In last week’s blog post, we introduced the idea of boundaries. To recap, boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. They are built out of a mix of conclusions, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning. Personal boundaries help to define an individual by outlining likes and dislikes and setting the distances one allows others to approach. Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill.
There are endless amounts of boundaries, and often boundaries can be specific to each relationship and situation. There are, however, some universal boundaries that we can each work to put down in our own lives that will help us be in a better space relationally and in our own minds.
Release Yourself From Having to Do It All
Try as you might, you are not a superhero! So don’t live under that pressure. Saying “no” doesn’t make you selfish, mean, or a horrible person. Actually, the hardest decisions in life are often between the good things and the best things. Counselors have found that people who do a few things well find more joy and satisfaction in life than those who try to do too much (ever hear the saying, “keep the main thing the main thing”). So be realistic in what you commit to.
Tell People Your Limits
An invisible fence only works with pets, so let people see your limits! Too often, we don’t say things we should because of the fear of rejection. Let this worry go!
Be straightforward and honest about what you can and cannot do. It’s far better to say “no” to a commitment up front than to say “yes” and then fail to come through (or to come through at your own discomfort). If you’ve been living a life without boundaries, your friends and family may be taken aback by this change in your behavior. And that’s okay. Setting boundaries may feel awkward and even “heartless” at first, but will result in a huge sense of freedom as you come to understand that who you are is not wrapped up in what you do for other people.
Establish Healthy Amounts of Personal Time
If you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else. Often those of us without boundaries have been raised to disregard our own needs, desires, and emotions. Oftentimes, we have no clue who we are apart from what we do. And this is not healthy. At all! Build time into your schedule to take care of you…whether it is reading a book, going for a jog, taking a bubble bath, or engaging in counseling.
In addition, make sure you put lots of MARGIN in your schedule. Margin is a grace period from one thing to the next. Too many of us are running 30 minutes behind all day long because we haven’t worked any margin into our schedules.
Cure Yourself of The Disease to Please
If you ground your identity in what other people think of you, you’ll continually change yourself, and eventually lose all concept of who you really are. As you make decisions, consider what is the best personal course of action. Remember, your goal in life isn’t just to be popular. Face it: there will always be somebody who disagrees with you. And that’s okay!
Don’t Commit Out of Guilt or Obligation
You are not the world’s savior. It’s not your job to make everyone happy or “fix” all of the problems for those around you. Don’t succumb to the pressure of other people’s needs; evaluate your heart and commit your time and energy to what you’re passionate about. The reality is this that there will always be needy people, and if you don’t set clear personal boundaries you will attract them like a magnet. Your relationships will be one-sided as you give and give and give of yourself.
If your life has been defined by the needs of other people, do not despair. One fence post at a time, you can set boundaries. As you learn to say “no,” you’ll begin to actually enjoy the relationships in your life (rather than feeling drained and used by them). Far from inhibiting you, personal boundaries free you up to experience joy and satisfaction in relationships like never before.
Want help in navigating boundaries? Contact AWCC today and get set up with one of our amazing counselors!