Anjoli Aisenbrey Counseling, PLLC

Anjoli Aisenbrey Counseling, PLLC

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Boundaries: What are they and how do you manage them?

Boundaries: What are they and how do you manage them?

Boundaries are the limits or guidelines that we set for ourselves and others that define what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior in our relationships, personal space, and more. These limits can be physical, emotional, financial, or mental, and are established to promote healthy interactions, protect your well-being, and build respectful and balanced relationships. Boundaries help individuals maintain their individuality, manage their time and energy, and avoid feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of by others. Boundaries are the secret to a happy life and healthy relationships. Here is a list of some common boundaries:

  • Physical boundaries
  • Emotional boundaries
  • Intellectual boundaries
  • Financial boundaries
  • Sexual boundaries
  • Workplace boundaries
  • Spiritual boundaries

Boundaries help keep us safe and help others know how we would like to be treated. Boundaries are important for several reasons including:

  1. Personal well-being: Boundaries help us maintain our emotional, physical, and mental well-being. By setting limits, we prevent others from taking advantage of us or crossing our boundaries, which can lead to stress, burnout, resentment, and dissatisfaction.
  2. Self-respect: Establishing boundaries demonstrates self-respect. It shows that we value ourselves and our needs and that we respect our own time, feelings, and energy. This can ultimately enhance our self-esteem and self-confidence.
  3. Healthy relationships: Boundaries are crucial for building and maintaining healthy relationships, and helping us determine who might not be best for us. Boundaries establish clear expectations and guidelines for how we want to be treated and what is acceptable behavior. Boundaries enable honest communication and encourage mutual respect and understanding between people.
  4. Emotional and mental health: Boundaries provide the structure to help us establish a sense of control over our mental well-being and life. When we know how to say no and set limits, we foster better mental health by not feeling pressured to do something out of fear, obligation, or guilt.
  5. Promoting independence and role modeling: Boundaries support individual autonomy and personal growth. When we embody this, we are a model for how to show up in our relationships in a healthy way and can teach others how to set limits by supporting their autonomy.
  6. Avoiding conflicts: Contrary to belief, boundaries help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings. Clearly defined boundaries provide clarity in relationships and minimize the potential for misunderstandings or disagreements.
  7. Prioritizing self-care: Boundaries allow us to prioritize self-care and establish healthy lifestyle habits. By setting boundaries around our schedules, commitments, and personal time, we can ensure that we have enough energy and resources to take care of ourselves.

Signs of poor boundaries:

  1. Difficulty saying ‘no’: A person with poor boundaries may struggle to set limits and find it challenging to say ‘no’ to others’ requests or demands.
  2. Overcommitting: When we take on more responsibilities and tasks than we can handle, we often feel overwhelmed, stretched too thin, or resentful.
  3. People-pleasing: People with poor boundaries often prioritize others’ needs and opinions over their own, looking for external validation and avoiding disagreements or conflicts.
  4. Resentment and anger: Bottling up emotions and not expressing them can lead to a build-up of resentment, which may eventually manifest as anger or frustration.
  5. Difficulty expressing personal opinions or desires: People may struggle to assert themselves, express their own opinions, or communicate their desires to others, fearing rejection or disapproval. This is the person who agrees with everything another person says and is afraid of being authentic.
  6. Allowing others to disrespect or overstep boundaries: People with poor boundaries may tolerate disrespectful treatment, manipulation, or invasion of their personal space from others. They often feel powerless and afraid to stand up for themselves or end the relationship.
  7. Feeling responsible for others’ emotions: Taking on the responsibility for others’ happiness or well-being, feeling guilty or responsible if someone else is unhappy or disappointed.
  8. Dependence on external validation: People with poor boundaries often seek external validation and approval from others as their main source of self-worth, rather than developing a strong internal sense of self.
  9. Emotional burnout and exhaustion: Over time, consistently poor boundaries can lead to emotional fatigue, burnout, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed in relationships and daily life. This can create and contribute to depression and anxiety symptoms.

