Are you a people pleaser who agrees to do things that you really don’t want to do?
Do you experience difficulties standing up for yourself?
Do you allow insulting, off hand remarks from pushy, aggressive people because you are anxious or fearful of the consequences or potential conflict?
Are you oversensitive and take things personally?
Perhaps you’re feeling confused about your feelings, needs and responsibilities because your thoughts are based on others not inwards.
These are common internal conflicts we experience by not having healthy boundaries in our life.
I was discussing this with a friend last week. She gave the example of feeling irritated when her boyfriend is distracted while they're talking on skype. They're in a long distance relationship, so these chats count for vital quality time to maintain their relationship.
She told me it had happened on a few occasions. He's physically there, but not present. Instead, he's been looking at his mobile and distracted by his diary and to do's. He's busy, as is she. Her kind-hearted reply each time was "I can see you're busy, let's talk another time". Inside she was hurt, frustrated, felt ignored, and it was brewing week after week.
When I asked her if she'd expressed to him, that she'd noticed that he's distracted lately, and it doesn't feel good to her.
Her reply was, "No, I'm not very good at that".
This may seem like a small thing to "bother" somebody with, but it's an exact example of how we neglect to enforce healthy boundaries in our daily lives and relationships. It leads to a build-up of emotions one of which is contempt and resentment- the killer of all relationships.
It just takes practice, a bit of courage and remembering that healthy people understand, because they themselves practice healthy boundaries daily too.
Healthy Boundaries don't Work in Isolation
In my experience of coaching my lovely female clients, I have noticed that when they lack enforcing healthy boundaries, whether that's in their dating life, their relationships with family, friends, children, or in their business, they are also more often than not also experiencing a few of these feelings:
- A lack of Self Care & Balance in their lives
- A feeling of being detached from their inner Compass & having self-trust
- A low level of self-confidence
- Living with fears which are holding them back
- And regular self-doubt & negative self-talk
All of which set the solid foundation for healthy self-esteem and self-love. When I coach my clients to attract their dream relationship or take the next steps towards their career and business goals, or even to find their voice and express their feelings, opinions and needs with confidence, we begin here and make sure these are tight and right.
The more significant long-term consequences of not having healthy boundaries shouldn’t be dismissed or underestimated.
Some of the long-term symptoms we can experience without them are:
• Low Self Esteem
• Affects Dignity
• Feeling like a Martyr, taken advantage of
• No joy
• No life happiness/balance
• Playing Small - not prioritising your resources.
• Not Achieving Dream Life - treading water
• Not having fulfilling respectful Relationships
"Only with healthy boundaries can you act from love".
That's right it's worthwhile remembering that practising healthy boundaries comes from a place of love.
The lasting positive impact to you include:
• You Become a Better friend and partner
• You are more Self Aware
• You're more focused on your most important priorities
• You take care of yourself
• You love yourself more
• You start trusting people more
• You become a more authentic communicator
• You say "NO" with ease
• You only do things you want to do joyfully
• Most boundaried people are also the most compassionate- Brene Brown
Before we dive into why we struggle, and how to enforce healthy boundaries, it’s worthwhile remembering what they are exactly.
"Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that you create for yourself, to identify reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave towards you and how you will respond when someone crosses those limits"
They vary from person to person and can change. They are your right.
They're influenced by your likes, dislikes, beliefs, ethics, morals, values, emotions, intuition and self-esteem.
The three standard categories of boundaries are:
- Physical – Personal space and touch
- Mental – Thoughts and opinions
- Emotional – Feelings
Additionally spirituality, truth, time and punctuality for many of us also.
Nina Brown proposed four boundary types:
- Soft – this is when you merge with other people's boundaries, and can easily become a victim of psychological manipulation.
- Spongy – These are a combination of having soft and rigid boundaries. They permit less emotional influence but more than people with rigid ones. With this type, you may be unsure of what to let in and what to keep out.
- Rigid – Is when you have floor, to ceiling walls around you, so nobody can get close either physically or emotionally. Often this may be the case at the start, to be selective then they melt with trust over time. But if they're this way with everyone, you're also keeping good people out. This is often a result of previous hurt or abuse in the past. Understandable but not healthy in the long term.
- Flexible – Are the most balanced. When a person can effortlessly decide what to let in and what to keep out. With this type, you're more resistant to emotional influence, psychological manipulation, and difficult to exploit, so essentially the healthiest overall.
Which Type of Boundaries do you recognise in yourself?
It's tricky for some of us sometimes.
Primarily we're taught about boundaries in childhood. If you had a dysfunctional family upbringing, even a great family unit but with unhealthy boundaries; creating them as an adult will feel "strange" as it disrupts the way you're used to being in relationships.
It may be a direct result of bad relationship experiences later in life, which is the kind I hear from my clients the most.
It could be because of low self esteem or simply because you've been raised to be super polite and never say no to anyone because it's rude.
