Setting healthy boundaries…harder than it seems
This morning, I had two situations that required me to set a healthy boundary with two different people that I truly care for. In doing so, I learned both how important it is, and that I’m not all that good at it — yet! I consider myself an active work in progress.
Does anyone else struggle to set healthy boundaries, even if you feel you have self-love and respect?
For me, it feels necessary to set boundaries and communicate them to those I am in (or want to be actively in) relationship with — yet it’s still uncomfortable and a bit unsettling in practice. This is probably because I didn’t set boundaries for much of my adult life. Indeed, I’m still learning the art of execution. But, I am becoming clearer about what those boundaries are for me personally (and that’s a win). Progress not perfection.
For those who might find the whole issue of a personal boundary confusing. Here’s what I mean — and I learned it from other coaches and bloggers on the topic over the years. A healthy personal boundary can be defined as a physical, emotional or mental limit we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or taken advantage of by others. Boundaries help us separate who we are, what we think and feel, and what we need, from the thoughts and feelings of others.
When we don’t consider our boundaries and give to others at the expense of ourselves, we become frustrated, angry, unhappy and/or unhealthy and unfulfilled. This was certainly the case with me for so many years.
My biggest challenge is to view establishing boundaries not as walls to block someone out — though sometimes this is the case — but rather as core principles, guidelines, or lines that set me free to love and respect the RIGHT people. And, at the same time, to show love and respect for myself. It’s my way of communicating to others that I have self-respect, self-worth, and will not allow others to define me.
As a recovering giver and perfectionist who continuously gave at the expense of herself to please and obtain approval from others, I suspect that setting boundaries is going to feel awkward for some time.
We all want to be loved and feel connected. This innate desire often gets in the way of our ability to set healthy boundaries with others. However, for someone who now loves and believes in herself — in a kick-ass way — it’s a non-negotiable. I know it’s something that I MUST do in order to be true to myself. It may not always be something I want to do, but rather need to do to stay true to me and my best life. My goal is to learn to do so in a way that shows kindness and respect for other people and where they are in their personal journey or circumstance. So, in other words, I strive to set boundaries in a gentle and caring way. Wow, does that require A LOT of skill and practice!
In the dating world, oh boy, is this complicated and challenging. Not as much when I’m dating a person face-to-face, but in the online dating world where misperception and judgement often prevail, it’s tricky. On the one hand you don’t want to be too judgemental before meeting a person face-to-face and giving the connection time to develop. On the other hand, you almost always know when someone has crossed a personal line early and it doesn’t feel right. When does the “trust your gut” theory apply here?
Even and especially in the case of dating, I’m practicing communicating a boundary and drawing a line in the sand when it is important to me and my core values and/or well-being. And if/when it is crossed again — practicing letting go! Ugh. I did not learn this early on in life and doing so with integrity and kindness is one of my greatest struggles.
I genuinely love, care for, and believe in people — easily and quickly. My people-driven nature means I invest in relationships and go 100% all-in — and when I show up as my authentic self, I expect others to do so too. Not always true. This makes boundary setting tricky business, because people need to earn your trust and the opportunity to be in relationship with you. I’m clearly driven first and foremost by my core belief that people are good human beings, doing the very best they can, and that they, too, want to be loved and connected. I believe we all struggle in different ways and are shaped by our past life experiences, often making it tough to ditch old patterns and beliefs that are no longer working for us.
This fundamental belief — while good in so many ways — often leads me to error on the side of giving people time and space to do better, respect my boundaries, and care for me back. Often this is not possible and I hang onto the idea of “potential” far too long. This area of boundary setting is the MOST challenging for me to navigate. Anyone? Can you relate?
I’m blogging on this topic today because I truly don’t believe I am alone in this challenge — and it absolutely relates to healthy living and well being! So I am putting this out there in the hope that I hear from others who might also struggle with establishing healthy boundaries. Or, to those who are rockin’ it in this department and want to share helpful tips that will help those of us in learning and practice mode. What works for you? How do you feel after you set healthy boundaries and how easily and comfortably do you move on once someone ignores or disrespects your boundary?
For me, today at least, it’s not black and white. While loving and respecting myself, I am getting better at understanding my boundaries and communicating them has become more necessary and natural. But it absolutely takes thought, effort, and consistent practice to actually DO it. I can only presume that the more I choose to respect and communicate my boundaries to those I want to be in relationship with, the easier it will become.
In the meantime, as I think about it, blog about it, and get clearer on what those boundaries are for me, I’ve learned that it’s about WAY more than just saying no vs. yes.
Setting health boundaries is about:
- Saying “no” without guilt.
- Asking for what you need and communicating that in a way that makes the boundary clear to the person you really want to be in relationship with.
- Behaving consistently according to your own values and beliefs.
- Demanding to be respected in relationships, and when you’re not, having the courage to walk away.
- Feeling safe enough to express difficult emotions and have disagreements, and not shrink away or avoid it all together.
- Not feeling responsible for someone else’s happiness OR thinking I can “fix it” if I just hang in there!
- Practicing honoring other people’s boundaries, as well as my own.
The ability to establish healthy personal boundaries stems from knowing who I am, what I believe, what I NEED and then acting accordingly. And doing so in a way that consistently honors and respects me AND the other person. It also means, making decisions based on reality and the actual behaviors of the other person, not what I think I hear, or what I want them to be. Reality vs. perception. Actions vs. words. 😉
I am a work in progress, always, and I’m committed to that progress. Thanks for reading. Tell me your healthy boundary challenges, stories, struggles and/or wins! I’d love to hear from you.