In my therapeutic coaching course we are examining the importance of boundaries. So I thought we could explore boundaries together because they can impact massively on many areas of your life. This post will explain what boundaries are, how they impact on your self care, things to look out for and tips to help with boundaries at home, at work and on social media.
What exactly are boundaries?
They are ways that you can communicate your needs through your actions or words. They give you the opportunity to tell people what to do and also hold yourself accountable in your everyday life. Boundaries are present in many relationships; with friends, family members, work colleagues, neighbours and strangers.
They are even needed around social media, finances, your physical and mental health.
What are healthy boundaries?
Boundaries are healthy when you are able to be clear about what your needs are, in a way that is comfortable for you. You can say “Yes” and “No” according to your needs and you also respect other people’s boundaries, too.
What are unhealthy boundaries?
There are two types that may feel unhealthy; these are Porous and Rigid boundaries. Here are some examples.
- People pleasing
- Inability to say No
- Dependency on feedback from others
- Fear of rejection
- Accepting mistreatment
- Building walls around you
- Never sharing
- Cutting people off
- Avoiding being vulnerable
- High expectations of others
As a result of unhealthy boundaries you may recognise some of these scenarios:
You may find yourself in situations where you are complaining about how you feel mistreated. You loan money when you may not have enough for yourself. Maybe you feel overwhelmed and become resentful and bitter. You find yourself in situations where people continually hurt you, or you share more than you really feel comfortable sharing.
Reflect on these questions:
Do you recognise any of the rigid and porous boundaries and if so, how do they affect you?
Are there any specific relationships that you feel need some “work” to create healthier boundaries?
Are there any boundaries that you would like to change, but you feel at a loss as to how you can become unstuck with the patterns you have created?
Spend some time reflecting on your boundaries.
What are the benefits of creating healthy boundaries?
Ultimately, boundaries are at the root of your self-care (which isn’t about having a bath and painting your nails!)
Self-care is SO MUCH MORE! It is a tool to help you nurture your mind, body and spirit. Okay, I concede that may mean painting your nails sometimes! But that activity also comes with stopping, resting, nurturing and being present with yourself for a while.
Self-care is really about…
Being able to say “No” to the things that hurt you, restrict your down time, or create excessive pressures.
Being able to say “Yes” to the things that make you feel happy, fulfilled and productive.
How can boundaries benefit your self care?
They empower you to say what you need to say, and do what you need to do to protect your personal needs and support your values. They help you to show up for yourself!
If you don’t honour your priorities and the things that are important to you, you will start to feel unsettled and a disconnect (in part to protect yourself), which can lead you to feeling exhausted and low in mood.
They facilitate positive mental health by ensuring positive regard for your thoughts and emotions, leading to a reduction in anxiety and an improvement in your mood and self esteem.
If you ignore your emotional needs by always putting other people or situations first, you are likely to become worried, agitated and down right fed up over time.
They can support you to have more self compassion; by speaking kindly to yourself you are learning to soothe your own soul by accepting yourself without judgement.
Being self-deprecating or blaming yourself when something doesn’t go to plan, you are actually giving permission for people to do the same thing to you. So be mindful of how you speak about yourself in front of others!
They can help you to feel comfortable with the person who you already are, or to cultivate the person you truly want to become.
Personal growth is never easy or straight forward, it requires change and usually a dose of bravery to step out of your comfort zone and to create the life you want to live. This may involve spending time with “healthy people”, or avoiding people who drain your energy, or making tough decisions because you know that ultimately, you will be better off for them.
Grab your pen and pad again:
Consider some of the positives that boundaries bring to your life to help you take care, nurture and build yourself up.
Rinse and repeat those boundaries until they become a natural part of your repertoire like an invisible wall of protection. Boundaries are actually your inner super power!
What might be stopping you from creating healthy boundaries?
Of course there may be a number of reasons why this happens… let’s consider some of them and see if any resonate with you.
Firstly, you may not have been taught or experienced positive boundaries as a child. How you behave as an adult is a direct result of what you observe and experience as a child. You will directly model yourself on your parents and significant others. If your role models aren’t demonstrating positive examples, how on earth can you possibly learn them?
How you are treated by and attach to significant people in your childhood impacts hugely on how you are able to relate and communicate with people as an adult. Love and security, as well as basic needs have to be met for you to establish secure attachment. If they aren’t, you may crave acceptance and so over-share to try and earn someone’s affection.
Or you may say ‘Yes’ all of the time, even when this doesn’t feel comfortable, and give away possessions or money as a way to gain approval. Negative experiences such as trauma, abuse, physical and emotional neglect are all adverse childhood events that can impact on your ability to establish boundaries. Mental health difficulties can impact on your ability, strength or capacity to set or maintain healthy boundaries.
Your thought patterns may stop you from setting healthy boundaries
These may include:
- Being a people pleaser
- Feeling rude or mean
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Gaining positive regard from supporting others
- Feeling unworthy
- Anxiety around boundaries
- You aren’t sure boundaries will help
- You don’t really know how to establish boundaries
- You believe that some relationships shouldn’t or can’t have boundaries
- Feelings of guilt, betrayal, sadness or remorse
Pen and pad time!
Food for thought? What you can do: Spend some time considering how your childhood and relationships as a child may have impacted on how you establish boundaries now. Did you find that your parents or caregivers were respectful of your boundaries and were positive role models? Even if your childhood experiences weren’t so positive, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change how you create boundaries now.
The great news is that your brain can change (this is called neuroplasticity). You just need to focus on ways to facilitate that change.
Consider which boundary is really important to you to change. Stay strong! Stick with it through the discomfort until it feels natural and easy. New things always feel a bit sticky initially! Seek support if you are struggling to work out what is important to you and how to establish boundaries that sit with your values, so that life starts to feel happier. New neural pathways will then be created in your brain if you stick with your new patterns.
Push through that discomfort, I promise it will start to feel comfortable.
Perhaps social media also needs some boundaries?
It has become an insidious and invasive system that creates all sorts of angst, upset and anxiousness. It has a tendency to lull you into a false sense of security, to feel connected with people, but in reality you are probably feeling more disconnected from society than ever before.
I discovered recently that the social media technology is the same as that used for slot machines, which are designed to create addiction. Quite a scary thought!
What boundaries do you set yourself around social media? Do you not set any at all and find yourself mindlessly scrolling? I must admit that I find myself sucked into the social media abyss, and after having a weekend detox recently, it really gave me insight into how awful it made me feel when I picked up my phone again.
What about boundaries at work?
Work plays such a huge and important part in your life and ensuring healthy boundaries during a big part of your daily routine will help to ensure you create some balance in your physical and mental health.
Tips to help you
Make sure that you’re meeting your values in all areas of your life that will help you maintain healthy boundaries. If you’re allowing lines to be crossed in your personal life, it’s unlikely you’ll manage to maintain those lines at work too.
Practice saying ‘no’ before things feel uncomfortable, overwhelming or stressful. The more you do, the easier it will become. It may feel difficult initially, but when you start to feel relieved, because you’ve listened to your internal barometer, you will feel stronger and happier to say ‘no’ again.
Stick to your working hours rather than always working extra time. It’s a slippery slope that only increases your stress levels! Try and keep on top or get ahead with your workload.
Make sure you take time off at regular intervals to balance your home and work life. Holidays will aid your resilience and keep your energy levels up.
Delegate work to colleagues or ask for help where appropriate. Carrying the full load won’t help you or your colleagues in the long run.
Maintain professional relationships; avoid gossip and don’t feel you have to be friends with everyone.
Create structure within your working day. Make sure you take breaks, and let colleagues know if you don’t want to be disturbed.
Make sure to use technology to your advantage. Turn on ‘out of office’ emails, and turn off notifications when you’re busy doing other things. Turn off your phone when you’ve finished work and pop on your voicemail. You don’t have to feel it’s necessary to be plugged in all of the time!
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to make some proactive changes. What I find amazing is if you start to reset healthy boundaries around yourself, then other people feel it’s acceptable for them to do it too! You will literally be starting a healthy boundary wave of change.
I really hope this blog post has been useful to you and you’ve made some notes about what you need to do to empower yourself by setting up or improving the boundaries that are important to you. I also hope the various tips I’ve provided will help you to do this.
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If you’d like to know more about how MOTH Therapies can help you to Stress Less, Live More and Feel Well, please contact me.