Steps to help you start practicing setting boundaries:

  1. Self-reflection: Take some time to reflect on your values, needs, and priorities. Understand what is important to you and what you are willing to accept or tolerate in your relationships and interactions.
  2. Identify your limits: Identify areas where you feel uncomfortable or violated. Consider what behaviors, actions, or situations cross those boundaries and leave you feeling uneasy, resentful, or taken advantage of.
  3. Communicate your boundaries: Clearly and assertively communicate your boundaries to others. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and needs, and explain how certain behaviors or actions affect you. Be firm but polite when communicating your boundaries.
  4. Practice saying no: Learn to say “no” when you feel pressured to do something that goes against your values or exceeds your limits. If this is hard for you, start with small requests and gradually build up to more challenging situations. Remember, saying “no” is your right and an important part of setting boundaries.
  5. Be consistent: Consistently enforce your boundaries by both communicating and following through with the consequences if they are violated. This may involve reducing contact with people who consistently disregard your boundaries or ending the relationship.
  6. Self-care: Prioritize self-care to ensure that you are taking care of your own needs and well-being. This may include setting aside time for yourself, engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and seeking support from trusted friends or professionals when needed.
  7. Self-boundaries: If you cannot set boundaries with yourself, it may be harder to do so with others. Whether it is your diet, sleep, work commitments, or an exercise plan, set limits with yourself that you will honor these commitments, such as going to bed by 10 pm, or limiting them, such as logging off from work by 5 pm.
  8. Seek support and resources: If you find it difficult to set boundaries or need guidance, consider seeking support from a therapist, counselor, online videos/articles, or a support group. These resources can provide valuable insights, strategies, and empowerment to help you navigate setting boundaries more effectively.

Helpful boundary reminders:

  • You cannot set a boundary and protect someone else’s feelings.
  • If you are saying yes out of fear, obligation, or guilt you have poor boundaries.
  • If you are resentful of others, you have poor boundaries.
  • Boundaries are a measure of self-respect and protection, not a punishment of others.
  • It will be uncomfortable setting boundaries, especially with boundary pushers.
  • Boundaries can be lax, flexible, or firm/rigid. Flexible boundaries are good to have in healthy relationships whereas firm/rigid boundaries may be needed with someone who constantly pushes your boundaries.
  • Use the sandwich technique. Often, people want to set boundaries but don’t know how to start a sentence. The sandwich technique is positive-boundary-positive. This means you start setting your limit with a compliment or gratitude, insert your boundary, and then end with another compliment, gratitude, and/or an alternative solution/offering. Here are some examples:
    • Thank you for the invite but I won’t be able to attend. I hope you have a great time!
    • Hey thanks for asking but I unfortunately cannot help out tonight. I have more flexibility next weekend if we are short-staffed. Please let me know how I can help.
    • Thank you for considering me, that was very thoughtful, but it is not my thing. I hope you guys have a blast.
    • Thank you for reaching out and considering me. This weekend won’t work for me but I would love to plan something for the end of the month. Does that work?
  • Do not over-explain: when you over-explain why you cannot do something or don’t want to, it gives the other person the opportunity to push your boundary, especially if you know they are a boundary pusher. For example, if you use finances as an excuse not to go out to dinner tonight, they could offer to pay. If you use the excuse that you have to work late, they can offer to wait for you. Less is more and gives the person less to negotiate with. The more a person pushes, the firmer your boundary needs to be and possibly re-evaluating the relationship if this person is in your life by choice.
  • Own your stuff: If you can’t say no and are resentful and irritated at others all the time for taking up too much of your time, that is a You problem. People cannot know what your boundaries are if you don’t set them and teach them.
  • If someone continually pushes your boundaries, I invite you to bring it up and how it makes you feel. Reflect on what this person brings to your life and whether they add or take away.
  • Boundaries create healthy relationships. If you begin setting boundaries and the person becomes mad, passive, irritated, or combative, this probably is not the person to have in your life and they are upset because they were benefiting from your lack of boundaries. Set them free, you will be happier and healthier.

Self-reflective questions:

  • How are you when it comes to setting boundaries? Are you lax, flexible, or firm/rigid?
  • Who is easy to set boundaries with and who is not?
  • How were boundaries taught and mirrored to you growing up? Do your parents have boundaries or respect yours?
  • How do you handle other people’s boundaries? Can you respect them? Are you a boundary pusher?

If you feel drained in your relationships or uneasy around some people, chances are there is a boundary issue. Remember, setting boundaries is a continuous process that requires ongoing practice and self-awareness. It may take time, but with persistence, you can develop healthy and meaningful relationships built on your terms. You got this!

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