Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

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A healthy relationship requires the space to be yourself and to maintain your personal integrity. Most people will respect your boundaries when you explain what they are and will expect that you will do the same for them; it’s a two-way street. Not so with people who don’t understand where you end and they begin. Often, people who try to invade your space are not thinking about you or how pushing the limits of your boundaries will affect you. They clearly feel entitled to get whatever they ask for, whatever they think they need, because, they feel their needs are more important than yours.

Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill.  Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are. For many of us, it’s a skill to be developed and practice, practice, practice.

Think about the following…..

Get to know yourself as best you can. This means that you need to learn what’s really important to you, what you really value apart from anyone else. It’s critical that you identify your feelings, needs, values (eg honesty, fidelity, privacy, and mutual respect.)  Do you honour them or over-ride them?  Once you know your comfort zone, you can determine your boundaries.

Name your limits.  You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed – these feelings help us identify what our limits are.

Take responsibility for yourself. This means to become aware, to develop the capacity for active conscious involvement, to know what needs to be done for yourself. By setting your own boundaries, you’re telling others how you want and expect to be treated; in other words, you are setting your limits about who can come into your space and what you expect of others once they’re there—how you want to be spoken to, touched, and treated psychologically and emotionally. Whatever you say goes, no matter what others may think, feel, or believe. A corollary of this is that you are not responsible for the feelings, actions, and beliefs of others, or for the way they react to the boundaries you’ve set.

Give yourself permission.  Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good daughter or son, even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.  Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.

Practice and build self awareness.  Boundaries are all about listening to your feelings and honouring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, ask yourself: What’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What is the situation eliciting that’s making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: “What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?”

What rights do you believe you have?  What’s our bottom line?

What are consequences that you can live with?  Always mean what you say, and never make threats you won’t keep.  Remember, all your effort is undone if you don’t maintain your boundary and consequences.

How you will handle the other person’s reaction?

Make self care a priority.  This involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. Putting yourself first gives you the energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and with yourself so you’re more tuned into your feelings, needs and able to listen to yourself better.

Support.  If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, it’s a good idea to seek some support from good friends or from an independent person such as counselling.

Start small.  It’s important to take baby steps, get support, and practice, practice, practice.  Build upon your success, and, at first, try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.