Many people believe that having boundaries somehow translates to being less of an easy-going, happy-go-lucky type of human.
They feel that boundaries are a restriction.
If they looked closer into the inner workings of their relationships and connections, they would see a clear reflection of their relationship with themselves.
A journey to establish boundaries begins with raw and honest self-awareness. Often what we do is not born of conscious thinking; it is habitual and hard-wired.
Have you ever had a string of moments where you have genuinely questioned the motives of your actions? These are directly related to boundaries and are indicators if they are too fluid, too rigid, or non-existent.
A lack of strong and healthy boundaries has been attributed to childhood trauma and is directly linked to self-esteem; the more boundaries we have, the greater our self-esteem is or will become once we start working on them.
In some cases, if we were raised by parents who expected us to be the saviour or made us feel that putting ourselves first in any way was a selfish act, we started off on the wrong path to living a life that brings internal happiness. We have possibly become people-pleasers or retreated in fear of not being able to connect in a way that uplifts instead of drains.
What are boundaries?
To sum it up succinctly, boundaries are protection of our mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial well-being. Aspects that we have defined, uniquely to ourselves, that do not allow situations or people to compromise us. By living in our truth, we do not develop feelings of resentment, bitterness, or see ourselves as less than we are.
If honesty is something we value and it is defined as a boundary for us, we are less likely to form or maintain unhealthy connections with people who lie or deceive. If we value nurturing our own emotions and being responsible for them, our boundary will be not allowing others to make us responsible for their emotions.
These are a few boundary-building techniques:
1. Learn to get comfortable saying no
This is possibly the hardest thing for someone to become comfortable with, especially if they believe that pleasing others is more important than pleasing themselves. Saying no is often followed by a sense of unwarranted guilt.
You need to make yourself fully aware in those moments that prioritising yourself and your needs is an act of self-love, and someone who respects and loves you will ultimately understand. As kind as you would be to a loved one is as kind as you are being to yourself at that moment. You also do not need to over-explain or even, in some cases, offer an explanation. No can be a full sentence—if you allow it to be.
2. Start small and build
Boundaries are something that take time and patience. You won’t be able to establish them overnight, and it will take practice within the relationships you have currently. Each time you are presented with a new opportunity to honour your boundary and you don’t, don’t berate yourself.
Show yourself compassion and keep trying until it becomes a habit and you begin doing it with little thought. A habit is formed by consistent behaviour, and it grows. You don’t start by running a marathon; you start by training a little each day.
3. Foster reciprocal relationships
No boundaries can lead to overcompensation in an effort to maintain relationships. We fear losing someone, and we give and give and give until we are depleted. We have to be clear with ourselves on what we are willing or able to give.
We need to remind ourselves that as important as giving is, it is as important to have the grace to receive. Give and take is key. An imbalance can create enormous tension in our relationships and, ultimately, destroy them.
4. Learn to let go
Do not cling to situations, to jobs, to people. If something is clearly not working out, you need to take what you have learnt and move on. That requires being honest with yourself. We often struggle with the picture we have in our minds of what we want versus what they actually are.
Use what you have defined as your boundaries to assess if something or someone is adding to the quality of your life or taking away from it. Letting go is portrayed as a heart-wrenching and an almost impossible task, but it is a simple act when we are grounded in our worth. When we know who we are and what we want, letting go becomes easier—because why would we settle?
5. Lovingly assert yourself and handle the backlash
We often associate assertion with aggression. If we are confronted with people lashing out, particularly to our boundary, we feel we must retaliate. We are known a certain way and a backlash is to be expected. We must prepare for this; it’s inevitable.
The best way to handle it is to remain cool, calm, and collected. Lovingly express your feelings, and, if someone persists with negativity, walk away.
Keep in mind that people can only meet us as deeply as they have met themselves. It’s often not us and our boundary that is the problem. They may be triggered into seeing something unflattering within themselves.
Our focus needs to be on ourselves and living a life of authenticity which will ripple through our relationships in healthy and positive ways.