I don’t know about you, but no one spoke to me about creating limits with other people, and in the past, I sometimes let them crawl all over me. I didn’t feel comfortable with people coming into my comfort zone — yet I didn’t feel comfortable telling them not to.
Many of us lacked the skill to set boundaries with others. Over the years, my female friends have shared their discomfort with either setting limits or confronting others on their behaviors. Our need to be loved can hinder us from defining our boundaries.
No matter what age I am, I can create limits with others, and it’s incredible how better I feel about myself. What about you? Do you feel uncomfortable setting boundaries with others?
What are boundaries?
They are the limits around what you are willing to do and not do, as well as what limits you place on others that you will accept or not. Your external boundaries are about how you interact with others.
Why is it important to set limits with others?
- Setting limits with others is essential to a healthy life and healthy relationships. They stop others from infringing on you with behaviors that you feel are unacceptable.
- They help you relate to yourself, your thoughts, and whether you support your well-being or ignore your needs.
- Boundaries define who you are and what works and don’t work for you. We include standards in our relationships so others know how to respond to us.
- Limits let the other person know you are separate from them and have the right to decide what they can or can’t do.
- Boundaries allow you to communicate with others honestly.
Boundaries are unique with different people or situations depending on your culture or the relationship.
It’s essential to understand your boundaries — what you need to feel comfortable with yourself, others, and in different situations.
Types of Boundaries
- Different cultures have different comfort levels around space. The U.S. has a larger comfortable distance between people than in other countries. Though in some countries, the U.S. may be too close. Depending on your comfort level, be aware of when others enter your space and how you feel while they are there.
- We also have different boundaries for the many types of people in our lives. There may not be any hugging in work relationships, where friends and intimate partners, hugging is a norm.
- Boundaries also include that no one is allowed to abuse you or physically touch you without your permission.
Emotional boundaries include your life experiences and choices that create your comfort zone.
Family and friends who experience emotional highs and lows belong to them. If you find yourself absorbing others’ emotions, you need to step back and ask yourself, “what does this have to do with me?” It’s their emotions. You can understand or care about what they are going through, yet you don’t take ownership of their feelings and take them on as your own.
Some ways you may take ownership of another’s emotions if you feel you know best what would help them. We cannot change another’s person’s perception of their experiences, and when we try, we get frustrated that they are not listening to what we have to offer.
On the other side, you may have lived a life where you expect others to take care of your emotions, make you feel better, or provide solutions for your life. It’s not their job; it’s yours.
Having emotional boundaries creates an honest interaction between people, a respectful way for each person to construct a life with less turmoil, thereby having enough energy to create our well-being.
Sexual expression is personal, and each of us has different comfort levels around how we want to express ourselves sexually. If a partner is pressing you to perform something sexually that you are uncomfortable with, do you feel it’s your right to say “no?” It’s always our right to say “no” to any sexual encounter.
Most of us try to protect our personal belongings, whether a house, furniture, clothes, etc. We have locks on our doors, and many people have security systems that create boundaries, so others don’t get in.
Do you get uncomfortable with people touching your personal belongings without asking? How about the person who reaches over and takes a bite of your food? Are you ok with that, even if they are close friends?
What about people who borrow our belongings? Are they respectful in treating them and returning them in the same condition when you need them?
I have given a lot of time to others when they vent and go on and on about something. Or maybe doing something for someone I didn’t feel I had the right to say “no.”
Over the years, I’ve recognized that I love listening and helping others, but I have decided not to engage with someone who talks to me and not with me. I love spending time with family & friends, yet I have learned to set boundaries around what I am willing to accept with each person.
- Where are you with others? Do you feel you have no choice around how they can use your time or are you willing to share time but still create boundaries around how comfortable you feel giving?
- I haven’t mastered my relationship with time, yet I’m progressing towards knowing what is important to me and what’s not. I have the same 168 hours each week as everyone else, my interests may be different than others, and I get to decide what is important to do with my life.
- You and time – do you know what’s important, and not everything can be necessary. It will help if you choose how to spend your time and let go of what isn’t essential. Your choices need to support your well-being.
