You and everyone you have a relationship with is an individual and you each have the freedom to make our own choices. We all have the right and the ability to manage the space between each person we have a relationship with. Every relationship is different and requires a certain amount of closeness but also space. Too much closeness in relationships is known as enmeshment and it’s not healthy. Too much space is also not healthy. Balance is the key.It is your prerogative to manage the space in the way that feels right for you in all your relationships. And it’s also other peoples’ prerogative to manage the space in their relationship with you.
Having healthy boundaries requires that we have a healthy relationship with ourselves and that we are in touch with our needs and our own personal values – that is, the things that truly matter to us. When we’re in touch with these values, we don’t forfeit those values for anybody. Some examples of core values are:
- Financial independence
- Living your full potential.
William Shakespeare wrote: To thine own self be true, and as night follows the day, thoust cannot be untrue to any man.
When you are true to yourself, you’re being true to everyone around you. Life has a way of showing you that when you follow your own truth, the choices work out well, but when you follow someone else’s truth, you lose your way. And you lose yourself.
Examples of healthy boundaries are:
- A bedtime routine for a child – Mum and Dad then get their time together and the child has a good night’s sleep
- Putting a limit on how many days a guest can stay in your home – based on what YOU want and not what THEY want
- Going on a date, at a MUTUALLY convenient time, not at a time that doesn’t suit you.
- Saying “No” when someone asks you for a loan and you know it’s a financial risk for you, and that you cannot afford to lose that money.
Many of us misconstrue what boundaries are. Here are some examples:
1. We may see setting boundaries as a cold and unloving act, but this actually isn’t true. Having poor boundaries often ends up hurting others and ourselves far more than if we had healthy boundaries in the first place.
2. We may perceive boundaries as being like big stone walls we put around ourselves to protect and distance us from people. Yes we may set boundaries to protect ourselves, which is not a bad thing – sometimes we have to do this with certain people. But they don’t have to be like big stone walls. Boundaries can be set with love and with kindness.
3. Another misperception about boundaries is using boundaries as a form of power and control over others. Some people believe that setting boundaries means telling other people what to do or even controlling them. Boundaries have got nothing to do with what other people do, and everything to do with what we do. The only person we can change is ourselves, the only person you can control is yourself.
4. Some people think they can use boundaries for manipulative purposes. Boundaries aren’t about manipulating other people so that we can get an outcome that we want. Boundary setting is a process to having healthier relationships; it is not a means to a specific outcome except a healthier relationship. When we set boundaries, we must let go of any attachment to an outcome.
5. Some people use the concept of boundaries as a form of punishment or reward – pushing another person away to punish them, allowing them back in when they’re in the good books. This is not boundary setting! This emotional abuse, and having healthy boundaries has got nothing to do with abuse and everything to do with love.
How do you know if you’ve got a problem with boundaries? You may have experienced or are experiencing at least one of the following scenarios:
1. Having your space invaded on a regular basis when you’d prefer time to yourself
2. Attracting people who take too much
3. Attracting people who “walk all over you”
4. Attracting energy vampires
5. Attracting narcissists and psychopaths
6. Being in situations you don’t want to be in and then blaming someone else for it
7. Doing things you don’t want to do
8. Finding it hard to say no or to speak your truth because you don’t want to hurt other people
9. Feeling drained of energy on a regular basis (you may want to read my blog on The Empath’s Toolkit
You may feel irritated or angry at those who are stepping on your boundaries.
Why do we struggle to create healthy boundaries? The answer will usually lie in our family of origin. Let me list for you the most common reasons why we find it difficult to set clear boundaries:
1. We learned to be pleasers – let’s face it, every child wants to be loved and if being loved meant pleasing our parents, we did – well most of us anyway. And so deep down many of us still believe that if we are true to ourselves and what we want, we won’t be loved; we’ll be abandoned.
2. We’ve been taught to put others before ourselves. This is particularly true for women – we were told by religious institutions, our families and society that a “good woman puts others before herself” and that putting yourself first is selfish.
3. We have black and white thinking which comes from the ego. The ego thinks “I’m either a nice and loving person” or “I’m a cold hard person”. And the ego associates the cold hard person with boundaries. But boundaries can be set lovingly and kindly.
4. Feeling overly responsible for other people’s happiness. You are responsible for your happiness only. Other people are responsible for their own happiness. Love is love; it’s not needing to make someone happy. Life will show you that this is an impossible task.
5. Fear of loss. We fear that if we change and start setting boundaries, people will leave us. Some may and some may not. The choice is always ours when it comes to setting boundaries. The writer Anais Nin wrote
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. We make change when we are ready to make change, and not before. Life is constantly showing us where our old ways of thinking and being aren’t working anymore.
If you haven’t been a good boundary setter, you may find yourself at the receiving end of anger and indignation when you begin to set boundaries. That is normal and a path of the course. Certain people have been used to you being a certain way and they don’t like it when you’re no longer giving as much as you used to. Refrain from apologising and do not give in. Instead, explain your reasons kindly. Those around you will either adapt to a new healthy relationship style, or they won’t, in which case they may “vibrate” out of your life. When you ascend to a higher way of being however, the Universe does reward you – it replaces what you lost in the form of something (or someone) better that matches your new vibration.