Ahhh, boundaries. I’m sure you’ve heard that word thrown around quite a bit recently. It’ll probably either make you feel confused as to what they are or filled with fear as you know you need to create personal boundaries but it’s damn hard to do so!
I’m with you on this. Boundaries are something I am currently working on. As a chronic people pleaser and with a deep deep desire to help and heal, it’s hard for me to create and maintain personal boundaries. It doesn’t feel natural to me, but I know it’s something that is important to work on.
What are boundaries?
For some of you, boundaries may a completely new concept, and how can you start to create them if you don’t know what they are?
Boundaries are limits people set in order to create a healthy sense of personal space and identity. They can be rigid or lose, with healthy boundaries falling somewhere in the middle. They are a way to distinguish your desires and needs, and indicate what you will and will not hold yourself responsible for.
People can create personal boundaries that are both emotional and physical. Emotional boundaries are things like asking a friend not to make unreasonable demands on your time and emotions, while physical boundaries are telling friends that you don’t want to be hugged or touched in a certain way.
Why do we need to create personal boundaries?
Creating boundaries is a really important area of self-care because healthy personal boundaries reduce feelings of stress, burn-out, resentment and anger. When someone doesn’t have healthy boundaries, they may not feel able to tell others when they’re not physical or emotionally able to help and this can make you feel like you’re being taken advantage of.
Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries increases feelings of happiness and wellbeing. When it comes to relationships, boundaries increase your sense of self as well as help you separate your own feelings from those of others, in other words, they stop you taking responsibility for how others feel.
How to create personal boundaries for yourself
Learning how to create and maintain personal boundaries is without a doubt one of the most important and most difficult parts of personal growth. They can feel uncomfortable, unnatural and you may encounter resistance from others. It’s perfectly normal for people to push back against new boundaries but it’s so important that you stick with it. Eventually, they’ll come on board and your relationships will improve dramatically. And those people who can’t accept your boundaries, well, you know what I’m going to say… they don’t deserve a place in your life.
One: Identify behaviours
The first part of creating boundaries is identifying which behaviours from others are acceptable and which cause distress. With some people, you might already have healthy boundaries and your interactions with them leave you feeling happy, energised and great. Use these relationships to work out which behaviours from others you accept.
On the flip side, there will be certain relationships that leave you feeling drained, stressed, anxious, depressed or generally low. Identify patterns of behaviours that occur within these relationships and use them to set the basis of the behaviours you don’t accept.
Two: Clear communication
The easiest way to create a boundary is simply telling people ‘no’. This can feel so incredibly uncomfortable and awkward but remember you do not owe anyone an explanation. Try to avoid overexplaining why you are saying no because some people may argue with your explanation in order to remove the boundary you are setting.
Another crucial element of clear communication is keeping the focus on yourself. Try to avoid statements of blame, such as, ” You really annoy me when you do that” because this creates a negative dynamic within your relationships. Instead, say things like “I’m sorry, I can’t because I really need time by myself after work” or “I like to have a lot of personal space and don’t like being touched.” You can see how this create healthy boundaries without blaming the other person.
Three: Create consequences
There is literally zero point creating boundaries and communicating them to others if you have no consequences for breaking them. If you’re creating new boundaries within a relationship, be aware that the other person isn’t used to them and needs time to adjust, they are likely to slip up occasionally. If you don’t determine a consequence for breaking that boundary they will continue to break it because there are no consequences for them.
But only create consequences that you are willing to follow through with. So for example, if you’re creating boundaries in your romantic relationship, don’t say, “If you don’t respect my personal space then I’m breaking up with you” unless you really mean it.
Again, it is important to clearly communicate what the consequences of breaking your boundaries are with others.
Things to remember when learning to create personal boundaries
Creating boundaries is an important part of life and your self-care practice. When we have healthy boundaries we feel more in control, happier, have a stronger sense of self and stronger relationships. It is likely that when you first start creating and maintaining boundaries it will feel strange and uncomfortable but it will get easier. Remember to identify what your boundaries are, communicate them clearly with others, and have consequences for breaking them.