”Being kind does not mean having no boundaries. There’s a big difference between holding the door and being the doormat.”
- Pamela Storch
One of the biggest challenges for any of us is to set boundaries with our time, love, space, and our feelings. What exactly are boundaries? Boundaries are limits or things that we have chosen for ourselves that we will not accept or tolerate. These limitations we have are lines in the sand that if someone crosses makes us feel hurt, sad, or angry or another negative emotion.
Sometimes we are aware that these boundaries are consciously being crossed as we’ve not taken the time to reflect and create boundaries. Boundaries let us be ourselves and connect with the rhythm of who we are. When boundaries are not created, we run the risk of giving in to what others want, putting others’ needs first, feeling obligated to do something we don’t want to do, saying yes when we really mean no, and many other self-denigrating behaviors.
In childhood, we’re generally not taught how to set boundaries, and it’s rarely a topic that comes up. As children, we are expected to do as our parents, teachers, and authoritative figures request even if it makes us feel sad, angry, uncomfortable, degraded, or not valued. Frequently, the crossing of boundaries and the connection to our emotional status is often overlooked and unrecognized.
As adults, we carry this lack of boundaries into our lives where we allow others to tromp all over us, and we feel we must take it in order to please or out of obligation or a fear of speaking up. One of the challenges of letting another know of our limit is the very real idea that we must confront, we must let another know how we feel and what we intend to do if it keeps happening. This puts us in a vulnerable position and we feel we may lose that person, lose their respect, or their love or they’ll think us an unkind person.
The problem is if we don’t respect and honor ourselves and lay down boundaries, harm, tension, and stress on our minds and bodies are inevitable. Eventually, our relationship with others and ourselves breaks down, and we become lost and rudderless. We’re not true to our needs, our wants, and our desires and become open to the impulses of others.
Putting our needs above another’s is an act of true love, dignity, and respect for who we are and what we represent. We may have stuffed our needs so deep that we don’t even know what our real desires are and can this leaves a void in our sense of self.
By paying attention to the different daily scenes, we can see where work needs to be done and where boundaries need to be made. Infringement on our time, space, resources, schedule, and giving are all examples of the crossing of boundaries. Not being able to stand up for ourselves is a fear of conflict that may result in the person leaving or not loving or approving of us or that we’ll rock the boat and get into an unwanted argument. This discussion can be uncomfortable yet, it’s short-term.
People respect those with boundaries as they know what that person will accept or tolerate and what they won’t. By creating a boundary, we share and define for the other person exactly what it is that we are willing to do and if the boundary is crossed, how we will respond.
When someone crosses the boundary, a highly negative emotional-filled drama reaction is not what is required. Staying calm and simply stating that “I feel this … when you do that …, and if you continue to do …, then I will … This statement immediately lets the other person know how you feel, that they’ve tread on something that is a limit or boundary for you and that if the behavior continues, they know what to expect.
This expectation of what you will do is your limit, and is not up for negotiation unless you decide to negotiate. Personal limits are created based on your needs, and how you expect to be treated. You are responsible for you, no one else, and no else can make the limits for you. That’s a hard pill to swallow but once swallowed has an enormous impact on your life, confidence and inner peace.
Boundaries create freedom from others’ expectations of who and what you should be. Once boundaries are set, it’s important to follow through no matter how difficult it is as this teaches the other person that you mean it. Eventually, the other person comes around out of love and respect, and if they don’t, it’s often a red flag that the relationship needs to be reviewed and rethought.
To begin to create a boundary, it’s necessary to stay aware of your feelings and body responses when communicating with others. What ticks you off, what makes you feel hurt, and feelings that others expect too much of you, or have no respect for your time are some triggers. These triggers happen when someone has done something that has crossed a line that has infringed on you. And if you don’t have a boundary, the result of their infringement is your feeling bad. Sit quietly and determine exactly did the person say or do that triggered you to feel bad. That is where the boundary or limit needs to be made.
Take some time, reflect, and create a boundary one limit at a time. Be aware, honest, and forgiving of how you’ve reacted or acted in the past. Sharing a boundary requires self-control and a willingness to confront another in a positive, matter-of-fact manner. There’s no need to get into an argument, or into any further communication. You are stating a feeling about what’s something doing to you or making you feel and then drawing the line in the sand for another as to how you expect them to act, and giving the consequences if they don’t. Assertiveness, honesty, and simplicity are three traits that work here. Being stubborn, dramatic, or pushy is not helpful and can exacerbate the communication.
If you’re like to learn more about boundaries, a fantastic book that will enlighten, teach, and guide is “Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free” by Nancy Levin.