“We cannot set a boundary and simultaneously take care of another person’s feelings” – Melody Beattie
We all have friends who we feel tend to invade our personal space on occasion, and I’m sure we all know people we like and struggle with their being intrusive at times and yet, we say nothing.
When we fail to say something about things in a relationship that bothers us, we complicate the relationship. Setting boundaries is a healthy thing for all relationships, not having them in place negatively impacts everyone.
Some might prefer to use guidelines to boundaries whichever term you use, be clear about what you mean. Merriam-Webster defines boundaries as: “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent,” this gives us an excellent word picture.
We’re all free to make our own choices in life, we’re responsible for the consequences of those choices (good or bad). Understanding where to draw the line in what we think, say and do in the presence of others, as well as what we allow and not allow from others in our relationships, are subject to boundaries.
We All Need Boundaries
The need for acceptance and belonging (two basic needs we all have) and the fear of rejection play a part in not keeping the boundaries we set. Imagine fencing your property to keep a neighbor’s dog from doing its business in your yard, and you continue to allow the dog on your property because you can’t live with the thought your neighbor may not like your fence.
You may be feeling bad about what your neighbor might be thinking and about yourself for erecting a barrier between you both. If left unchecked, you may begin to feel resentment toward your neighbor distancing yourself from them.
All the while your neighbor may like the fence and didn’t know their dog was visiting your yard, but you wouldn’t know that because you haven’t said a word since you had the fence installed.
If you hadn’t installed the fence (a boundary) to hold your neighbor accountable for their dog (doing what dogs do) you would still feel disrespected. The longer you put off expressing your concerns the greater the probability you may end up expressing your frustrations along with all the bad feelings you’ve been collecting.
You’ve now complicated the relationship while your neighbor still hasn’t a clue about what’s going on. A scenario like I’ve just mentioned could easily be avoided by understanding the need for setting boundaries for ourselves and others.
Proper Boundaries Reduce Stress
If we misunderstand boundaries, we may see my little fence scenario play out at home, at the office, job site, wherever you are. You may be dealing with people at work who have difficulties with boundaries, and you may be feeling the stress of their intrusiveness.
You may not realize they’re not the only one with boundary issues. Like my fence story, if you haven’t said anything for fear of offending someone, how can you expect them to respect your space? You cannot assume knowledge of your personal preferences is a given, you must learn how to express yourself.
I believe by respecting myself and others enough to set proper boundaries, most people around me will eventually honor my preferences. I must limit my exposure to those who do not respect boundaries.
I’m not a psychologist though I’ve been reading and studying psychology for years and enjoy speaking to those in the field. I’m including four simple steps to help you get started on the journey to establishing some boundaries. There is much more to this, but I feel this article is long enough already.
Step #1 - One Thing at a Time.
You can’t fix everything at once, there’s a learning curve to managing your thoughts and feelings. It requires self-discipline to get to know yourself as you are. Taking one issue at a time carefully thinking through what type of boundary you need, will prevent you from being overwhelmed by the process.
Step # 2 - Your Mental and Emotional Well Being are Priority One
It’s amazing how many of us fail to pay attention to how we feel and what we need, believing it to be selfish. Allowing yourself permission to accept your need to set boundaries is both liberating and motivating. Your feelings are important and having them in their proper place accompanied by honest responses gives you confidence and peace of mind.
Step # 3 - Allow Yourself to Feel Things
Feelings are good indicators alerting you to something going on inside you. Self-discovery is an amazing thing, becoming familiar with the what, why, how and when of your feelings can reveal that a boundary has been breached. Experience will tell you if it’s you who overstepped your bounds, or someone else just crossed the line.
Step# 4 - Practice Self-Awareness
Developing healthy relationships begins with self-awareness. The status of our relationships is constantly changing. I had to learn when it was time to draw closer, step back, maintain or move on without feeling guilty. Understanding the context, purpose, and status of my relationships, help to guide me in establishing or changing my boundaries with each relationship.
“Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins
*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***