Why Should You Think About Your Boundaries?

Do you say yes far too often and then ask yourself why you didn’t just say no? Do you get anxious and feel responsible when someone around you is unhappy? Are you afraid to upset people by speaking your mind?

Or, do you push people away but you don’t know how to stop? Are you lonely and wish that you could build closer relationships? Do you nitpick everything and annoy people?

If you said yes to either set of questions, then you may need to build healthy boundaries.

Boundaries have a huge impact on how you live your life.

They’re guidelines for how you behave and expect others to treat you. They are what you say yes and no to in life so that you feel happy, respected, and in control.

There are different types of boundaries: emotional, mental, physical, sexual and material. Although they are distinct, they all affect mental health.

Having healthy boundaries will protect your emotional well-being and allow you to feel authentic in how you give, live, love and relate. They aren’t to keep people out, but to let people know where they should stop.

Where you place your boundaries is a huge part of who you are

You will have different boundaries for different relationships

You won’t have the same boundaries with everyone – you will be more vulnerable and honest with your partner than with your boss.

Boundaries also change as you grow and develop – talking about finances with friends can be fun when you’re all young and broke, but these conversations can become more taboo as you become older.

Your boundaries should be flexible because you and your circumstances won’t stay the same for long. Changing your boundaries isn’t losing them, it’s just allowing them to grow along with you.

Always being agreeable and never speaking up is a sign of weak boundaries

People without boundaries are like a raft on the ocean – they’re tossed around by their surroundings and are unable to control their fate. Living on a raft is exhausting because you never have the opportunity to relax and enjoy time to yourself.

If you think you have weak boundaries, ask yourself if you:

  • Automatically say yes to people, even though deep down you would rather say no
  • Are a people-pleaser
  • Share personal information with just about everyone, without considering if it’s appropriate or will make them uncomfortable – like complaining about your parents to a colleague or telling a cashier your sexual preferences
  • Always let others make plans and go along with whatever they choose
  • Change your personality for your close relationships
  • Blame yourself if someone around you is unhappy and try to change their mood
  • Feel taken advantage of
  • Are tired much of the time because you spend so much time helping others
  • Become guilty or anxious when you think about saying no

If you find yourself agreeing with most of these questions, then you could most likely benefit from building stronger boundaries.

When your boundaries aren’t strong enough, you won’t be able to focus on yourself or what matters most to you

Pushing people away and avoiding vulnerability is a sign of rigid boundaries

Some people have too many boundaries; this is also known as having “rigid boundaries”.

Boundaries that are too strong and inflexible are like a submarine – heavy duty, elusive, and completely sealed off to move through the cold depths alone. You’re safe from the waters around you, but no one can get close to you.

If you’re wondering if your boundaries are rigid, ask yourself:

  • Do you feel lonely, isolated and disconnected from the people around you and don’t know how to relate to them?
  • Because you never open up and become vulnerable in front of others, do you feel like no one really knows you?
  • When others try to get close to you, do you push them away so you have few close relationships?
  • When someone begins to be vulnerable in front of you, do you feel uncomfortable?
  • Do you assume people should know how to act around you because you think your standards are obvious and everyone should feel the same way?
  • Do you refuse to compromise, even when it is damaging your relationships?
  • Do you cut people out of your life when they upset you?
  • Do you enjoy your personal time, but sometimes you feel like you spend too much time alone and wish there were more people in your life?

These are all signs of rigid boundaries.

Overcoming your natural instincts to keep people away can be very challenging, and being vulnerable with others takes trust. But trust can be built over time and openness can become more natural with practice. As you start to share more of yourself with others, they will have a better understanding of who you really are. They will also naturally be more open with you, leading to more meaningful relationships.

If you want to feel less isolated and closer to the people in your life, you may need to relax your boundaries.

When your boundaries are too rigid, you will struggle to form meaningful relationships and feel alone

Healthy boundaries are balanced

The best types of boundaries are like a net: you catch the people you don’t want to be too open with, like your manager or your least favourite aunt, but the people who are important to you, like a partner or a close friend, can get through. You can also adjust who gets through and who is kept out when you need to.

There are incredible benefits to having healthy boundaries. These include:

  • Increased awareness of your values and beliefs, because boundaries are based on what we believe and what is the most important to us
  • Stronger relationships because you tell people how you feel
  • More energy because you don’t exhaust yourself helping others
  • More confidence because you are responsible for your own happiness
  • Better mental health because you know how good self-care feels

If you practice healthy boundaries, you’ll feel stronger and more present because you’ll be living for yourself, without basing your personality and your actions on what you think other people want you to be.

Steps to building personal boundaries

Developing healthy boundaries isn’t easy and it takes time. But like the journey of a thousand miles, it begins with a single step forward.

You can begin to build healthy boundaries by:

1) Listen to your emotions– even if you don’t consciously know where your boundaries are, you will be able to tell when they have been crossed. Pay attention to when you feel uncomfortable, upset, anxious, guilty or afraid. These are signs that you feel taken advantage of or that your emotions are being ignored.

If you have rigid boundaries, truly listen to people. When someone starts to be open and honest with you, stay present and receptive in the conversation. Don’t interrupt or stop them, listen to what they say, and share your own personal feelings when the time is right.

2) Create a vision – picture what you want your life to look like and how you want others to see you. Then ask yourself what you have to do to become that person. This will give you insight into where and how you need to modify your boundaries.

3) Examine your relationships – you may have well developed boundaries at home but terrible boundaries at work. If you already have a set of healthy boundaries, ask yourself why, and think about how you can replicate them with someone else.

