Boundaries: Why they are for you and only you

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By JESSICA E. WILLIAMS | Nashville Voice

Have you ever felt like someone was in your “personal space” that didn’t belong? Has someone constantly tried to impose their way on you and made you feel discomfort? Have you ever been stuck in a conversation that you tried to end hours ago? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re not alone.

Boundary setting–we do it all day every day and don’t recognize it most times. It’s an instinctive feeling that something is not right and space needs to be created between you and whatever is causing the disruption.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a boundary can be defined as “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.” Essentially, it sets a parameter around where one can and cannot go. State lines, employee only zones, one-way streets are all examples of these limits. We acknowledge boundaries on a day to day basis but when it comes to our own, it can get a bit tricky.

In the new age of self-care as a form of wellness, going from subconsciously uncovering what boundaries are necessary for your self-development and care has transitioned to one of intention and constant revisiting.

With the changing climate of how people connect, with the age of social media and the internet, it’s even more crucial to take some time away from the screen and establish what it means to assert yourself in the real world.

The good news is, more than likely, many are already doing the work and don’t recognize it. The even better news about doing the work, if done often, the conscious and subconscious work will sing in unison.

With that said, where do you start? There are five key questions to ask when setting boundaries.

 

  1. What does it mean to set boundaries for yourself?

Marianna Bockarova, Ph.D for Psychology Today defines personal boundaries as “the limits we set with other people, which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable about their behavior toward us.”

Taking that into account, when thinking about boundaries and what they mean to you, it’s crucial to start with behaviors that we will and will not accept. For example, if you’re an introverted person by nature and don’t like when you’re forced to speak or be social…that’s a boundary.

Or if you’re extroverted and are told to calm down often, that may be a boundary you set. You’re allowed to make the rules for how others handle you.

 

  1. Who do I need to set boundaries with?

The short answer here is: everyone. However, starting with those closest to you is a good place. It’s honestly the hardest work, but the most important. The reason it’s so hard to create parameters around you and those you love is that they may not accept change well.

For example, if you have parents that always want to know your business and proceed to go tell others (good or bad), and you want to set a boundary of keeping things to yourself…it may trigger an issue.

However, if you’re a private person and need that respect, you have to honor that within yourself. Or if you don’t want your employer to ask you about things beyond work and keep it professional, setting a boundary of keeping business and personal separate is necessary.

Even in your intimate relationships, there should be some type of boundaries in place to inform how you treat one another. It’s necessary to take the time to look at habits and patterns where you’re put into compromising situations with others and start there.

 

  1. How do I acknowledge the boundaries of others without compromising my own?

This is an area that needs constant time and attention. We are all unique and with that, our boundaries are all diverse.

Just because one’s boundaries are different than yours doesn’t mean you have to change to fit their needs…there’s a way to interact without compromising your core values.

Margarita Tartakovsky M.S., in an article for psychotherapy.com, wrote “I am important enough that I look after and advocate for myself, but you are important enough that while I look after myself {while} I also advocate for you.”  

This takes a lot of unlearning. We learn that we are meant to enforce our own boundaries at all times, but we don’t learn how to recognize and honor those of others.

There are several factors to examine when seeking information as to whether or not lines are crossed:

  • Body language: is the person fidgety, creates distance, looks down…it’s time to acknowledge that a boundary may have been crossed.
  • Verbal cues: “I’m uncomfortable.” “I don’t like when…”
  • Change in communication: Silent treatment, less frequent visits, change in tone

 

  1. When is the proper time to enforce my boundaries?

There is never a wrong or right time to enforce boundaries. However, the moment a line is crossed, it should be addressed. The reason? If you hold on to hurt and disrespect, it only creates disappointment and dissatisfaction for YOU.

Once boundaries are established and barriers of entry are created, if those lines are crossed, it is solely up to you to create the change in how you’re handled by others. It’s not enough to say that you have boundaries and know how you want to be treated, it is imperative to have a personal system in how they are handled.

Again, going back to the acknowledgment of others’ boundaries, handling enforcement takes a lot of care and more practice. Saying things out of anger and resentment may not be the best way to go about communicating a boundary has been crossed. However, establishing a manner that is both effective and tidy can go a long way.

Again, the boundaries are for you but the other person involved has their own set of the same belief systems so handling with care not only disarms the other party but also empowers you.

 

  1. Why is it important to constantly revisit my boundaries?

As times change and circumstances change, so do you. It is necessary to honor that boundaries change with that.

Maybe there has been a time when you had more lenient boundaries with others because it felt like the right thing to do. Or maybe there have been times that the guard was so tight no one could pass the barrier of entry.

When evolution and growth occur, it’s necessary to reevaluate how others are handled and how to navigate personal relationships and new contacts alike. For example, if a therapist has been enlisted in your life and you realize through said therapy that the issues are not with people, but personal dealings left unsettled, boundaries may change.

Or if you see the world through rose-colored glasses and have constantly been manipulated into situations you resent, it’s great to reevaluate personal issues with people pleasing. It’s all valuable and important. It constantly evolves. And that’s okay.

The bottom line is boundaries are there for a reason. They are meant to help, not harm. It’s a form of self-care that is priceless.

And if there is ever any question of how to do this work for yourself or you feel lost, it’s okay to hire a professional to help with navigating how to create, enforce and find confidence in your personal belief system.

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