Have you ever walked away from a person, event or situation and felt resentful or violated? If some of your experiences are making you uncomfortable, then it may be time to set some boundaries. Setting good boundaries is healthy. It is not rude, bad or wrong. It is not bad or rude or wrong! YES, I repeated that statement as many people believe that they should not speak up or set boundaries just incase it hurts another’s feelings. However, when we walk away from a person who has hurt us in some way, we often feel resentful and upset. Not speaking up gives out the message that the emotional wellbeing of the person who has hurt you is more important that your own emotional wellbeing! The result is that you are happy to protect another persons feeling – but not your own!
Good boundaries prevent you from being hurt and allow you to feel safe in your environment. They also assist others in knowing where they stand with you and let others know what you want and what you don’t want. A boundary is a limit that defines you as being separate from another person.
A good emotional boundary acknowledges that we have a unique set of feelings and reactions which are our own! The way we respond to situations / other people in our life is based on our own perception, background, history, values, and concerns. We may find people who will react in a similar way but no one reacts exactly as we do. Every BODY is different!
So when it comes to how people treat us emotionally, we will all have limits on what we find safe and acceptable. When I was a teenager, I used to allow friends to comment nastily about the fact that I wore glasses. This used to upset me at the time because I didn’t know any better. However, in adulthood, I now know that nobody has the right to comment on my appearance and if this was to happen now, I would be able to respond by saying ‘My appearance is none of your business and I would like it if you kept your comments to yourself’. I also choose in adulthood, not to surround myself with individuals who make nasty comments!
Here are some examples of weak emotional boundaries:
1) Pretending to agree with another person when you disagree
2) Allowing people to borrow money / personal possessions and not speaking up when you would like them returned
3) Hiding your true feelings ( Saying you don’t feel upset when inside you feel upset)
4) Attending a party / evening out when you really don’t want to go but would prefer not to let anyone down
5) Ignoring your own needs
6) Working long hours as you don’t want to let your boss down
7) Not eating regular healthy foods
8) Pushing yourself beyond your own limits
I also learned as a coach that I needed to set boundaries. I used to let clients say anything they liked to me but now I will not put my emotional needs secondary. If a client was to get aggressive and shout at me during a coaching session, I would set a limit. People can be angry of course, but hostility is not acceptable. In truth, it also does not help anyone to just keep quiet when your boundaries are violated as in this case, I would be setting an example that angry behaviour towards me was acceptable.
This is an important point to note – when you allow someone to treat you in an upsetting way, the other person will not learn that this is not acceptable behaviour. Protecting yourself and setting healthy boundaries is necessary for both parties.
Once you learn to educate others on what you do or do not find acceptable behaviour towards you, you will notice that some will comply easily with the request – some may however continue to treat you badly. Try a few of these statements to help you get the message across:
1) I feel uncomfortable when you speak to me like that. Please stop it
2) I request that you lower your voice
3) What you are saying is unacceptable to me. Please stop it
4) I need you not to yell at me when you are angry.
Setting boundaries will help you feel safe in your environment. It is a way to exhibit self respect – and remember, if you respect yourself, people will respect you!
To find out what your personal boundaries are, ask yourself the following questions:
What don’t I want in my life / relationships?
What type of behaviour hurts me?
How do people need to behave around me in order for me to feel good?
Make a list of your answers and then make your boundaries big enough for you to feel very safe. Practice makes perfect and good boundaries require constant maintenance but they will improve the quality of your life!