How to set personal boundaries and why do we all need them?
The lack of personal boundaries is exhausting and can be threatening to our success. Unfortunately, most of us don’t fully understand and accept that despite we know that we all need to have boundaries. Partly it might be because it actually feels nice to do please people. And partly because society often teaches us to be as selfless as possible and cater to the needs of others. This is especially true for women.
Why do we need boundaries?
As small girls, we’re taught to be sensitive and empathic. To help others, to try to predict what someone wants. To take care of others and often to put our needs and desires after the needs and desires of other people. And while all these qualities are not necessarily negative — in fact, they’re extremely positive. But it’s unbelievably easy to lose ourselves in the ocean of needs and wishes of others very quickly.
Then, we suffer from the burden of unfulfilled desires and unaddressed needs. We lack energy and happiness simply because we pay attention to other people more than we do to ourselves. And when we neglect our needs and desires, there isn’t any source for much-needed mental and emotional energy anymore. Let alone that we simply lack time to do what we need to do for ourselves.
As much as it is uncomfortable, the lack of boundaries can be painful, too. If we keep quietly swallowing all the mean things we allow other people to do to us, they won’t even understand that they can’t do those things. Moreover, they might not know it’s painful to us. That’s another reason to establish and speak about our boundaries.
How to establish boundaries?
Now let’s see how to actually understand what our boundaries are and protect them.
You’re the priority
Sure, there are situations when we need to put someone else as a top priority. For example, when we have a small child, or when our close person becomes sick. However, even in these situations, we have to have at least some kind of boundaries to not burn out.
But in daily life, we are our top priorities. We need to put our needs and wishes first. And that’s not egoism. That’s taking care of ourselves. By addressing our needs and desires, we learn to understand and recognize them, too. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we can indulge in everything we want to do all the time. But by at least taking care of our basic needs — sleep, food, rest, etc. — we make sure we can reach our goals and even help others when we want to.
Say no when you want to say no
You absolutely don’t have to do anything that isn’t essential. Even if it’s giving your aunt you see once a year a long hug. Even if it hurts her feelings that you didn’t hug her. You don’t have to do things you don’t want to do. And you have the right to refuse to do what you’re asked of.
We often tend to agree to help our friends and family even if doing that will conflict with our plans. Or we just say yes to that extra load of work because we are afraid that by refusing to accept those tasks we will look like a bad employee. As a result, we find ourselves buried under responsibilities that don’t serve us at all. That doesn’t sound like happy times, right?
So we have to feel free to say no if we don’t feel like doing what we’re asked of. Or if that favor we’re supposed to do doesn’t suit our plans.
Whatever is going on, remember to check in with feelings. We have to ask ourselves, how does this and that make us feel? Do we want to be here and do what we’re doing? And so on. When we start feeling uncomfortable because our boundaries are violated, we have the right to leave the situation. That’s it. Without waiting and struggling until this situation creates a high level of stress or even a trauma for us.
We need to think of our relationships, too. Are they reciprocal? Or is this person asking us for more than they’re giving us lately? It’s an important question as it helps us avoid relationships where we basically become slaves to the needs and desires of another person without getting anything out of it.
Once we know our boundaries, we have to tell people about them. It doesn’t mean that we must list them to any new person we need. There are unspoken rules of society its members shouldn’t break. For example, it’s wrong to hurt someone’s feelings on purpose or try to establish physical contact when the other person doesn’t want that. Unfortunately, sometimes people overstep universal boundaries consciously or unconsciously. And at that moment, we need to tell them about it.
If someone said something mean to us — we have to at least say that we don’t want that person to speak to us in such a manner. And if this didn’t work — we should just walk away from them. We need to address the situation the moment it happens, not afterward. And definitely, we mustn’t just stay silent or pretend like it’s okay.
It’s okay to fail
When we learn to understand and establish our boundaries, we will inevitably fail sometimes simply because we lack that skill yet. That’s why we should be patient with ourselves and remember that it’s okay to fail. If we failed to protect our boundaries once, it doesn’t mean we will fail at this from now on. So we need to do our best to step over the failure and move forward with the hope for the best.
Do you have any personal tips for understanding and establishing boundaries? If yes, share them in the comments below! You will help us all!