Can you identify your earliest memories of Healthy and Unhealthy Boundaries?
Let's take a moment to debunk the myths we've created in our minds, about practising Health Boundaries.
They are NOT
• The responsibility of others to understand your boundaries. (read your mind)
• Always a sign of a toxic or a narcissist person. Be mindful of making assumptions and jumping to this conclusion about everyone who doesn't honour your boundaries. It could be that you have a mismatch of values, ethics and principals.
Here are some Helpful Reminders to practice Healthy Boundaries daily.
• "No" isn't a Dirty Word. It's powerful!
• It 's your right to say something isn't ok with you.
• You're in charge of maintaining them when they're crossed. It may mean creating distance or stepping away from a friendship or a relationship.
• It isn't about being aggressive or unkind, it's about being assertive and honest in a respectful way.
• People with Healthy Boundaries will understand and respect you because they practice them daily in their lives without drama.
• Unhealthy people who don't respect your boundaries, are showing you what they want is more important than what you want.
• Boundaries don't don't create themselves, you have to decide them.
• It's ineffective to decide boundaries in anger or frustration. You need to set them for your life in advance, and adjust with experience and practice.
"Guilt is behind our inability to enforce Healthy Boundaries. It's a waste of energy, and has no purpose except to keep you stuck"
It's a Noble Gesture to feel bad, but when it goes too far, it's not the best way to motivate you. Self -criticism due to guilt is connected to less motivation, and worse self -control.
Studies show that Forgiveness NOT Guilt increases personal accountability.
To eliminate the internal conflict and enforce your boundaries, there is no alternative but to feel temporary guilt and do it anyway. It's ok, and it becomes easier.
Keep these principals in mind
• Avoid Magnifying- Does your Emotional Sentence fit the "Crime". Is the intensity, duration and emotions appropriate to the issue you're feeling guilty about? Sometimes we carry the guilt for years like a self imposed life sentence.
• Stay Rational - Set your self a limit for how long you'll allow yourself to feel bad about something you did or said No to.
• Be willing to stop suffering- when your "sentence" has expired whether it's an hour or a few days or weeks.
• Feeling bad makes you more likely to sabotage yourself- Studies show that feeling like a bad person, makes you feel less incentive to behave better i.e. you broke your diet, "I have not self-control", it affects your reasoning. It's a false belief. (remember the first point, don't magnify)
• You are not your Actions- They don't make you a terrible person.
• Apologise, it can make you feel better but with limits.- Apologise if you would like to but not for your feelings. Avoid over-explaining and justifying.
• Let go - Stop feeling responsible for the needs and feelings of other grown-ups. We're responsible for owning our own feelings and managing them.
• Healthy people will appreciate your directness - It's what they do
• Feeling a little fear, guilt, is normal while you're practising.- It'll pass and will help you grow. The opposite is staying with resentment & self-loathing.
Your Step by Step roadmap to Begin Practicing Healthy Boundaries.
• Practice what you're going to say, out loud in the mirror or with a trusted friend or partner. Let them know that you're practising to speak up when something is bothering you, and it may feel awkward at first.
• Start practising.
• Do it directly, respectfully, without anger, and with as few words as possible. Don't justify, or apologise. Keep it respectful and on point.
• Progress, not Perfection- Go at your pace in your own time. Be patient and encouraging with your self.
• Remember that some people will test you- You know who is already, so be prepared and expect it.
• Avoid being drawn into an argument - Don't reciprocate, Stay firm, assertive, avoid anger and walk away if you must.
• Your behaviour has to match the boundary that you're setting - You can't undo it with actions or words that say you don't have to respect my boundaries. Mixed messages sabotage your limits.
• If someone doesn't respect your boundaries- You need to create a rigid boundary or step away.
Phrases you might like to use as a guideline to prepare your own.
• Thanks for asking. I’m honoured. I’m going to miss this one, unfortunately, have a great time.
• Put on the Spot? I don’t know what I’m doing that evening yet I'll check my diary and let you know later in the week.
• I feel uncomfortable when you're angry at me, so I’m going to leave now/ end the conversation and we'll speak again when you're calm.
• No, I'm not busy on Tuesday, but I want to keep it free
• I will have to get back to you about that
• It’s not OK with me that you put me down/invade my personal space/ talk about my friends like that/ my appearance/ so I’d like you to stop doing this.
Now, that we've uncovered exactly what healthy boundaries look like, the consequences of not enforcing them, and how to start practising healthy boundaries in your daily life without guilt, I encourage you to make a list of all the areas of your life you need to begin implementing healthier boundaries.
Then chose three of your high priority areas to start with over the next two weeks.
Once you've identified these, I'd love for you to join our closed facebook community HERE or by clicking the image below, and share your wins with us. We'll support you each step of the way. You'll also have instant access to a video masterclass I recorded about building healthy boundaries amongst others, for extra support.