What Are Boundaries?
For Kathleen, setting up boundaries is a “healthy and clear understanding of what you need to do to take care of yourself, what you're in control of and what you're not in control of.”
There are a lot of misconceptions about boundaries. Usually, people associate them with conflict or relationship barriers. However, it's the complete opposite, as boundaries nurture and protect relationships.
Many people are afraid of setting up boundaries in their relationships. Here are two reasons why:
- We are afraid of losing people. We are so scared of saying no to people because we believe we might lose our relationship with them by doing that. We don't know how to say “no” to others and “yes” to ourselves when we most need it.
- We are afraid of arguments and conflicts. We keep being passive in our relationships and fail to build boundaries because we would rather keep the relationship's apparent harmony. Even when it's important to have those difficult conversations.
These fears push people not to build boundaries in their relationships. However, they are just products of misconceptions of these limits.
Why You Need Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships
We need to develop healthy boundaries in our relationships to honor and respect ourselves.
To be a good and decent person means having boundaries in your relationships. When there are no boundaries in your relationship, you're just stretching yourself thin. You'll end up burned out and exhausted.
When we become assertive and build boundaries, we reach a compromise with people. For Kathleen, letting your foot down means “we're taking care of ourselves while respecting other people.”
Being a people pleaser and taking other's responsibility as your own will only leave you exhausted. You'll always feel anxious maintaining that sense of harmony within your relationship, even at the cost of your stability.
Kathleen reminds us that it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. We must take care of the things we can directly control and let go of the things that we cannot.
Examples of Setting Boundaries in Relationships
It is difficult to see someone you care about getting hurt or having a hard time. However, it does not mean that you should shoulder their responsibilities or that you owe them. Remember that a healthy and loving relationship and setting your boundaries aren't mutually exclusive.
Kathleen tells us that “It feels bad to see someone hurting if you're a good, kind person and you have empathy, but acting on that is not always the right or nice thing to do.”
In moments like this, you can do the following:
You can Show Them Support. Instead of owning what someone else is going through, you can instead let them know they're not alone. You can be supportive while establishing your boundaries in that moment.
Offer Help. Offering help if you feel they need it, is always on the table. However, only commit to assistance you can provide. Keep in mind that you also have boundaries to keep.
By being transparent with your limitations, you can help and support the people you care about while also taking care of yourself. Just as Kathleen says, “The beautiful thing about boundaries is that it is not really requesting something of somebody, it is letting them know what to expect from you.”
Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
Boundaries must be present in your relationship, and it goes both ways. You must know the limits of your boundaries, and the person in your relationship must realize their boundaries as well.
Here are the common signs that you have unhealthy relationship boundaries:
You're taking other's responsibility as your own.
When people you care about have a hard time, you step in and do everything for them. This action is a sign that you have unhealthy boundaries in your relationship because you're taking the opportunity from them to learn and grow.
Kathleen adds that “When we try to rescue people from them, we're taking away, we're violating some of their rights—their right to feel bad.”
Others don't respect your boundaries.
You must be aware if another person is always stepping on or over your boundaries. It's okay to follow through with your limits and let others know what they're doing wrong.
You need boundaries to establish what is and isn't good or okay for you. You can't brush off instances like these when your boundaries are disrespected or overlooked, they'll only get more frequent and hurt more in the end.
You might not speak up because you're afraid of conflict and/or making people uncomfortable.
When people have wronged you or have stepped on your boundaries, you should let them know right away. Keeping silent about what you feel will only make things worse. You and your relationship will suffer.
Remember that setting up boundaries does not mean conflict. You must steer away from this common misconception.
What to Do When Someone Crosses a Line
However, there would be times when people would disregard your boundaries. You must be wary of these instances, especially if they happen more than once. If it happens almost always, then you might be in a toxic relationship.
Here are the things you can do when such situations happen:
- Let them know that they're disrespecting your boundaries.
- Show them there are consequences to crossing your boundaries.
- Reach a compromise.
- If following through with limitations or the situation is too much, consider working with a coach or a therapist.
Building Healthy Boundaries: Where to Start?
Kathleen has helped many of her clients build healthy relationship boundaries. Learning how to create boundaries is a process. You cannot impose them in your relationships, especially if you were unaware of their importance.
Luckily, Kathleen shared some of the things you have to consider in learning how to build healthy boundaries. Here are some of them:
Understand why you're feeling this way. Have some time to reflect and ask yourself why you're feeling anxious, exhausted, or inadequate.
Here are some of the questions that may guide you in your introspection:
- Why do I feel this way?
- Why do I struggle with standing up for myself?
- Why am I feeling bitter, resentful, or angry?
- What makes me exhausted and burned out?
Develop a sense of self-compassion. For Kathleen, this means stepping back and looking at the whole picture while being compassionate with yourself.
By seeing the bigger picture, you learn why building boundaries in your relationship is complicated. It may be because this is how the people in your life taught you to treat your limits.
Learn how to self-validate. Once you know why you have difficulty building boundaries, you must remind yourself that what you're feeling is okay and valid.
By learning these things, you get to shift your perspectives, seeing relationships and boundaries in a new light. Hopefully, you can start standing up for yourself and make healthy boundaries slowly.
In the end, for Kathleen, building boundaries means being authentic. “That means that we're opening up the opportunity to have intimacy and closeness with that person.”, Kathleen says.
Sometimes we avoid building boundaries for many reasons, but you're developing deeper and meaningful relationships by having limits.
Kathleen Stutts has shared with us the importance of building healthy boundaries in your relationships. What are the things you picked up in this interview? How did this interview change your perspective on building boundaries? Don't hesitate to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.
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