How to set boundaries (Part 2)

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My previous post (here) dealt with boundaries and why they are important and necessary. I promised today we would talk a bit about what we can to to set said boundaries and protect them as necessary.

To become aware of what boundaries you want to set, you need to be aware of who you are and what you want, what you are willing to accept and what you’re not. Getting to this point can take a long time, mainly because many times we are not used to listening to ourselves and it is hard to identify, at first, what causes us pain or discomfort in our dealings with others.

If this is the case, don’t despair. Be patient with yourself. You need to learn to sit with your needs and emotions. And this can be hard because maybe you’ve never done it, or the pace of your life is so hectic that you cannot hear the thoughts in your head. Perhaps your lack of boundaries is so engrained in you that you don’t even notice any discomfort. At any rate, you will have to peel the onion, so to speak, and discover what lies below.

Once you have allowed yourself to feel the discomfort and to identify what causes it, it is time to articulate what you are feeling, and what you expect to feel and to receive. You might write it in your journal or say it aloud to yourself or in front of the mirror, but don’t skip this step. This articulation is supremely important, because on hearing what you are willing or not to tolerate, you will empower yourself and then you will feel more confident to express these new limits in front of other people.

If you have a loved one or someone you can trust, you can practise expressing your requests for new boundaries with them. There are some things that you need to remember. First of all, even if the boundary you are trying to set is something you deeply deserve, and something that might have been rudely denied to you for many years, you still need to express your request with respect, with no agitation. This is not for the benefit of your interlocutor (though it is, a little), it is mostly of benefit for yourself. If you talk calmly, without exaltation, you will be in control of the conversation when you have it.

Practise as many times as necessary in a safe, nurturing environment. When you do it, notice your emotions and observe them. Where do they take you? Perhaps you start getting angry, or upset. Breathe and calm down and start again, as many times as necessary. You can do it. And you need to be prepared to interact with the actual person whose actions have been tresspassing on your limits for a long time.

Ideally, this person will listen to you and apologise and acknowledge your pain and your discomfort and they will be genuinely sorry and willing to change their ways for the sake of you and your relationship. But you cannot always expect that this will happen.

You need to know that some of the people who surround you will not be happy when you change. This doesn’t mean that they don’t love you (necessarily), but your changing and developing means that you are causing their own worlds to move in unforeseen directions, and they might not be happy with that. It is hard to deal with change, as we know, and we might resent the person who brings this changes about.

Stand your ground, though. You are not responsible for how other people feel. You have the right to express your needs, and your limits. You have the right to demand respect. Just be respectful. And you don’t need to give explanations if you don’t want to. The fact that a situation makes you sad, or uncomfortable should be enough.

Prepare yourself, also, for the worst-case scenario. Will this person go ballistic if you so much as dare to express something you want? Will they try to humiliate you, blackmail you, undermine you? What will you do? How will you react to this? Stand your ground, and be prepared to say what will happen if this new boundary is not respected, and be ready to enforce this decision(s) you have made.

Which takes us to the last, but more important part of it all. The first person that needs to respect your boundaries is yourself. This will be, at times, much harder than actually asking people around you to respect your limits. The reason for this is that even in our discomfort and pain we are very comfortable where we are, because it might be all we know.

But now you know better. You know you deserve better. And some times you are going to trip and fall down. It doesn’t matter, you are learning something new, something that is incredibly difficult, and you’re doing your best. When this happens, analyse what went wrong, look closely at why you stepped on your own boundaries and be prepared next time. With practice you will get better, you will feel stronger and more empowered, and people will heed your limits and respect them because you will be showing them how, with your own example.

Love and blessings!!


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