Personal boundaries are similar to a property fence or written law, they’re just not quite as evident (or as easy).
The only way others know your personal boundaries is when you make them clear.
Setting boundaries, and even learning to say “No,” can be two of the most powerful self-care practices you can do for yourself.
What shapes your personal boundaries?
Your culture, heritage, life experiences, and family dynamics contribute to shaping who you are. Then your values are formed, and ultimately, from that, your personal boundaries.
Studies show the most influential factor in setting boundaries are the people you spend the most time with.
Consider asking yourself these gentle questions to get a good feel for how your current boundaries are working for you:
- Who am I around?
- What types of things do they say to me and how do they behave with me?
- Are those things okay?
The answer could be that everyone around you is fine!
But oftentimes, there are people in your life that you need to limit your time with or move away from altogether.
If you find you’re around people who decrease your self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, boundaries can be a crucial addition to your self-care practice.
“No matter where you came from or how you were raised,
you can change your circumstances at any time.”
Why setting boundaries can be so hard
Most people avoid confrontation.
They are afraid that if they speak up, they will make the situation worse, or the other person’s opinion of them will gravely change.
Other reasons can be…
- Being afraid of offending someone
- You feel intimidated and scared
- You feel your opinion doesn’t matter
- Being perceived as complaining too much
- You are entitled to your feelings
- You have a right to be treated with fairness and respect
- You have a right to make your needs as important as anyone else’s
- You have a right not to meet others’ unreasonable expectations of you
- You have a right to make mistakes, have failures, and still be loved and accepted
Studies show that women have a more difficult time knowing their boundaries, much less setting them.
A parent’s traditions, beliefs, and culture are the most prominent influences in raising daughters, and prior to the last 50-60 years, women were raised to stay quiet and please others.
Their inherent instinct to nurture and be the caregiver can make setting and keeping boundaries even more difficult. This looks like not wanting to rock the boat or step on anyone’s toes.
The good news is that women today are moving away from these traditional constraints and becoming more empowered. They are claiming their right to be seen and heard and to command fairness and respect!
“You cannot change how another person behaves.
You can only change your response to it.”
What to do if you feel someone has gone too far
You rarely know where you stand, maybe you never quite meet their expectations, or they seem critical to the degree you ask yourself, “Is it me?”
When you take a closer look at the dynamics of your relationships (working, intimate, friendship or marriage), ask yourself, “Am I proud and happy, or regretful, isolated, and sad?”
If you have someone in your life that makes you question yourself, or doesn’t respect what is important to you, i.e., your values, you have the right to change this.
Ask yourself this question…
Is what they are doing…
- And is the outcome for the better?
Kind - You can feel whether a person or situation is unkind, unfair, or unreasonable.
Necessary - You can feel whether a person or situation is offering constructive, loving guidance or is being manipulative or mean-spirited.
Is the outcome for the better – You can feel whether the outcome is helping or hurting you.
This 3-part question will help you decide whether it’s your perception of the situation or the other person’s actions and words.
- It’s okay for you to change
- You have a right to speak up
- When you do speak up, be specific
- Let them know you feel their expectations are unrealistic of you (as opposed to their expectations being generally unrealistic)
- Tell them what you need from them
- Your tone can be gentle, yet assertive and clear
Take note of the person who…
- Dismisses your needs
- Defends their behavior and doesn’t change
- Turns it around and criticizes you
- Doesn’t take responsibility
- Does what they feel is best, not what you asked
When your needs are not being met, over time, underlying anger and growing resentment can sadly become a routine way of life.
You are worth more than this! Setting boundaries and implementing them is the best way to ensure you place yourself in a position to stay in a healthy mindset and practice self-care.
“Rarely do others speak up for you.
You must find the courage to speak up for yourself.”
Where to begin: How to add personal boundaries to your self-care practice
First, consider these boundaries that are at the heart of self-care…
- Personal property
- Personal space
- Beliefs, principles, and ethics
- Emotions, feelings, and thoughts
Putting boundaries into practice
- Be a student of your own life. Write down what comes to mind for each of the above basic boundaries.
- Ask yourself, “Do I have anyone in my life who is pushing these boundaries?”
- Have self-compassion and patience with yourself. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, scared, and even sad to realize you’ve allowed yourself to be treated poorly for as long as you have.
Once you become aware, you have the power to make changes. Make your personal boundaries part of your self-care practice.
How to politely say “no”
Practice saying gentle phrases until they become comfortable.
- “I’m flattered you considered me, but, unfortunately, I’ll have to pass this time.
- “I’m so grateful you asked, thank you, but I can’t attend.”
- “Regrettably, I’m unable to join you.”
- “Unfortunately, I cannot, but thank you!”
- “I’m so pleased you considered me, thank you, but I have a previous engagement.”
- “No thank you, but it sounds lovely.”
If someone presses you further, a concluding phrase can be, “I have a personal obligation,” or “I have a prior commitment.”
Consider practicing phrases with a trusted friend, or simply say these phrases out loud alone. As you practice, you will find that protecting your boundaries will become easier and your confidence will grow. Your “energy of confidence” will be felt by others as setting boundaries becomes second nature to you.
The purpose of self-care is to take care of you.
Personal boundaries are defined by what’s important to you. The best indication of your values is looking more closely at what upsets you.
Stand firm and remember how important it is to include personal boundaries in your self-care practice. The results can bring you stronger relationships, an empowering sense of self, and more freedom to be the authentic you.
“You are stronger than you think.
Just give yourself a chance.”