“It’s better to be loving than lovable” – Edith Eger
Though counter to what most of us believe boundaries are loving, they give us and our loved ones structure. They know they are safe to be within that structure but go outside of it and that’s when you have to speak up. I like to think of it as telling someone, if you do this then this will happen. Clear and concise, everyone knows what is expected from them so there’s not really room for argument or negotiating. Boundaries keep everyone safe and happy because everyone knows what is expected from them. It does not mean they will not be upset when they overstep a boundary or not think it’s fair and that is where healthy communication comes in. Sometimes we could be too harsh with the consequence and that’s a learning experience for everyone.
Things go wrong when we don’t hold our structure, boundary, even the slightest breeze can knock us down. We get lost in other people’s emotions and lives. We forget what we like and want. Without a clear sense of your own boundaries, you may regularly overshare personal information. TMI, and vulnerability hangovers with someone you just met.
This happens when we are in codependent relationships. Have you ever left a relationship and thought “I don’t even know who I am, what I like or want anymore?” You guessed it, you lost your structure. You may be suffering from people pleasing, codependency, low self esteem, and of course a deep lack of boundaries.
Different Types of Boundaries:
Physical: what are you comfortable with regarding physical contact and space.
Time: how you spend your time. What are your priorities? What are other people’s priorities?
Emotional: Knowing when and when not to share personal information. Over sharing vs under sharing. Respecting and honoring feelings.
Sexual: What you will and won’t do in the bedroom. Physical intimacy with partners.
Mental/Intellectual: Your thoughts, ideas, dreams. Respecting others’ opinions and perspectives but knowing who and what to trust.
Material: Refers to your belongings and how you want them to be treated.
Financial: How and who you spend your money on.
Women and Boundaries
Many women find themselves lacking boundaries in all areas of their life, due to being raised to be the nurturer, to share, to be the helper. But what happens when this is taken too far? It’s the total destruction of our own boundaries in order to be liked, loved, and accepted. Women in the US tend to rely heavily on our personal relationships for our self worth. Taking these two things into account makes for a terrible combination for creating a depressed, anxious, burnt out, codependent human being.
Like many I was unaware of the codependent relationship I had found myself in during highschool until I saw my first therapist. I was lost, I had no idea how I had ended up where I was and the power I held in making my life better. I didn’t even realize the extent to which how much power I held in shaping my reality till many years of personal work. I thought I was a loving attentive person, but what I failed to realize was the resentment I held, how I unconsciously expressed it, my lack of boundaries, and my lack of respect for other people’s boundaries. My therapist handed me a book and said “I think you should read this”. She gave me Melody Beattie’s book The Language of Letting Go: 365 Daily Reflections. I saw myself in this book and paid it forward to friends and family.
It’s never been easy for women to make time for themselves and our culture here in the US does not support it. We undervalue the work of women, especially when they raise children. A lot of people don’t understand the toll it takes on women’s physical and mental wellbeing to be needed all the time, to feel guilty when they are not, or when they can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, or when they go back to work. Honestly mothers can’t get a break from our society, someone always has something to say about how you raise your children.
That being said, mother’s need support, they need their boundaries upheld so they can be the best Mom they can be. If you need to put your kids in daycare a few times a week so you can have time for yourself to do more than just shower when they’re sleeping or eat their leftovers, do it. Take care of yourself and you’re taking care of your family.
It’s Not Easy
At first your boundaries may be harsh, due to never having them before you may go to the other side of the spectrum for a bit, and that is okay. You are learning and will eventually find an equilibrium. Keep your boundaries by being firm and compassionate.
Setting boundaries can be one of the most uncomfortable things to do, especially for someone who has never done it. But, instead of pushing the feelings away, ask yourself, “What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? It’s okay to feel this way and this feeling won’t last” The more you uphold your boundaries the easier it gets, it’s a muscle, use it and stretch out the sore spots.
Before you say “yes’ to something take a moment to imagine how you would feel agreeing to what is being asked of you. If you’re “yes” makes you feel angry/resentful you are people pleasing. It means you are doing it out of your own need to be approved of, not from a place of love.
A good way to prepare yourself for any difficult conversation, meeting, presentation it is important to take a moment to ground yourself. Grounding yourself helps connect you to your true self, your intuition. There are varying ways to ground yourself, try different techniques out, switch them up, and find out works for you.
- Breathe work
- Saying a prayer, affirmation, or mantra
- Chanting or repeating affirmations in your head as you walk or in the mirror as you get ready for your day or at bedtime, or whenever you need to
- Yin yoga is especially nurturing to our bodies as you hold stretches for longer periods of time while fully supported by blankes, bolsters, the floor, or the wall. As a wonderful yoga teacher once said to me “the issues are in the tissue, or fascia”.
Have fun with it and if that’s hard to do be kind to yourself.
Visualize Setting Boundaries:
Visualizing is a rehearsal that takes place in your mind, if you practice this with someone else we’d call that role playing.
Visualize setting up a boundary and what it would feel like. Pay attention to how your body responds and any circuitous thinking.
Now imagine setting up boundaries and them being upheld. How does that feel physically? What thoughts are you having?
Last but not least:
Visualize setting a boundary and how it would feel when they are not upheld and what actions you will take. How does this feel? What thoughts are you having about yourself and the person?
Practice Makes Perfect
Start small and work your way up. Limit the words you say and get comfy with saying “no”. You could start with saying “no” to yourself, or better yet saying “yes’ to yourself. Yes to not wanting someone to hug you, yes to staying in when you’re burned out, yes to not feeling uncomfortable just to keep the peace.
- State your boundary in clear and concise terms
- “Please be on time for our plans.”
- Make sure to acknowledge the person when they meet your boundary.
- Be prepared to follow through with the consequence.
- State what you will do if the boundary isn’t respected. For example, “In the future, if you’re more than a half hour late I will leave the restaurant, movie theatre, etc.”
Be kind to yourself through your journey in setting healthy boundaries, you may overstep, you may stumble, the point is to keep moving forward and loving yourself through the process.
Natalie Czaplicki, M.S.Ed. & M.Phil.Ed
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Resources and Other Fun Things:
Set Boundaries, Find Peace – Nedra Tawwab
Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
The Language of Letting Go – Melody Beattie
The Dance of Anger – Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.