Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Who, What, Why, When and How?
I remember learning about personal boundaries during a counseling session and realizing that I didn’t have a clue how to set them for myself. I had never thought about the way I let other’s wishes and opinions take precedence over my own.
Setting boundaries are a part of being a healthy adult. Letting others know what is – and is not – acceptable to you is part of taking care of your best interests. It’s no one else’s job to speak up for you – even if they love you.
When you are a kid, it’s your parents’ responsibility to look out for you and protect you from anyone trying to take advantage of you. But at some point you need to be taught to speak up for yourself and look out for yourself. Actually, I think toddlers need to be able to speak up and say “I don’t like that”, “Please stop” or “You’re hurting me”.
When you grow up with parents who don’t respect your feelings or opinions, who dismiss any complaints you have, and who don’t show respect to each other – you don’t get to see healthy boundaries in place. I learned from my mother to be quiet and keep my hurt inside. I remember cold, stony silence as her mode of operation. It’s called Resting Bitch Face these days!
It’s as simple as saying “No” when you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do. But some people have a really hard time separating what they want from how other’s will think of them. How valuable is a relationship if someone thinks less of you or criticizes when you’re trying to set a boundary?
I like to think of declining to do something myself as empowering another person to take the reins! If everyone’s used to your volunteering to do (fill in the blank) they will continue to let you do it. When you let them know that you won’t be available the next time – it will open the opportunity for someone else to step up and do their part. That’s empowering. You are powerful and capable – but you’re not the only one! It’s nice to let others have a turn at being helpful.
Setting boundaries is easier to do with some people than others – like your sibling vs. your boss. But it is a sign of self care to stand up for your wishes. It will take practice, but it does get easier.
There’s a whole chapter about Setting Boundaries in my book, https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733251316