How to set boundaries
The ability to set boundaries is one of the most important skills to develop in life.
Boundaries are essential to develop a strong and healthy sense of self. Plus when our boundaries are strong we are not depleting of energy.
Two of the main reason why many people struggle with this are that boundaries have not being role modelled by our parents (they did not have strong boundaries themselves), or we were shut down when we put boundaries up. In that case we’ve learned that it is not safe to stand up or speak up.
I always talk to my clients about conflict management. We avoid setting boundaries because we don’t like conflict or we feel we are not good at conflict management. So therefore we avoid it. So when someone oversteps your boundary you may become silent, or ignore the fact or simply ‘disappear’. This avoidant behaviour leads to feeling tired or depleted, and we can also feel sad or lonely for ‘no real reason’.
There is no easy way to start to learn boundaries setting. We have to sit with that feeling of discomfort that comes with being in conflict with another person. People may be used to you not speaking up. People might use you for your ability to sit with them no matter what. Usually what happens with people is that they either move and grow with you, or you’ll let go of each other. And that is ok too if not necessary for both of you to move on.
I have listed below a framework that I teach my clients to develop stronger boundaries and a clearer, stronger sense of self. I wanted to share that with you. I hope it will help you too.
- Get crystal clear on what’s really deeply most important to you. Find your CORE VALUES. What do you admire, strive for in your life? List them all down. Some examples to get you going: eg community, focus, discipline, self governance, family, love, adventure, flexibility, fairness, kindness, strength, open mindedness, honesty, authenticity, self-worth, caring for others, self-care, balance etc…Then create the top 5. These are your top five values you go to whenever you have to make a decision, or you know when a boundary has been over stepped. You use these top five values as your highest priority to base any actions or decision on. If you have to make a difficult decision come back to these top five core values. These are your answer to your decision.
- When there is a situation you know your boundaries has been overstepped by someone else pause. Wait a few days until the actual physical sensations (fight or flight) in the body have disagreed or are less strong. Then write down the situation and reflect on what it really was that has triggered you. Really send some time with that. Journal on it. Write everything down. Then list what it is that you would like to communicate to that person. Why is it important to you? It is important that you are crystal clear on the message you want to deliver. Stay factual.
For example you can state things like:
I’ve noticed that…. And after some reflection and consideration I wanted to let you know that to is important to me that…
You and our friendship/relationship is important to me. In order for me to feel seen/safe/heard I need from you XYZ…
Self-care is one of my top five core values and I’ve decided to practice a bit more of that..so, I am just letting you know that I will have less time/energy…
- You can role play the scenario before if that is helpful. When you are in the actual real life situation it is very important that you are100% present with your entire being as best as you can. Allow yourself to be really IN the situation. Rather than dissociating or not wanting to be there. As you speak check in with yourself- are you grounded, slow it down, it is ok to pause and to allow space, calm your nervous system and your body as best as possible. You can always say, this is really hard for me and I just need a few breaths. Also know that often it’s for us a much bigger deal than it is for the other (unless the other has narcissistic tendencies and that’s a whole different story).
Once you set the boundary- notice what happens next. Notice how you feel.
Give yourself a big dose of appreciation and perhaps practice some self care that day. Stay in the present moment and allow everything to unfold. There is nothing you have to do. Just allow the relationship to rearrange naturally. After you’ve done this once or twice you will find yourself feeling stronger, or more centred ( or potentially more respected).
And remember that self governance requires discipline. Our brain wants to conserve energy, so it likes doing the same things over and over again.Change requires effort and energy. If we want to develop, grow and transform, we have to put the effort in and invest in good therapists, coaches, or healing practices and have the commitment to do it anyway, even when we don’t feel like it. I can help you clear the path and you have to walk it. Maybe this framework will help you take the first few steps.
Much love as always.
Please reach out if you have any feedback, questions or you like to book in for a session.