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.
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?
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.
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.”