Creating boundaries has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. I honestly feel like I could write a book about boundaries (maybe I will!) but for this month, let’s begin by covering the basics:
What are boundaries?
Why do we need boundaries?
How do we set boundaries and why is it so damn hard?
Boundaries are guidelines created by you, for you, so you can be in relationships with others without betraying your relationship with yourself.
Creating boundaries is how we teach others how to treat us.
We need boundaries because, through them, we are able to cultivate a space of clarity for ourselves to live with others so there is no guesswork when it comes to what types of words and behavior make us feel loved and respected.
Setting boundaries is hard AF because it requires us to speak up for ourselves.
If you are anything like me, then you know what it’s like to have relationships where you either don’t have boundaries or have unhealthy boundaries.
Whether it is with romantic partners, friends, or family (and I have had trouble in all three categories!) if you have ever had that moment where you are saying to yourself, “I really don’t feel good about the way I am being treated," that is a surefire sign a boundary is needed.
I continue to struggle to find the bravery to say,
“Hey! This hurts my feelings.”
“I don’t feel respected or considered when you do this.”
Part of that struggle is because it was not until I was an adult that I even began learning how to express my emotions in a healthy way.
I didn’t have great examples in my childhood- I either saw people deal with pain/emotional disappointment in verbally abusive ways (yelling, screaming, name-calling) or in passive-aggressive ways (silent treatment, acting cold or dismissive).
Earlier in the week, I was talking to a new friend and he asked me why it feels like so many of us would rather swallow our feelings instead of share them.
I told him it was something I spend a lot of time thinking about because they are both so uncomfortable.
We are not more comfortable when we trap what is upsetting us inside of us.
That shit is just as uncomfortable as finding the courage to speak up.
I think the reason we do one more than the other is because we just aren’t in the habit of using our words to set boundaries.
Also, when it comes to setting boundaries, no matter how kindly and honestly we express what we need, it is very likely the other person will still be upset.
It is hard to say something to someone when you know you are either going to upset them or worse, they may attack you in return.
Setting boundaries is an extremely brave act because it acknowledges that we can’t control other people or how they will react to our needs.
In my experience, I have found that the people who are offended by you expressing your needs are usually people who either didn’t know they were hurting you and feel a little embarrassed or defensive about their unconscious lack of consideration for your feelings or they flat out don’t want to because it makes their life easier when their relationship with you is a one-way street.
I know that sometimes avoiding the confrontation and hoping for better behavior next time seems like a more appealing option- but unfortunately, it is not a sustainable plan and it certainly does not honor you and what you deserve.
Whenever I am feeling scared and need to set a boundary aka say something to someone about how I feel and request different behavior from them, I always ask myself one question and by the time I answer it, I feel less afraid:
Why would I let anyone take up space in my life in a way that does not allow for me to show myself big, good, and deliberate love?
Boundaries don’t say,
“I don’t love you.”
“I’m going to love you and love myself at the same time.”
If someone in your life does not know how to have a relationship with you in a way that allows for your love of self to be present, it is probably time to reassess their place in your life.
Okay, I promised myself I would never make these newsletters too long, so I am going to leave you with two action steps:
Tell yourself every single day that you deserve your needs and the boundaries that support them.
Work on creating a habit of speaking up for those needs. I work on this by using a poem called "Only Once" from Where to Begin as my mantra:
everything is a habit
doing things kindly
doing things unkindly
which of these habits
of this life you will most definitely get to live only
I love you.