A simple boundary for finances could be a budget that you follow to support your regular living expenses and save money. You decide how to spend your money in essential areas in living consciously. For people, who have young children, maybe life insurance is a priority, whereas as you get older, life insurance decreases.
It’s also how you share your money with others in your life. Do you overspend with others to get their attention and approval? Do you feel you have to take care of the financial needs of others?
Create a respectful boundary with your finances – what you will spend, what debt supports your big vision, and how you will share your money with others.
Random Boundary Thoughts
- You do have the right to change your mind in a situation. Say you agree to help someone even if you don’t want to do it. Quickly, step back and modify your decision. That person may not like it, yet you need to be honest that it isn’t essential.
- There are situations where you help an important person in your life even if you are not interested in it. You support them because it’s important to you to be there for the person. You are still taking care of yourself, as that person is essential to you.
- If, no matter the relationship, some requests will not be comfortable for you to do, be honest with yourself. Setting boundaries is a skill, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable.
Basics of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries isn’t always easy as it is a skill we haven’t learned. How do you know what is unacceptable to you if you have always accepted certain behaviors?
Setting boundaries at work or with family and friends can be challenging. The first step is to recognize what boundaries you require in any area. Will you change your limit depending on the person or situation?
Practice Boundaries with A Journal
Starting small with change always helps. One way to write out the boundaries you feel others are not respecting. Or you’ve done something one way with the person and are unsure how to make the change, or you step out and make the change, and the person has an adverse reaction. Change with another person to support our needs may not help them, so expect a negative response.
Journal on what changes you want to me, how you feel about it, and what you think you would feel if the change occurred.
Changes to internal and external boundaries will create discomfort for a little while, and then you will practice with the difference until it feels right for you.
- Recognize your emotional triggers – we all want to be loved and setting boundaries can feel like we will lose their affection.
- Step back and review how you react. No judgments now because this is only to become aware of your behavior(s).
- Do you always react the same way in a situation?
How to Express Your Boundaries
When you are clear around your boundaries and what situations you feel cross your limits, you can communicate to others what you need. How do you share this with others?
If you feel uncomfortable expressing your boundaries or confronting another person, you may want to start with a person or situation that is not as important.
Some ideas on how to discuss your boundary issue with others:
- Describe the problem for yourself, then create a simple explanation for the other person why the change is necessary for you.
- Whenever discussing a need or feeling with others, use “I” statements. For example, I feel uncomfortable when you make funny remarks about me and would appreciate it if you would discontinue doing so.
- I know that you want to respect my boundary, and I thank you for respecting my need from now on.
- Stay focused on your need. Treat it as a mantra and repeat what you are uncomfortable with to the person. The other person may want to dismiss your requirement, though make eye contact, speak clearly, and keep focused on your goal.
- The other person may also have needs, which is an excellent time to discuss them, though you are clear about what you need.
Motivation to Change
Do you see challenges, problems, issues as an opportunity to learn, or do they block you? To enhance one’s motivation, try to see any situation as “having a solution.” What’s important is not to expect only one solution but rather to view what is happening and brainstorm how to solve the issue.
Do not accept “I don’t know” in your life, as this is just resistance trying to stop you from moving forward.
If you don’t know, reach out to someone to brainstorm to get past the resistance. We draw blanks because change can be overwhelming, we have a deep emotional attachment to where we are in our lives, or we believe we are not “good enough” to have what we want. Our beliefs are difficult to change, and we need support to get past our “I don’t know.” Don’t be fearful of reaching out to others.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha
What boundaries have you created for your well-being? Do you accept others’ boundaries?
Do you allow others to disrespect your values or opinions, or do you disrespect others’ views?
Do you feel you are responsible for other people’s happiness, and you can’t say “no?” Are you comfortable with creating external and internal boundaries for yourself?
Women’s Group Topic
Women have struggled with setting boundaries, and this is an excellent topic to start deep diving into those areas where you struggle with setting limits. Maybe for the need to be loved, yet we don’t necessarily feel loved when someone comes and disrupts our comfort zone.
Use each other as support systems to acknowledge what you want to change and help each other become accountable to one’s well-being.
“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”
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