I was planning to write this blog post yesterday, but I got sidetracked emotionally.
Actually, it was more than sidetracked. I got derailed by the news, the images, the harsh reality of people’s hateful intentions, and by my own mind. I violated my own boundaries about pro-longed news watching. This boundary breach allowed outside factors to have an internal impact on my mood, attitude, and peace. I opened my mental and emotional gate to negativity and allowed myself to be triggered.
You see, I normally don’t watch the news. I’ll do check-ins from time to time, but I usually don’t watch and absorb it. I rarely sit and listen to repetitive commentary on negative events that trigger my emotions and disrupt my spirit. I choose to limit the news because I know me. I know that I’m a “feeler” and once I’m caught up in my emotions, it’s sometimes hard to pull myself out. That’s what happened to me yesterday.
Yesterday reminded me why I am so diligent about my boundaries. It’s because they matter! They matter to my mind, body, spirit, and relationships. They help me to teach people how to treat me and how I need to treat myself.
What are boundaries?
I think of boundaries as a fence. Sometimes that fence is too high, deep, wide, and tight. Making it hard for people to get in or out. This type of boundary is a barrier to building healthy relationships and practices.
At other times, the boundary may be too short, shallow, narrow, and loose. It has spaces for others to easily fit through. In this situation, one is likely to accept behaviors that cause harm across the boundary spectrum.
Ideally, boundaries should be somewhere in the middle. That middle place allows for flexibility in how you engage with people and situations. This flexible “fence” is sturdy, well planted, and secure. It has a gate that can be easily locked or unlocked to allow healthy relationships in and keeps unhealthy relationships out.
Why are boundaries important?
When establishing and maintaining relationships, people need to know the guidelines for how they can interact with us, and around us. Without functional boundaries, we cannot grow and thrive at optimal levels individually and relationally. Basically, boundaries are protective measures that we learn and create to protect us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When you set and are consistent with your boundaries, it sets the tone for your life and relationships. It empowers you to walk into spaces with a guide for your interactions. They can determine where you go, how long you stay, who you do life with, and what things you release.
For example, I don’t allow people to use the n-word in my presence.
Unless you are using it to educate in a helpful fashion, I will shut you down or block you out in a heartbeat. The word is derogatory and offensive to me, and I don’t use it or want to hear it. Other people may feel differently, but this is a clear and well-defined boundary of mine. If you don’t know that about me and you use that word, you will find out. If I’m in another person’s zone and they welcome the use of the n-word, I will happily exit and take my presence somewhere else.
The more certain you are about your values, beliefs, and priorities, the clearer you will be about your boundaries.
Setting boundaries increases the odds of mutually respectful interactions, while preserving your energy and peace. Just because you know boundaries are good for you, doesn’t mean you will create and maintain them. Like I’ve said before, knowing is not enough. We have to commit to doing.
You get to decide the timing of your doing. For me, the refresh starts this week.
As you consider whether a personal boundary refresh is needed, I’m going to share “3 Step To Refresh Your Boundaries.”
1 | Know thyself.
Setting boundaries is more introspective than we think. In order to know what boundaries we need, we must first know ourselves and be in touch with our feelings. You can start the process by identifying when you’ve felt hurt, taken advantage of, disrespected, unsafe, or neglected in a relationship.
Knowing how a person, situation, or circumstance affects you mentally and emotionally will assist in setting boundaries. For example, If every time you talk on the phone with a friend, you feel angry, sad, or frustrated, an emotional boundary may need to be set.
If you decide to take some deeper dives into boundary setting, you can also explore with your therapist, how your family of origin and life experiences has contributed to any struggles with healthy boundaries.
2 | Effective communication.
Understanding what you need to feel safe, secure, and respected in relationships is important. Being able to articulate your boundaries is too. It’s not always easy to speak up when a boundary violation has occurred.
But how else will people know?
Feeling empowered to verbally communicate your boundaries may not happen overnight, but with practice, it gets easier. You can start by saying no to requests that don’t fit your schedule. You can ignore that phone call from work after business hours. You can continue by clearly stating what you don’t like and what you prefer. Here are a few examples:
“I feel frustrated when I say no and you keep asking. What I need is for you to accept when I say no the first time.”
“I don’t like hearing about the news. It makes me feel anxious. I’m intentionally not watching or wanting to know about that right now.
“I appreciate the invitation, but I’m currently not available.
“That doesn’t work for me.”
“I don’t work on the weekends.”
3 | Baby step the process.
Refreshing your boundaries is wonderful, but stay in tune with how the changes may affect your current relationships. Starting too big, too fast, or too soon may be harmful to those relationships you value. Consider starting with small changes. This will give your family, friends, and co-workers time to learn, understand, and adjust to a healthier version of your boundaries.
Starting small also benefits you. You have the opportunity to explore and tweak the construction of your “fence.” If it becomes too rigid, loose, or unstable, you can easily make adjustments.
People can’t read our minds. So they may not know where the boundary is until we teach them.
They may cross boundaries unknowingly and ruin a personal or professional relationship. How can we work to prevent this? By understanding what boundaries are, how they work for us, how to create and sustain them…makes all the difference.
If you’d like to listen to the Me Myself and HER Podcast version of this blog post, take a listen tomorrow on the website, or subscribe and listen on your favorite podcast platform.
Resources to get you started:
5 Types Of Boundaries For Your Relationship
Boundaries, by Henry Cloud, John Townsend
Boundaries workbook, by Henry Cloud, John Townsend