Boundaries: what are they and why do I need them?
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt on this self-development journey I’m on it’s boundaries. Healthy, empowered boundaries are one of the fundamentals I teach my clients, and it's a topic I'm personally passionate about, because my life truly started to transform when I started discovering and honouring my boundaries.
Boundaries are the safe space between loving you and loving myself.
Here's the 411.
What are boundaries?
According to Alexandra Solomon, author of Loving Bravely, “Boundaries are the space between “you” and “not-you.” Boundaries mark the space at which interactions occur between you and the people in your world. You can’t see or touch boundaries, but they are always there.”
You can have physical, emotional, sexual, relational and spiritual boundaries, but for the purposes of this post, we're going to primarily talk emotional and relational. But they all ultimately feed into each other. A boundary is essentially an invisible line you put in place that lets people know what is acceptable behaviour for you and what isn't. Healthy boundaries serve to protect your relationships--romantic and plutonic--so they can thrive.
Why do some people struggle with boundaries?
Typically it's one of 3 things. They're not sure of the HOW. "How do I tell my boyfriend I'm not comfortable with that yet?" They don't feel they are WORTHY of enforcing certain boundaries. "But she's my Mum; I have to do what she asks" And, plain old FEAR. "I'm scared she won't like me anymore if I say no." Ultimately what's underneath all of these is actually fear-- of rejection, abandonment or conflict. To counteract this feeling, set your boundaries from a place of love, both for yourself and for the other party.
Also, make sure you are honouring your own boundaries too, by not taking on other people’s energy, not playing the victim, and not trying to solve everyone else’s problems.
How can I set boundaries with friends?
We all have that one friendship that we are holding onto wayyyyyy past its expiry date because we don't want to hurt the other person's feelings (but we'll just keep hurting our own, instead, right?!). You know that friend, who you just don't have a lot in common with. They make you feel guilty for not spending more time with them. And when you do catch up, you leave the catch up feeling tired and depleted. That's because you're out of alignment and you're not honouring yourself. There's a few ways you can do this and I will rate them in terms of difficulty for you.
Easy - Gradually phase that person out of your life by reducing communication. Decline their invitations. Don't invite them to things. They should eventually get the message. (Not recommended as it lacks integrity).
Medium - Have a conversation with that person as to where you feel the friendship is lacking and ask if they too feel the same. See if you can work on those areas together. (Recommended)
Hard - Arrange a time to have a conversation with the friend, in person, where you tell them why they are no longer going to be part of your life moving forward. Stand in your power and your integrity. Use 'I feel' statements rather than 'you do x' and wish them well. (Recommended)
My personal favourite boundaries of all time
Saying NO to things I don't want to do, both personally and professionally
Not apologising for things I say no to
Declining invitations with "thank you for the invite, but it's a no from me this time" (no lengthy explanations why, or apologising)
Only seeing clients on set days (so I can use set days for focused work)
Not feeling obliged to go on a second date with someone I'm not into
Unfollowing accounts on social media that make me feel yuck
Telling people when I feel they have acted out of integrity
Being radically honest with myself and with others
Letting men know what I will and won't tolerate, early on
Deleting comments on my social media that are negative
Setting boundaries with my time/energy has been HUGE for me
Listening to and trusting my intuition
Trust me ladies, a woman with boundaries is incredibly sexy, so get out there and start laying some down. (Remember to honour your own boundaries, too.)
Watch this: Setting Personal & Emotional Boundaries with Terri Cole (23 mins)
Ask yourself this: Where am I not putting a boundary down due to fear? What am I actually fearful of?
Journal this: Where in my life am I saying yes when I really mean no?
Until next time, flex those boundary muscles.