One of the most difficult lessons I (Shannon) have had to learn in my life is that of creating boundaries. Listen, I can cut someone out easily before I can create the boundaries I need to keep them at a safe distance to keep myself safe, healthy, and both parties happy and in a healthy relationship. For years, I have been the “yes” gal. “Yes, I can help with that!” “Sure, I will take care of all of the planning for that, no problemo!” Part of the reason is that I am a control freak. If I want it done a certain way, I would rather do it myself. Part of it is that, if I want to admit it, I feel that when it comes to family and friends, if they ask me to do something, or if they call or text, I feel obligated to stop everything and act because that makes me a good [insert obligatory title here]. I have learned, however, in the most recent year or two, that the latter is untrue. In fact, stopping everything and acting when someone calls me is not good for me, nor the person who is asking, because it will inevitably damage our relationship if I continue to dishonor my boundaries. Why? Well, let’s get into it.
Why are Boundaries Important?
Boundaries are like barriers that you create around yourself. Let’s not get them confused with forts to block people out; I’ve done that, so I know the difference. These are just like mosquito netting. You’re camping, enjoying nature, but you have to protect yourself when you sleep at night, so you create a boundary of mosquito netting. Ok, you get the picture. Boundaries allow you to take care of yourself, drawing lines in the sand, clearly defining physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually what you will and will not stand for. It is all about honoring your own limitations, for your own well being. If we set boundaries for what we want and need to be our best selves, and we allow someone or something to go past those boundaries, we not only begin to feel weathered, and drained, but we then have difficulty in those relationships. We begin to resent the person who we blame for crossing that boundary, but really, we are the ones who allowed it to happen in the first place.
The Boiling Point
We’ve all been there. We either had a boundary, or didn’t, but either way, we didn’t stick to it, and we start to burn out from that person continuing to ask for favors, or every time there is an event, or something that he/she needs, you are the go-to. You start to get resentful, and then you start dreading the phone ringing and seeing their name. There starts to be bad blood, arguments, and then you can’t even remember how it started, and when it all comes to a head, you realize that it started when you didn’t draw the line on your own self-care and boundaries. Don’t get to the boiling point. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Even if it is difficult, just do it. It will be better for you and your relationship if you do.
Reasons to Set Boundaries:
- We are able to meet our goals, and often, surpass those goals and exceed our own expectations, aka, living our best lives!
- Boundaries prevent us from being resentful of people who are important to us, cultivating fruitful relationships instead.
- Effective boundaries, and sticking to said boundaries prevent us from allowing anyone to use us, even if that is not their intention. Often, when it happens, the feeling is that we are being used, and that is a pretty terrible thought.
- Having boundaries make it so that others know what to expect from us.
- Boundaries create a sense of self-respect and allow you to command respect from those around you.
Tips For Setting Boundaries:
- Know yourself and what feels right and what feels wrong. Once you know yourself and those feelings, you will be able to create some deal breakers and limitations. Sometimes it helps to have a brainstorming session, freewriting, see what comes out.
- Be direct with yourself and with those you need to communicate those boundaries to – do not miscommunicate, nor candy coat here. That will be a waste of time. There should be no confusion as to where the line is crossed. For example, “I will not take phone calls past 8pm.” or “I will no longer babysit your children on Saturdays.”
- Focus on yourself. You’re not in the business of fixing other people. This boundary is yours. Period. No negotiating.
- Have a mantra. If you need to practice your boundary conversation in front of the mirror like Stuart Smalley, then dog on it, do it. Set those boundaries, stick to them, and get yourself a dose of cultivating a healthy life with healthy boundaries. Take it from a gal who has been there, and who still practices this every. single. day.