Do you have Boundaries?

We all think we have boundaries in place with people, but do we really? I had no ideas what boundaries were until I started to look into it when I had a difficult relative I had to deal with. I learnt that I had very few boundaries with some people, and almost none with others. And I learnt that boundaries are our responsibility; we can’t expect other people to protect them for us.

But what is the point of having boundaries? The main thing I think they do is offer you freedom to be yourself, and to live the life you want to lead, rather than what others expect of you. You will notice changes if you start to put boundaries in place – you will feel more in control of how you feel, rather than being at the mercy of others. And, of course, it frees up more time to do the things you actually want to do, rather than doing things out of obligation.

I used to think that boundaries were a way to shut the world out. But they’re not – they are not walls but, rather, fences with gates – we know that connection to others is important to our wellbeing. We don’t put up boundaries to keep people out but, rather, we try to be discerning about who we want in, and to what degree they’re let ‘in’.

The first boundary I learnt was to say ‘no’ (see more here ). I used to think that I couldn’t say no to certain family members. Actually, I know now that I can. Then I grew more confident and realised I could even (god forbid!) disagree with people if I had a different opinion to them! I’ve also learnt that if people are hurt or offended by me putting up a boundary, then that’s their responsibility – I’m not responsible for their feelings, only mine.

Examples of Unhealthy Boundaries

– Not being able to say ‘no’

– Violating personal values or beliefs to please others

– Suffering as a result of giving to others (eg. exhaustion)

– Letting others make decisions for you and not speaking up when you don’t like them

– Not standing up for yourself because you’re scared you’ll offend someone

– Expecting others to know what your needs are and fulfill them automatically

– Agreeing with others because it’s easier

– Always putting other people first

– Never letting your real feelings show

– Doing things for other people without being asked – often as a way to get their approval

– Falling in love with anyone who reaches out

– Food abuse

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

– Saying ‘yes’ when you mean it

– Saying ‘no’ when you mean it

– Not over-explaining answers

– Not giving unnecessary explanations

– Understanding that you are responsible for your own feelings

–  Identifying the causes of your feelings

– Resisting the urge to ‘rescue’ others

– Being able to ask for help

– Making time for self-care and self-love

– Prioritising what is important to you

– Spending time with the people you choose to be with

– Removing toxic relationships from your life

– Defining your truth, as you presently see it

– Talking to yourself with gentleness, humour and love – respecting your body and its needs

Developing healthy boundaries takes time and practice – I’m still learning. When people push (and they will), I’ve been advised to try to politely and firmly repeat my boundary. I try not to get angry (easier said than done!) but it’s important to expect them to challenge my boundary, and to prepare myself for that. Over time, I’ve been told it gets easier. Be gentle with yourself and move forwards at your own pace…you won’t regret it.

If you’re someone who thinks you need more boundaries, I’d recommend you start here (with worksheets to help you to start putting them in place).

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle