In the past few months, I have learned more about the importance of boundaries than I have in my entire adult life. I used to keep adjusting my boundaries to fit each relationship. Now I understand that boundaries are about your relationship with yourself and your own values, and that they shouldn’t be so fluid.
Today, I want to share what I have learned and break it down for you. I have gained so much understanding about this topic from the book Boundaries by Dr. Cloud & Dr. Townsend, as well as from counseling, prayer, meditation and honoring who I am.
Know this sad truth: NO boundaries = little self-esteem.
This used to describe me. I shudder to think of that time and it wasn’t so long ago. The first step to change is admitting this. (After all, what’s the point of saying we want to grow if we’re not going to be honest with ourselves about where we are now?) I say this because many people reading this probably do not know what their boundaries are. They should roll off your tongue like the alphabet. Your boundaries are your values. Boundaries are representative of how much or little you respect yourself. Boundaries are your friend.
Decide what your core values are.
Who are you? What do you value? Figure out what, exactly, you’re comfortable with and what you aren’t. For example, I don’t like to talk on the phone during work hours, so when I’m at work I don’t accept personal calls until after 5pm. In my relationship, I value and expect monogamy, quality time each week (so at least one date night a week) and 100% honesty at all times. Once you get clear on what matters most to you, then you can take a bigger step at communicating this to others.
Instead of creating your boundaries around a difficult relationship in your life, you must make your boundaries about you. For example, my boundaries with my limited phone time is about honoring the fact that I tend to get overstimulated due to a busy writing schedule. This boundary is to decrease my stress level and not about avoiding others’ phone calls or distancing myself from loved ones.
You can’t change others, so change yourself.
Gosh, we all want others to change, right? I mean, that’s part of the human experience. We get into arguments with our spouses hoping, wishing, and demanding even, that they STOP being difficult.
We cannot change others. We are not responsible for what comes out of their mouths, the daily choices they make or their reactions. Since you can’t change other people, change how you deal with them. As Dr. Cloud says in Boundaries, “They may be motivated to change if their old ways no longer work”.
Decide the consequences ahead of time.
So what do we do if anyone pushes our boundaries (because they will)? Decide what the consequences are. For example, if my boyfriend cheats on me after knowing monogamy is a boundary of mine, I leave the relationship. The best way to figure out your own boundaries and consequences when people cross them is by sitting quietly down with yourself and making this all about you. (Remember: boundaries are about honoring your needs, not about judging other people’s choices.)
Let your behavior, not your words, speak for you.
A new boundary of mine is that during the work hours, I don’t take personal calls. I am a person who thrives with structure. People have and will continue to test this boundary. What I don’t do is present them with an ultimatum.
You present your boundaries clearly to people and then let your behavior do the talking. So, if anyone calls me continuously during the day, and they know my boundary, I simply do not pick up the phone until after 5pm. People WILL test, push and disrespect your limits. You’ll know you’re getting healthier when this doesn’t get an emotional reaction out of you. When your boundaries are your core beliefs, you will not get riled up if you are tested.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
The biggest part of boundaries is HOW clearly you communicate them. You can have the healthiest set of boundaries on the planet but if you do not communicate them clearly, you are going to create some really confusing relationships, both for you and everyone else involved.
One way to quickly get someone to question your character or authenticity? Say one thing and do another.
Sometimes we’re afraid to confront others with truth in love or relationships. We’re afraid to tell people what we really want, to admit that we hate going to certain restaurants, or have trouble spending time with a friend’s toxic cousin, or hate when a boss dumps deadlines on us at 6pm on a Friday. We conceal our true feelings because we’re scared of people’s reactions. The more you ground yourself with your boundaries and values, the more you’ll be able to be very clear in your communication!
Get ready for your life to change because it will.