Boundaries are imaginary lines that help you protect yourself both physically and emotionally. They keep other's actions and behaviors from hurting, distracting, annoying, or imposing on you. Boundaries are limits you set on how others can treat you or behave around you. People treat you as you allow them to; however, you can actually teach others how to treat you based on how strong or weak your boundaries are.
Having strong boundaries are important for protecting your body, mind, and spirit. Setting boundaries can make an enormous impact on the quality of your life. It is a major step in taking control of your life and vital for taking responsibility for your self and your life. It is the one skill that you most need to develop in order to create the kind of life you really want. However, it's often the area where most people seem to have the most difficulties.
Setting strong boundaries will help you stand up for yourself, stop agreeing to do things you really don't want to do, and start feeling less guilty about putting your own needs first. It's a part of the process of defining yourself and what is acceptable to you. When you don't have boundaries set other people will step over the line without even realizing where it is.
Boundary setting is not about getting other people to change (even though at first, it may seem that way). It's really about deciding what you will and won't tolerate any longer in your life, and then communicating this firmly and consistently whenever you need to. Boundaries are essential to becoming a healthy adult and balancing your work and personal life effectively. They demonstrate your commitment to self-respect.
The first step in establishing boundaries is self-awareness; you'll need to identify where you need more space, self-respect, energy, and/or personal power. Begin this process by recognizing when you feel angry, frustrated, violated, or resentful. In these cases, you've often had a boundary "crossed". By becoming aware of situations that require you to have stronger limits, you can begin creating and communicating your new boundaries to others.
Creating boundaries for your business and home will help you honor yourself more. It's perfectly okay to request or demand respect from others and to honor yourself. Someone's tone of voice, negativity, criticism, derogatory language, or other form of disrespect, may prompt you to create a boundary in order to protect yourself and your goals from disruptive influences.
Give yourself permission to begin honoring yourself and others in new ways. Boundaries are an important way for you to respect the needs of others, as well as your own. Ironically, when you become aware of your own boundaries (and begin to respect them) you'll naturally begin to regard the boundaries of others, as well. Respecting other people's boundaries helps make you a more attractive person to be around.
It's important to note that in establishing boundaries:
- Your personal needs are valid. It is not necessary for you to defend, debate or over-explain your request.
- Enlist the support of a friend for before and after the boundary-setting conversation, if necessary.
- Begin setting boundaries with the easiest ones and build yourself up to the more challenging ones for you. Let your communication and behavior get stronger before you tackle the harder boundaries.
- Tell people immediately when they are doing something that violates one of your boundaries.
- Simply tell them what they are doing that makes you feel angry, frustrated, violated, resentful, or uncomfortable. Communicate gracefully and honestly.
- Make a direct request that they stop the behaviors that offend or bother you. Be very specific about what you want.
- Follow-up to let them know how they are doing at honoring your request.
- Thank them for making the change.
And, if they refuse to cooperate:
- Warm them of a possible consequence if they continue disregarding your request.
- Demand that they stop.
- Just walk away without getting angry or fighting.
- Or, if necessary follow through with the consequence you previously warned them about.
Boundary-setting is like any new skill-you'll need to learn the basics, create a plan for applying your new skill, and then follow through with action and a support system. Over time and with practice, setting boundaries will become easier.
Remember that setting boundaries is a way to fully honor and respect yourself. You can control your own response by delivering your request gracefully to another person, but you cannot control their response or behavior to your request. People who continuously refuse to respect and honor your boundaries are clearly not willing to change. The change you need to see may come from yourself. Be sure that you have provided direct requests and communicated your boundaries consistently. If you have, and they still refuse to honor your boundary, it's up to you to decide how you wish to proceed. In these (hopefully rare) cases, you may need to negotiate further or end the relationship.
Practice: Complete the following statements:
People may no longer...
I have a right to ask for...
To protect my time and energy, it's okay to...
Then, finish each sentence with at least 12 examples (or more) of boundaries you can set to honor yourself. Don't censor your thoughts. Keep jotting down ideas over the course of the next week or so. Then, select the easiest ones and start communicating and reinforcing your boundaries.
Essential Boundary Setting Steps:
1. Self Awareness: Identify where your boundaries are weak or non-existent. Establish some new boundaries that honor you. What may people no longer do around you, do to you, or say to you? (Be realistic)
2. Inform: Educate others about unacceptable behaviors and expressions. Help people understand how they can respect your new boundaries. Communicate without blaming. Verbalize your boundaries.
3. Request: Calmly tell each person very specifically what you want them to stop doing or saying. Get their commitment to honoring you.
4. Follow-Up: Let them know how they are doing on meeting your request. Continue educating and reinforcing. Reward those who are respecting your boundaries.
5. Demand: Warn them about possible consequences if they continue ignoring your request. Enforce your boundaries.
6. Consequences: Follow through with the consequence if results aren't forthcoming. Determine which battles are worth fighting and which are worth letting go; walk away without any further comment if necessary. Set consequences that impact the other person more than you.
7. Respect others' boundaries : Stop violating other people's boundaries. Be aware and respectful of other people's boundaries.
1. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing House, 2002)
2. Parents In Charge: Setting Healthy, Loving Boundaries For You And Your Child by Dane Chidekel (Simon & Schuster, 2002)
3. Partnership Tools: Transforming The Way We Live Together by Alan Konell (Hippo Press, 2001).
4. Succeeding As A Super Busy Parent: 75 Practical Tips For Balancing Life, Love, Kids, And Career by Natalie R. Gahrmann (Infinity Publishing, 2002)
5. Where To Draw The Line: How To Set Up Healthy Boundaries Everyday by Anne Katherine (Simon & Schuster, 2000)
6. Working Parent-Happy Child by Caryl Waller Krueger (Nashville/ Abingdon Press, 1990)
Copyright 2003 by Natalie Gahrmann
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