It was well into my adult life when I learned how and why you need boundaries in your life.
Let me paint the picture for you. I was the person who let others walk all over them, control their thoughts, manipulate their decision, and so on. I couldn’t stand it when other people didn’t like me or had a problem with me. So, I would change, adapt, and morph into whoever they needed or wanted me to be. I would stuff my feelings, emotions, views, and opinions so I wouldn’t rock the boat.
To say this was unhealthy is an understatement.
The first time I cut off a relationship and set a boundary of some sort was when I left the cult. That was honestly the first time I made a decision that was 100% me and not manipulated or influenced by someone else.
As time went on I learned more and more about boundaries. Not only did I learn how to set a boundary but why they are necessary and healthy.
I use to think of boundaries as offensive to the other person and as a people pleaser I didn’t want to upset anyone so I never set any.
I just continued being walked over time and time again. I would disagree with something or someone and keep it to myself. I would have a different view but would never voice it. I would have my concerns, hurts, or frustrations but I would bottle it up and stuff it away. I would ultimately justify why my view, opinion, experiences and frustrations weren’t valid.
It wasn’t until I was in therapy for the 1st time that I learned how beneficial and healthy boundaries are.
I was telling my therapist about a young couple at church and how they were wanting to develop deeper friendships with us. I told her how difficult it was because none of our personalities clicked, they were young and dating while we were married with 2 kids at the time, we lived 35 minutes from each other, and our schedules as a married family were already chaotic at best.
As I was telling her this she stopped me and said, “So why are you continuing to develop a fruitless relationship?”
I was quite for a while then responded with, “Because I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”
My Therapist: “So you’re willing to sacrifice your happiness and your time just because you ‘might’ hurt someone’s feelings?”
This was a definite lightbulb moment for me because the truth was yes. I was such a people pleaser that I had put my healing journey, chaotic season of life, and family on hold just to please someone else.
(Back story: This all was happening during the time I was going through therapy and inner healing from my childhood molestation. So, this season was a heavy one for me.)
As I sat there and listened to my therapist teach me all about boundaries, I knew this was going to be a game changer for me, but I also knew it was going to be a hard concept to implement. Setting boundaries was going to require me to have hard conversations and push me WAY out of my comfort zone.
After talking with my husband, he agreed with everything the therapist has told us and knew this boundary was one that needed to be put in place, but he too felt awkward and nervous to have the conversation with them.
The next Sunday came and we sat with the couple at church and were honest with the season of life we were in and why dates, lunches, and 1 on 1’s were just not on the card for us at this time. They took the conversation well and we left felling lighter and at peace. We had worked ourselves up over hurting their feelings when in reality our honesty and openness with them was received with compassion and understanding.
WHAT ARE BOUNDARIES
Boundaries can be hard to learn because we see them as selfish, but in reality, they are self-care. They give you the ability to not feel stretched thin while allowing you to be the best version of you physically, spiritually, and mentally. This enables you to pour into the most important relationships, projects, and hobbies with the most positive and healthy energy.
So, what are boundaries?
“They are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.” -Wikipedia
When we set a boundary in our life we are protecting our time, energy, happiness, hearts, and mental health or those of our family.
There are different types of boundaries, but I want to talk about 3 specific ones.
Elizabeth is a licensed family and marriage therapist and she explains these boundaries best so let’s see what she has to say. For more information on other boundaries check out her post linked below.
“Emotional boundaries are all about respecting and honoring feelings and energy. Setting emotional boundaries means recognizing how much emotional energy you are capable of taking in, knowing when to share and when not to share, and limiting emotional sharing with people who respond poorly. Respecting emotional boundaries means validating the feelings of others and making sure you respect their ability to take in emotional information.”
It might sound like:
- “When I share my feelings with you and get criticized, it makes me totally shut down. I can only share with you if you are able to respond respectfully to me.”
- “I am so sorry you are having such a tough time. Right now, I am not in a place to take in all of this information. Do you think we can come back to this conversation later?”
- “I am having a hard time and really need to talk. Are you in a place to listen right now?”
- “I really can’t talk about that right now. It isn’t the right time.”
Emotional boundary violations include:
- Dismissing and criticizing feelings
- Asking questions that are not appropriate for the relationship
- Reading or going through personal and emotional information
- Asking people to justify their feelings
- Assuming we know how other people feel
- Telling other people how they feel
- “Emotionally dumping” on people without their permission
- Sharing inappropriate emotional information with your children
“Your time is valuable, and it is important to protect how it is utilized. Setting time boundaries is incredibly important at work, home, and socially. Setting time boundaries means understanding your priorities and setting aside enough time for the many areas of your life without overcommitting. When you understand your priorities, it is much easier to limit the amount of time you are giving to other people.”
Healthy time boundaries might sound like:
- “I can’t come to that event this weekend.”
- “I can only stay for an hour.”
- “Do you have time to chat today?”
- “I would love to help, but I would be overcommitting myself. Is there another time?”
- “We have family time on Sundays, so we won’t make it.”
- “I am happy to help with that. My hourly rate is…”
“Violated time boundaries looks like asking professionals for their time without paying them, demanding time from people, keeping people in conversations or on tasks for longer than we told them we would, showing up late or canceling on people because we overcommitted, and contacting people when they said they would be unavailable.”
“Intellectual boundaries refer to your thoughts, ideas, and curiosity. Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for the ideas of other people, and they can be violated when your thoughts and curiosity are shut down, dismissed, or belittled. Respectfulness and willingness to dialogue and understand are important here. Healthy intellectual boundaries also mean considering whether or not it is a good time to talk about something.”
They might sound like:
- “I know we disagree, but I won’t let you belittle me like that.”
- “I would love to talk about this more, but I don’t think talking about it during Thanksgiving dinner is the best time.”
- “When we talk about this, we don’t get very far. I think it is a good idea to avoid the conversation right now.”
- “I can respect that we have different opinions on this.”
“Does this mean that you need to be accepting of all thoughts and opinions? Absolutely not. It is also important to learn to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy discourse. If someone is sharing an opinion that is inherently harmful—i.e., racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc.—then you have every right to put a hard line in the sand. You can set the boundary in your own way. It might sound like letting the person know you do not tolerate that kind of talk, distancing yourself from them, or cutting off. You do not have to have “intellectual” discourse with someone who is violating you or other people.”
SOURCE: 6 Types of Boundaries & What Healthy Boundaries Look Like for Each by Elizabeth Earnshaw LMFT
So can you now see why setting boundaries in your life is not only healthy but necessary?
I hope so. Remember I never said setting boundaries is easy, but it’s worth it. Kind of like anything else in life. Working out, starting a business, going to counseling, etc. They are all hard, complicated, and frustrating but in the end, they are beyond worth it.
Your time, energy, and happiness are worth protecting so go set some boundaries for you and our family.
You are worth it.