“Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.” - Z. Hereford
Have you ever been disrespected or ignored by others in your life?
Are you in a relationship where you are constantly feeling like you have to defend yourself or your actions?
Do you have a hard time saying “no” to other people?
Have some of your relationships left you feeling physically and emotionally drained?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you are not alone. Like yourself, I know from first-hand experiences, that relationships with other people can be challenging. Relationships are everywhere. We cannot escape them. They show up at work, at school, at the food market, at home and even in the world of social media.
Speaking of social media, resources on the internet state that the average person spends about 70% of their awake time communicating with others (30% talking & 40% listening). While this may not be applicable to everyone, the point is that we spend a large part of our day communicating with others.
Because we are surrounded by a variety of relationships, each of them requires that we behave differently. Some relationships are personal, some are simply social and others are strictly professional. Each of these relationships has specific needs. Each one has a unique purpose. Additionally, each of them requires a certain amount of our time, skills, commitment and energy.
That said, after many years interacting with others, I have learned that achieving healthy relationships requires a variety of skills, such as active listening, problem-solving and maintaining personal boundaries, just to name a few. So, the focus of this blog post is to identify signs of unhealthy relationships and to share tips on creating and maintaining personal boundaries in your relationships.
Below are a few signs of unhealthy boundaries in relationships:
If you find yourself relating to these signs, here are some tips for establishing appropriate boundaries:
Tip #1 Identify your Needs:
Everyone has needs. Needs are things that are necessary for living our lives. The issue for most folks is that they have trouble understanding what exactly are their needs.Once we are clear and have identified our needs, we increase the likelihood of getting our needs met.
So, in order to create and maintain boundaries in your relationships, make a list of those needs that are important to you. Below are examples of needs:
Before you go onto the next step, take a moment to make a list of your needs and keep it nearby. When working with my coaching clients, I encourage them to write their needs in their journals.If you do not have one, I suggest you get one and keep it near you.
Tip #2 Define your Boundaries:
At this point it is important to be clear about what boundaries mean to you. I encourage you to create or find a definition for personal boundaries that you feel comfortable with. For example, check out the quote at the top of this blog post.
For another example, see my definition below:
“Personal boundaries are healthy limits that I place in all of my relationships, so that myself and others are clear about what is acceptable behaviors while we interact with each other. If there are any violations, I will take steps to protect my boundaries."
Now that you have you definition that you are comfortable with, you are ready to take the next step. For a moment, refer to the list of needs you made for the previous tip.
The next step is that we are going to convert your list of needs into what I refer to as "Boundary Statements". Below are examples of boundary statements:
“I expect all of my personal relationships to be mutually respectful.”
“Feeling safe in all relationships is vital to me.”
“The existence of trust is vital to me.”
“Listening to what I have to say is very important to me.”
Tip #3 Share your boundaries:
Now that you have identified your needs and created your boundary statements, you are ready to communicate with others what is important to you.
Before you begin, you may wish to share your expectations with the other person.For example, I would ask the person to listen first and give feedback only when asked.Also, it is important to remind the other person that we keep what is shared in confidence.
Finally, this may be a good time to ask the other person to share any experiences they have had setting boundaries in their own relationships.You may want to ask the person for feedback on how he or she handled others that were being difficult.
Tip #4 Defend your boundaries:
This is where you get to stand up for yourself when faced with another person that shows lack of respect for your boundaries.This is a tough step, especially for those of us who avoid personal conflicts.Conflicts are very uncomfortable.With practice, you will build confidence in defending your boundaries with others.
It is important to let others know when they crossed the line or behaved inappropriately towards you.Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself.
One suggestion I find quite useful, when trying to defend my boundaries with others, is to use “I-Statements”. These statements are concise, short and to the point. Below is an example:
I feel upset
When you make fun of me in front of others
Because it is very embarrassing and hurtful
I need you to respect me when we are with other people.
Unfortunately, there may be times when you simply need to take time and space away from others who do not respect your boundaries.
Remember, it is your responsibility to protect yourself from unacceptable behaviors. You need to take control of your life and not allow others to control you.
Eventually, with plenty of practice, you will gain respect from others who value and appreciate you as the wonderful unique person that you are. Additionally, your sense of self-worth and confidence will increase as well.
Tip #5 Reflect on your boundaries:
This is an opportunity for you to reflect upon your experiences setting boundaries with others.Perhaps you can write down any thoughts, feelings or suggestions that occurred to you in the process.
Also, it may be helpful for you to follow up with the person you talked with in step three and share any learning or concerns.
Perfecting the art of setting boundaries requires time and practice.Over the years, I have noticed that is has become easier to share what is important to me in my relationships.
Once you know how to establish healthy boundaries, you can expect to see some dramatic improvements in yourself and your relationships. You will find:
So, have you said yes to any of those questions at the start of this blog?
Are you ready to stand up for yourself?
Would you like others to respect your needs, thoughts and feelings?
If you are like me, I value myself and expect others in my life to do the same. I no longer wish to be treated like a second-class person in my relationships. I want to put an end to being treated poorly by others, as I know deep down I deserve better.
It is never too late to work on creating and maintaining healthy boundaries with others. If you need support in doing this, contact me for a free conversation on how we can do this together. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you the best in your quest to establish healthy relationships.
If you want to see a video on this topic, go to this link:
Please share any comments below on how helpful this post was for you and any steps you will be taking to create and maintain health boundaries.
Also, if you found this helpful, please share with others who may benefit.
Tom Ellis, CPC
Tom is a Path Finder who is solution & action focused as well as a Life Purpose Specialist. Artist & Gentleman Farmer.