Have you been feeling a little emotionally drained lately? Have you been finding yourself responding to the emergencies of others as if they are your own?
Perhaps you have been allowing someone to invade your space even though you are not quite comfortable. Maybe it’s time to look at whether you have healthy boundaries.
Boundaries are the limitations we set for ourselves and others. They can be both physical and emotional.
Fear and guilt are two main reasons people find it hard to set and stick to healthy boundaries. In some situations we may fear rejection or abandonment, so we conform or say yes to things we normally wouldn’t go along with. We may feel fear of confrontation; not wanting to argue or going along just to make things easier. We may also feel guilt as a result of saying no or hurting someone’s feelings.
Signs of unhealthy boundaries include sharing too much too soon or not expressing our needs at all. This often happens in relationships, whether they are old relationships or ones we are trying to cultivate.
For example, on a first date one may share everything about him- or herself – family history, favorite movies, plans for children, and all of the details about past relationships. On the other hand, one may not be able to get a word in due to excessive talking or questioning by the other person, but does not express the need to be heard.
It’s important to understand that boundary setting is not being rude, nor is it being difficult. When done in a positive and respectful manner, boundary setting increases our assertiveness and can be effective for both parties. It is never too late to learn how to set healthy boundaries. Here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.
Decide what you want.
The first step in setting a healthy boundary is identifying what is needed. This could be more space or less space, more attention or less attention. There is no right or wrong answer for this because it is what you desire.
After deciding what you want, firmly set the boundary. Let’s say you are at work and your co-worker is always asking you to get their things from the printer. It’s not always convenient for you, but you do it anyway despite feeling used and annoyed.
The next time your co-worker asks you can be very firm and state something like “I feel that you don’t consider my feelings or my work when you ask me to get your things and expect me to do it. I’m not getting your things anymore because it is your responsibility.” This is an example of a good boundary. Feelings are appropriately expressed and you have stated what it is that you will no longer continue to do.
It is important that you remain calm and not justify or apologize for the boundary that you are setting. It is also important to remember that fewer words are usually more effective. Be clear and concise.
Remember you’re not responsible for the other person’s response.
Set healthy boundaries for yourself and only yourself. Remember if you are respectful you are not responsible for the other person’s response. We are only responsible for ourselves.
Remember it’s a process.
It is important to remember it is a process. We don’t develop unhealthy boundaries overnight, so we won’t develop healthy ones overnight either. It is a process that requires continuous work and willingness to learn and grow. Seek feedback and directions from others who have healthy boundaries. Value your feelings and know that you are worth it.
** If you or someone you know is having trouble setting boundaries, contact Aspen Counseling Services to schedule an Initial Assessment.