Do you feel some type of way when your boundaries are challenged? I’m not sure about you, but it’s safe to say that I’m all in my feelings at that point. I remember a time when I didn’t have any boundaries in my relationships and I wasn’t happy. When you think of boundaries, you may think of something your teachers or parents did to stop all of the fun. Despite what you and I may think, I promise they really wanted to keep us safe.
Although boundaries have a negative connotation, they can also be beneficial. Boundaries and limitations are healthy and necessary when you’re feeling burned out, ignored, and useless, and can’t seem get to the bottom of your feelings. It’s easy for us to set healthy limitations for our children, nieces, nephews, and even our pets.
But, where do we stand when it comes to creating and honoring healthy boundaries for ourselves? Just as a loving mother sets reasonable boundaries to keep her children safe, as adults, especially women, we have to learn to create boundaries in our personal and professional lives too. Merriam Webster’s dictionary says the word boundary means “unofficial rules about what should not be done, or limits that define acceptable behavior.” So it’s really an act of self-love because those boundaries protect your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Here are 3 tips to help you create and honor healthy personal boundaries.
1). Determine why you want to create new boundaries.
Did something recently happen? Are you tired of having your needs ignored, or is it something else? Make sure you’re honest with yourself about your reasons. For example, if I want to create an expectation or rule that includes not accepting phone calls after 8 pm during the work week so I can go to bed earlier, that would eliminate phone conversations with my mom and sisters because they live in different time zones. Is that what I really want? Or, do I want my mom and sisters to call me on weekends only? Either way, I need to be clear about what I want and expect, and why. Likewise, you also need to be clear about what you want because it makes everything so much easier.
2). Determine what your boundaries will consist of.
What is it that you want others to do, or to stop doing? It’s important to know so you can share it with them as soon as possible. One reason for sharing your newfound expectations is to allow others time to adjust, and to allow yourself time to practice honoring aka enforcing them. Yep, it’s all about you, and being in control. If I don’t want to accept phone calls after a certain time, then I shouldn’t call anyone during that time frame to avoid sending mixed messages. And, I have to avoid chatting excessively if someone calls me, so that they’ll take my wishes seriously.
Remember that setting these healthy limitations are beneficial for your well-being, and will enable you to feel more assertive and empowered. Unfortunately, it’s sad, but true: people will treat you exactly how you allow them to. Word to the wise, no one has the right to guilt you into disrespecting your own healthy boundaries. It’s not cool.
3). Determine how you will react when your boundaries are challenged.
How will you react when someone within your inner circle challenges your new boundaries? You have every right to be upset if someone disrespects you by doing something you’ve asked them not to do. Your reaction will also affect future interactions, so it’s in your best interest to try to stay calm.
For example, if your friend or colleague often loud talks you when they’re trying to make a point, you should rightly be annoyed. You should also immediately stop anything that doesn’t honor and respect who you are as soon as it happens before it becomes a problem. But I digress. And, I wish I would’ve learned this lesson many years ago. After deciding that enough is enough, explain how it makes you feel, and that it will stop today.
The next time it happens, be assertive. Calmly and firmly address it. Something like this is appropriate and should work fine:
“Excuse me, William or Mandy, but I was talking. And, my tone isn’t loud. So, I would appreciate it if you would lower your tone to match mine. If not, we can continue this conversation another time.”
End of discussion. Walk away with a smile on your face if necessary because you’re in control of your reaction and your day. Period.
Health and happiness expert Dr. Susan Biali, states in her Psychology Today article, It’s Time to Say No When You Need To, that “your boundaries and needs don’t actually go away. In fact, if you avoid expressing them when you should, it is guaranteed to cause problems. The ostrich who sticks his head in the ground and keeps it there will eventually get run over by a bus. Though it feels like we’re avoiding unpleasant consequences by bending to the needs of others, things are sure to get worse, not better, in our relationships, life and even health if we don’t learn to live within our own boundaries.”
Don’t feel obligated to waste excessive time and energy debating about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, or expectations you’ve previously expressed concerns about. Who has time to waste on unnecessary bickering? It’s true that some people will resist and frequently test your new boundaries. But that’s okay too.
I want you to really understand this: if someone is unwilling to appreciate and honor the new, happier you, it’s time to find new friends and colleagues. I call this cutting your losses. I’ve done it before, and it’s very freeing. If dealing with this person drains you mentally, you need to quickly cut your losses and let them go. You are worthy of creating and honoring healthy boundaries in your life to find your happy place.
Again, feel free to walk away from any unproductive debating, and going back and forth with a smile on your face because you’re in control of your healthy boundaries, your reaction, and your day.
Have you experienced setting boundaries, and managed resistance in your personal or professional life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.