One of my earliest memories of someone setting a healthy boundary was when I was around 13 years old and my mother’s friend had stopped by to say hello. She was telling my mother that her son had just recently bought a car from his dad after saving for some time. In my naivete and lack of knowledge about what healthy boundaries were I blurted out, “How much did he pay for the car?” I remember clearly the look on her face as she was surprised by my question. She took a moment and replied, “That is between my son and his dad.” I remember feeling utterly embarrassed and a little ashamed for even asking the question. Confusion followed quickly as I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t tell me, but rest assured I was not going to ask. It wasn’t until years later that I understood she was being kind and setting a boundary.
When we learn how to set healthy boundaries in relationships, we instinctively take better care of ourselves. We begin to feel more secure in who we are. We are in touch with what our limits are and often are more assertive as opposed to being aggressive. We often feel more whole and balanced as well.
What are boundaries in relationships?
Boundaries can be defined as the limits that we choose to set with other people. They help us navigate what works for us and what does not. Boundaries open up all kinds of new options, including having mixed emotions as you learn to let go of the old way of thinking and venture into a new and unfamiliar way of acting. They do not always come easily and need to be revisited often however this skill, if practiced, will leave us feeling freer in our choices.
When we do not set boundaries, the opposite can occur. We will find ourselves feeling cranky, edgy, exhausted, and even emotionally drained. It is our body’s way of saying, pay attention to me, something is off here. Ignoring these signals leads us to allow people to do and say things to us that feel unsafe. Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfection,” states, “Failure to set boundaries can quickly lead to resentment.” If you are getting frustrated or angry often then it is probably time to set a boundary.
So how does one set a boundary?
1. You want to reflect and get clear on the boundary you need to set.
Boundaries vary with different people in your life.
2. You want to be firm with the boundary you are setting.
Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of setting your boundary. Begin setting a boundary with someone you feel safe and secure with.
3. Friends and family may push back and challenge your new boundaries.
Remember that you are not responsible for how someone responds to you. You are taking care of yourself at this moment so focusing on what you need to take care of yourself is important. This is a process that takes lots of time and practice. It will feel really uncomfortable when you first start setting boundaries. That’s okay. That’s how it is supposed to feel. Be kind to yourself as you are learning. If you need support to seek out feedback from others or a kind therapist to help guide you.
Boundaries have a two-sided nature to them. You may lose something, but you gain a new life of peacefulness and insight.