This sounds easy doesn’t it? But actually, maintaining and reinforcing boundaries in relationships is a hard thing for a lot of people to manage. Part of it is about not being able to say “no” to other people and not wanting to disappoint them. This is even if it’s at the expense of your own energy and time. Sounds familiar? I’ve sometimes found putting down boundaries hard myself so I know it’s easy to get into that role of not respecting yourself enough.
Here are a few things to try:
- First of all, you need to give yourself permission to set some boundaries, rather than falling in with what someone is asking of you. For instance, if you feel that you should say “yes” to a friend’s requests for help because that’s what being a good friend means, try to work out whether that’s always realistic and necessary. If you’re always the one doing the giving, try to say something like “I can’t fit that in this week, but I might be able to next month”.
- It’s difficult to set good boundaries until you’re sure of where you stand – everyone has physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Think about what you can accept and sometimes tolerate and what makes you feel uncomfortable and follow those through.
- Tune into what you want – resentment usually comes about when we feel unappreciated or taken advantage of. Or, it might be that someone is always pushing their own views and values onto you. It’s alright to say “I don’t really agree with that” – there doesn’t need to be an argument about it; you’re entitled to an opinion and just because someone might be more articulate than you, doesn’t necessarily make them right!
- How people grew up, along with their role within their family, often has a big effect on how you deal with boundaries. If you’re brought up to always focus on the needs of others, it can seem like the norm to always put others first. The main thing is that relationships are reciprocal and that’s a hard balance in some families. If you are in the habit of always putting others first, in the home or at work, there might be surprise or resentment if you stop doing that. People may want to know why you’ve changed and it’s up to you as to how you respond, but honouring your own needs is really important.
- If someone has a similar communication style to your own, you probably don’t need a direct approach but with people who have a different cultural background or personality, you may need a more direct approach. However, bear in mind that one person’s healthy way of communicating might feel disrespectful to another. Whatever the situation though, it’s alright to have boundaries and make them clear.
- There are bound to be times when you lapse, but making your own self-care is a priority here. By that I mean, recognising the importance of your own feelings and giving yourself permission to put yourself first sometimes.
- Finally, establishing boundaries takes time – start with something small that isn’t too threatening and gradually build up to more challenging boundaries. In that way, it won’t feel too overwhelming.
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