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Blog series, week 2: Looking after yourself by…Setting Boundaries

Looking after yourself by...

Welcome to week 2 of the Blog Series on Looking after yourself. If you missed the first 
one, you can catch up
here for the version in English (Spanish 

version here).

This week I want to talk about setting boundaries. So, you ask, what does “setting boundaries” mean?

A boundary, in simple terms, is a limit, it is as far as someone or something can go. If we think about it in terms of geographical terms, a boundary is the frontier between two countries. In the context of this article, I will be referring to a boundary as the limits we make for and around ourselves to keep safe in relationships, at work…in life in general really.

Physical boundaries

These relate to your personal space, your privacy and your body. You might like your door locked to keep others out while you are busy working on the laptop, watching your
favourite Netflix series or resting. When you say hello to someone, do you do one kiss, two kisses, a handshake or hug, or just wave at them from a couple of feet back. What things are a no-no for your wellbeing – maybe loud music annoys you and you prefer a bit of silence? How are you in your sexual relationships, what is acceptable, with whom, and possibly where also.

Material boundaries can also be included here – do you lend books, clothes, money or other possessions to your friends and family or do you keep them to yourself?

Emotional boundaries
This is a big one for many if not all of us, and something I see a lot in sessions with clients. People tend to take responsibility for their emotions and those of others, carrying a big burden that doesn’t even belong to them!

An example –Anne has just had an argument with their best friend, Mary: Anne is  being open and honest with Mary about how Anne felt let down when Mary didn’t show up to the cinema and didn’t even call to say she wasn’t coming. Mary gets defensive and says Anne is exaggerating and making her feel upset. Mary doesn’t apologise or acknowledge her responsibility in the matter. Anne leaves feeling guilty about upsetting her friend, forgetting that Mary let her down.

In a healthy scenario, Anne wouldn’t feel guilty about expressing her feelings to Mary, and Mary would take responsibility for her actions without blaming Anne of exaggerating. Each would own their part in the argument.

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Psychological boundaries

These are very close to emotional boundaries. Setting psychological boundaries help us keep safe from others’ inflicting emotional harm on us.

 Boundaries equal respect

Yes, respect for yourself, and for others, and from others towards you. As we saw last week, society tells us to be there for others whilst disregarding ourselves. But if we do this, we will not be respected, and the longer we let this happen, the more difficult it gets to set boundaries and be listened to. It is not impossible to set them after a period of time has passed. In fact it is better late than never!

So, let your friends, family, and even yourself, what your boundaries are – what’s OK and what’s not OK in your books – how you want to be respected. Read this letter to a parent (from about paragraph 6), it is a great example of setting boundaries!

Get rid of toxic people

OK, this one sounds a bit harsh, but it is sometimes necessary for our wellbeing. The types of people I’m talking about range from people who are always negative, always criticising you and others, people that always want attention without considering your needs (we called them selfish on the last article), jealous and possessive people, those who play the victim and don’t take responsibility for their actions or words, and those who keep disappointing you, like Mary. I would like to add Narcissits to this list, as they will display many of the behaviours above and blame you for them behaving in those ways. You will end up confused and hurt without realising – until a later point – that they are responsible for their behaviours but they are putting the blame on you instead.

Learn to say no

If we agree to everything everyone asks of us, we will run out of fuel and run out of time to ourselves. When we don’t say no to people, we are saying in other words that we don’t respect ourselves or our time, and they can disrespect you too by demanding more and more of your time. Nobody is going to die because you say no to driving them to the shops, or meeting them on Saturday when you said you were free on Sunday. If someone calls you selfish, then that’s their opinion and they own that opinion, you don’t have to fall prey to it and give in to their demands.

Unless you want to help them out, then it’s fine! Just stay true to your feelings, needs and self.

Value yourself and others will follow suit

For this last bit, I have invited Carla Dena, entrepreneur behind Inspired Spaces, to tell us how she has achieved this in her life and work:

“Valuing oneself is important for freelancers like me. When I was starting out as a freelance writer, I had a tendency to lower down my rates just to land projects. Clients who wanted to cut down labor costs preyed on newbies like I was then. Later on, I realised that time and expertise are my two most valuable assets as a professional and I shouldn’t just give those away almost for free

(unless for a good cause). And so, I began becoming more assertive in setting fees for my services. As soon as I did this, clients also began looking at my work as valuable investment. In the end, it’s not just about the money, but about finding value and fulfilment in one’s career.”

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31 responses

  1. Thank you for this post! I had so many problems in the last 20 years because not able to set boundaries….I the last 24 months I started doing it and now I can finally breathe feeling free! Great post, really great!

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  2. Great tips! Setting boundaries is so important but is easier said than done, for sure. Especially in family relationships, I’ve found. Sometimes you have to have hard conversations about what’s best for YOU that requires others to take a step back or adapt to a different role. I’ve been working on cutting out negative people and that’s also really hard. Great tips!

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  3. I LOVE THIS!!! Boundaries are so important and so needed in our lives. I talk about setting healthy boundaries in my new book, Just for Today’s Homeschooling Mom! So many people don’t realize that no matter the journey we are on in life, we still need boundaries to protect our peace! XO

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  4. It is often so difficult to set boundaries in your life especially when it means potentially removing people who have been a part of your life for quite some time. This is a great reminder, however, to protect your peace. Thank you!

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    • Hi! I agree that setting those boundaries is especially difficult with family! was just having one of those conversations with a friend – I am sure that once she does it, she will be on a better path and much happier! and her relationships will be much better – eventually – for it! I speak from experience 😉

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  5. this was very interesting to read! There are quite a lot of things I would really like to learn to do properly. Saying no, value yourself and emotional bounderies.

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  6. Good points! Learning to say No is a huge one for me. I read somewhere that everytime you say Yes to something, you’re saying No to everything else that you could be doing at that time. So it’s important to say Yes/no to activities/projects/etc based on personal priorities and not just an emotional response.

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  7. This is an amazing article! I can relate to many of the different boundaries you disgusted. I have actually been through some of the examples that you mentioned too. I do agree setting boundaries is important and making sure others respect them is important too. Thank you so much for your post! 😊

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  8. Pingback: Blog Series, Week 3: Looking after yourself by…Honouring your Feelings « Insights…from the desk of Karin Brauner

  9. Completely agree about the importance of maintaining boundaries.
    My conclusion following yesterdays Solution Focused University coaching call, hosted by Elliott Connie, during which this topic was discussed:
    I think people are simply people. Sometimes people behave in a way which is likely to lead to them being regarded as toxic or narcissistic by others. If they do that consistently enough they may end up with a reputation and even a medical diagnosis. Even if they do this, their consistency will waiver at times and there will be exceptions to their behaviour. These are the noticeable opportunities for change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chris! I agree with your comments about people being regarded as toxic or narcissistic. From experience, these behaviours might be so engrained that yes, there might be room for change but I would tell the person wanting to get away to carry on getting away, they won’t change overnight and might still be harmful to them and others until/if this change happens! This is a difficult topic and I might get back to it later on in the year!

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