After watching three specific incidents over the last several months, I decided it was time to write about healthy, personal boundaries. Certain situations started to really bother me, so I talked about what I was experiencing with close confidants and even a professional in the area of psychology. I thought I would share my observations and offer suggestions that may help you understand how important it is to set boundaries.
I read an article recently and the author stated, “I used to keep adjusting my boundaries to fit each relationship. Now I understand that boundaries are about your relationship with yourself and your own values, and that they shouldn’t be so fluid.”
There have been times when my own husband suggested that I was being too closed off and maybe I should let people in. I should just be more friendly. Also, I have dealt with pressure from others who seemed to pull at me and insert themselves all the time. Their boundaries were clearly opposite mine and I felt pressured to always be available.
I began to experience an internal struggle. I found myself, asking myself, “What’s wrong with me? or Is it just me? Am I suppose to adjust to everyone when I don’t want to? Am I being a snob? If I have to adjust to everyone, and I don’t want to, am I selfish? Well, I was made to feel that I was. I wanted to know if I was just wired wrong. Maybe I am or maybe I expect others to understand personal boundaries.
You know what I have come to conclude? Some people do not understand boundaries. You know what else I have found? If you do not establish them upfront, it will be hard to establish them later. Eventually, however, you will have to create them. At first, you may suffer silently, but the more someone steps beyond your boundaries and you stay quiet on the matter, you will become irritated, frustrated and even resentful. If you allow others to push your boundaries and you say nothing, eventually you will fight or go into flight mode.
“In work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).
I get why we don’t say anything; why we let things go—we let things go because we think people will just figure it out somehow. We think they will know when they are being too pushy, too needy, or too dependent. They don’t see that the constant need for you to be the one to fill all of their needs is emotionally draining. So they go on doing what is natural them and in the process they are killing you. It’s hard setting healthy, personal boundaries because people think you are being “mean.” Setting boundaries do not make you “mean,” it helps you stay healthy mentally and emotionally.
Do you know anyone who constantly forces themselves beyond your boundaries? How do you handle them without hurting them? I am going to share some ways that you can establish boundaries, but I cannot promise you that you won’t hurt their feelings:
- Examine the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in your life. If you have them, enforce them from the beginning. If you don’t have them established, think about what you will accept, write them down, talk to a therapist if you need to, and live with them. Tell people what you will accept and what you will not accept. (Matthew 18:15-20)
- Say “No” simply but firmly to something you do not want to do. Do not feel that you need to explain” (Kairns, 1992). Not over-explaining is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries, as everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do. (Matthew 5:7)
- Keep the focus on oneself (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). Instead of setting a boundary by saying something like “you have to stop bothering me after work”, one can say “I need some time to myself when I get back from work”.
- Set consequences (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program). This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important. For example, someone in an unhealthy relationship might declare that their partner needs to start respecting their career goals more unless they want the relationship to end. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins. Although I talked to several friends and confidants, I always go to the Bible to check my thoughts against the Word of God. I have noted scriptures above to help you see that it is good to set boundaries, but read that I read from Bible.org below:
“The concept of boundaries is rooted in the nature of God Himself. God defines Himself as a distinct, separate being, and He is responsible for Himself. He defines and takes responsibility for His personality by telling us what He thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes and dislikes.” (Bible.org)
Dr. LaSharnda Beckwith
- Positive Psychology program