and meditation are great ways to dig deeper and discover the what and why in your relationships and actions.
3. Be Clear
This is especially important when you come from different cultural backgrounds or have different personalities. What one person perceives as a joke may be interpreted by another as disrespectful. Make sure that you are expressing what is not okay for you early in the relationship, otherwise, you will find yourself blowing up or withdrawing because of internalized feelings.
4. Give yourself permission
Fear, guilt, and self-doubt are pitfalls for setting clear and healthy boundaries. You may fear the other person’s reaction or scared that they may abandon the relationship so you do what they want even if it means sacrificing your time. People-pleasing often leads to feelings of irritability and low energy. Neglecting your needs and wants to please others will set you up for a perpetual cycle of depression and anxiety. Putting your needs first will help you to feel better about yourself.
5. Make Self-Care a priority
Give yourself permission to be first! When you start doing things that make you happy then you will become stronger in setting boundaries. Explore new activities that are enjoyable and bring meaning to your life. Learning to tune into your feelings and honoring them will help you to create a strong self-identity.
6. Practice Assertiveness
Creating boundaries is not enough. Follow-through is essential in communicating your limits. Lacking boundaries may have developed from your childhood. You may have learned that saying no came with the threat of rejection or abandonment. You may discover that you say yes to get the approval of others, while secretly feeling upset and irritated for going against your values. Start practicing saying no to others.
7. Get Support
If you find that setting boundaries are challenging then seek support. Consider joining a support group, a church group, or getting some counseling/coaching services. Also, surround yourself with a circle of good friends and family. Start practicing by taking small steps that will get you more comfortable with communicating your limits.