4) Think about your past and present – your childhood can have a significant effect on how you developed boundaries. The eldest in a large family will likely feel responsible for looking after others and is unable to say no. Someone who grew up in a home where emotions weren’t talked about will have a difficult time sharing their feelings as they didn’t get to practice as a child.

5) Look for support – you don’t have to discover everything about boundaries on your own. If you have struggled with boundaries for a long time, then you could consider finding a support group. People with rigid boundaries could especially thrive with encouragement from others. You could also benefit from working one-on-one with a professional, as they can help you self-reflect and think of creative solutions.

6) Self-reflect – never stop asking yourself if you are still respecting your boundaries. It’s natural for boundaries to change over time, and in many instances they should. But if you realise you’re making too many allowances or retreating back into your shell, ask yourself why.

7) Start small – introducing boundaries can be challenging so you can start with small requests or challenges, like asking a friend to turn their music down in the car if it annoys you. Instead of snapping at someone when they do something you don’t like, ask yourself if it really matters. This way, you can build on your successes and eventually have healthy boundaries with all of your relationships.

Keep in mind, however, that developing healthy boundaries and learning how to say no is different from refusing to leave your comfort zone. You shouldn’t refuse to try something new by claiming that would be crossing a personal boundary. Challenging yourself to do something that intimidates you takes courage. Be confident and don’t fear failure. If you want to get the most out of life, don’t shy away from opportunities to try new experiences, even if they scare you. Life is about more than always being comfortable.

Building boundaries isn’t easy and takes courage, but if you give yourself time to slowly build boundaries, you can succeed.

Building healthy boundaries doesn’t have to be complicated if you start simple

If you’ve struggled to understand your emotions, you may want to consider talking to someone about them.

Talking to someone can make you more aware of what you’re feeling. Even if you don’t solve anything or discover anything new, putting words to your emotions could make you much happier.

You can talk to a friend, a family member, or anyone you trust. If you don’t like the idea of talking about your personal feelings with someone close to you, you could consider talking to a professional. They can offer unbiased insight and are trained to help you discover more about yourself.

Consider people’s feelings when telling them about your boundaries

Even though building healthy boundaries is a very personal journey, you should still consider the feelings of others while you’re developing them.

When you begin building boundaries, some people may question why you’ve started asking them to take on more responsibilities or to change how they treat you.

When explaining your boundaries, you don’t need to be too detailed, too personal, or too technical. Telling people you realised you haven’t been paying attention to your own emotions and are working on improving yourself should be enough.

To effectively explain a boundary to someone, tell them what you want for yourself, rather than saying how they bother you. Instead of saying “Your long calls in the evenings are annoying”, you could say “I need to relax in the evenings so I would prefer talking on weekends instead”. This makes it harder for people to take your boundary-setting personally.

You don’t have to justify your boundaries to others, but try to be sensitive to their feelings when setting down limits

Having healthy boundaries isn’t selfish

You may feel guilty at the thought of putting your own feelings first. Some of us believe that our only value comes from what we give to others. Helping others when you want to isn’t having weak boundaries, but no one is a superhero with unlimited time and energy to always be helping other people.

You can still be there for others, but it shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice. When you say yes when you would rather say no, you’re ignoring your own feelings. Trying to always help people will exhaust you and you won’t be fully present.

Preserving your energy and wellbeing isn’t selfish. It’s responsible.

Save your time for the people who need it most and who you want to give it to

Relaxing your boundaries isn’t giving up all control

If you have rigid boundaries, you may be worried that relaxing them take away the control you relish. But ask yourself – do you really need as much control as you think you do? Is snapping at someone for the way they drink their coffee or correcting their pronunciation really necessary? Once you get used to being less of a perfectionist, you’re likely to feel more peaceful.

You may also be worried that if you’re vulnerable with other people, then they’ll be able to use your weaknesses against you. Or that people you like could think less of you if you’re too open and revealing around them. There is a very real chance you’ll get your feelings hurt because you can’t know how people will react when you’re open with them. You may have to re-consider how you feel about some people and their roles in your life. But you’ll likely strengthen existing relationships as well.

Have confidence in yourself to relax your boundaries that make life difficult and keep you from forming meaningful relationships while maintaining the boundaries you need to be proud and individual.

Building boundaries is worth it

Building healthy boundaries takes self-reflection and changing your habits, and you’ll have to challenge yourself to avoid falling back into old patterns of behaviour. Changing is very difficult and takes dedication.

So why should you go to all this effort?

The answer is simple – you’ll be happier.

Building healthy boundaries isn’t a magic wand that will give you confidence, self-esteem and perfect relationships.

Stronger boundaries help you avoid situations that drain your energy and eat away at your nerves. By avoiding as many exhausting situations as possible, you’ll have more time and energy to do what makes you happy.

Relaxing your boundaries will let you open up to others and show your vulnerability. You can stop spending so much energy correcting the behaviour of everyone around you. When we trust others with our feelings, we’re sharing our emotional burdens and building bonds.

And this will lead to feeling happier.

What does being happy mean to you?

For many people, critically analysing their emotions doesn’t come easy and can be frustrating. Finally telling people that you need time to yourself or being vulnerable with others takes courage and can be uncomfortable. But once you recognising the small things that make you feel happier and more true to yourself, you’ll likely enjoy life more.

Do you have healthy boundaries?

If you want to build boundaries but aren’t sure where to begin, then please feel free to send me an email.

We can arrange a free, 20-minute no-obligation call to discuss your boundaries, your relationships, and what sort of person you want to be.

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