“I was fifty years old before I learned to say the word no” my mother said and it was true. I vowed that I would do my best to ensure this didn’t become a family tradition. Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing our identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health. It is not something we hear about very often but when we learned about them a couple of years ago, we added it to our tools for self-care. It makes complete sense. As Maya Angelou said ‘when we know better, we do better’ and boundaries has helped us to do better in many areas of our lives.
For any readers who can identify themselves as someone who:
– always puts others first
– gives way more than you receive
– thinks the idea of setting boundaries sounds mean,
then you will probably benefit hugely from setting them! If you are wondering what boundaries sound like, here are a few examples:
“I need time to think about it. Let me come back to you.”
“I can meet you for half an hour.”
“I respect your opinion but this is my decision.”
“I am really not comfortable discussing that. Please don’t discuss it with me.”
Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries often falling somewhere in between. Learning to show compassion and kindness to yourself is crucial in setting healthy boundaries.
So what are boundaries?
Essentially they are guidelines that we first need to set for ourselves in order to be able to tell others how we want to be treated — what is acceptable and what isn’t. Clear, consistent boundaries are like a barometer of respect for ourselves. In order for us to be able to measure this barometer, we have to have a level of self-awareness that creates a healthy sense of self. A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that we don’t have a strong identity or our identity is tied up with other people or roles we play. For example, if you are a parent, worker, partner, family member, we can often lose our identity in these roles and hence boundaries become difficult to set and maintain. Research shows that poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.
Boundaries are a way of protecting yourself. They acknowledge what makes you uncomfortable, resentful or upset. This will be different for everyone depending on our life experiences. Importantly they acknowledge that your needs and desires are just as important as other people’s. Read that sentence again. Your needs and desires are just as important as other people’s. Not more important, just as important. Boundaries can also help us prioritise and delegate. We recommend checking out the Eisenhower Model for some help with labelling what is important and urgent.
Brené Brown, one of our all time favourites, has found that people with strong boundaries are the most compassionate and the world needs compassionate leaders now more than ever. If you are in a workplace, modelling this behaviour can create healthy work cultures. Likewise children learn from the feet of their masters.
In conclusion we are the only people who can set and maintain boundaries in our own lives. Nobody else can do it. Take it from us that it is both liberating and protective. Give it a go. You won’t look back.