Probably the single most important thing you need to have a happy and stress-free life is the ability to set boundaries. Sadly, it’s a tool very few of us are taught or know how to use.
Sometimes we say ‘yes’ to people when we don’t want to. We allow people to take away our choices, our privacy and disrespect us simply because we are afraid to say what we want or we are confused about how to express how we feel. We might be afraid of disappointing someone, letting them down or jeopardising the relationship.
If you feel like people walk all over you, take you for granted or push you around then the reason is a lack of boundaries. Even your own family, including your children can cause you to feel drained, unappreciated or downtrodden if boundaries are not in place. The thing about this is, it’s not them that’s doing it, it’s us, because we are allowing them to.
The responsibility is not on other people to respect you and treat you well, it’s on you, to establish how you want to be treated and have boundaries in place that make this the norm.
Knowing what boundaries are and how important they are in your life is essential to being able to implement them correctly.
Why are boundaries important?
A manual to you
You need to teach people how to treat you. It may seem like a given that everyone wants to be treated the same way, actually though, every person is unique and we all have different expectations of how other’s should treat us. If we don’t provide people with instructions on how we like things to be, they will just assume you like it their way, which might clash with your values and what’s important to you.
Your relationship with yourself
Having boundaries in place isn’t about others, it’s about you. It’s about taking the time to know yourself, what you like and what your personal values are. When you know what’s important and valuable to you and you stand by it, you give yourself a pay day of love and establish a relationship with yourself that will having you feeling amazing. When your relationship with yourself is good, you can build great relationships with others to live the life you actually want.
When you stand up for yourself and what you believe in and create an internal strength that is hard to beat. Self confidence gives you the ability to say, ‘No.’ when you want to, you also start to see and believe that what you want and who you are is important and worth protecting. Building your self-esteem is important for getting you through tough times, standing up for yourself or something you believe in, getting people to stop doing something that hurts you, or just supplies some oomph to get out of bed with a bounce every morning.
Do you ever find yourself replaying a negative situation in your head over and over, feeling stressed or angry that happened and spending time thinking that it might happen again? Like a run-in with your boss or your sister-in-law that left you shaken and uncertain about what to do or say? The moment you make a boundary clear in your head, stress vanishes, so does that constant replay. You know exactly what to say next time a similar encounter occurs and feel strong and capable leading up to a confrontation.
Many people believe if they speak up when they are violated it will cause more conflict so they stay quiet and allow it to happen over and over again. It can seem as though it’s better to be treated badly than face someone’s anger or disapproval. Actually though, having boundaries and communicating them to others reduces conflict and gets everyone on the same pages quickly and easily. Other people take direction very well, especially when it’s communicated in the right way. When you state your request and the consequences clearly, you end the silent war that’s been raging inside you, possibly for decades.
Change what matters
We can often become emotional trying to change a situation or change another person’s behaviour. It’s never within our right or our power to make someone change, no matter how close their relationship is to us. The only thing we can change is us but we very rarely send time and energy here, instead we focus on other people. By putting boundaries in place we can’t make someone behave a certain way, however we can ensure we get to live the life we want, through stipulating and enforcing consequences. For example you might say that a top value for relationships is honesty. If you find your partner has been dishonest about something you can explain that if they treat you that way the relationship is over. You can’t force them to be honest, but you can enforce a boundary where you don’t have to live with a relationship that’s not working for you.
Let the small things go
Often we can burn ourselves out worrying about or trying to control every little thing, like the behaviours at a family Christmas for example, everything from share platters and table manners to embarrassing stories and lectures. When you define your top values you can prioritise what matters and target the behaviours that are most important to you. That way you can easily let go of all the little things and let them flow in their natural way. It’s less stress and more fun for everyone.
When your boundaries are in place you may find that people will test you and push against them to see if you really mean it. (Of course you do, these things are important to you!) As you get more practiced at enforcing boundaries if will feel less and less emotional about their tests. If someone shows up uninvited you will feel good about saying, ‘I’m sorry but, as discussed, you need to ask me before you come over,’ instead of allowing them in and fuming about it all day, now the anger and emotion will barely be a blip on your radar, even if they ring your doorbell uninvited every single day.
You have the right to be treated correctly. What you feel and what you think is important and you are the first person to stand by that. When you give people direction of how to treat you, you are giving them a choice; to treat you well or get out of your way. Letting go of those people who would rather get out of your way is the best thing that can happen to you. Staying in a relationship, a job or a group that treat you badly is never going to be satisfying or healthy. When you set boundaries you create a path to the best version of yourself and room to fill your life with happiness, growth and joy.