Healthy Boundaries: More Important Than Ever
Why is it so hard to set healthy boundaries? The answer is unique to each person. One thing is for sure, the pandemic and global disruption has made it important to establish healthy boundaries now more than ever.
A healthy boundary contains limits you decide that work for you. They work because they support you to live aligned with your core values and what helps you be the best version of yourself. If you don’t have healthy boundaries, you are likely to be at the mercy of other people or situations.
To understand the importance of healthy boundaries, think of how nature creates boundaries. Riverbanks, for example, support a river’s natural flow of water. Without its firm banks, the river would flood into the fields, pick up toxins and topsoil and return with murky, muddy water. The same goes for human beings. Without healthy boundaries you can flood yourself with unhealthy relationships.
Healthy boundaries help you feel relaxed and comfortable in relationships. They are an indication of how you allow people to relate to you. When you set a healthy boundary, you make it clear what you are willing to accept and how you are willing to be regarded. But without healthy boundaries you are at risk of creating emotional drama. You may:
- Swing from oversharing personal information, but panic when someone wants to get closer, and shut down emotionally,
- Feel like a doormat and let others walk all over you,
- Feel invisible or not listened to, or
- Come away from conversations with heavy, drama filled emotions.
All these qualities have their roots in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. When you are stuck in the DDT, you may be puzzled by how powerless you can become to the situation and those who seem to have the upper hand.
Fears about setting boundaries may mean you are not in the habit of setting them in the first place. If you grew up in a family that denied the importance of boundaries, as an adult you may not understand their importance or know how to set them. You may have experienced guilt trips or were shamed when you asked for what you wanted. Or, you may not have been taught to stand up for yourself when someone mistreated you.
If you were fortunate, setting healthy boundaries was a natural part of what you learned growing up. You also learned that you can’t predict how others will respond to the boundaries you set. The only thing you can control is your own behavior and what is right for you.
Healthy boundary setting is a fundamental act of self-care and requires the ability to self-reflect in the moment. Here are a few suggestions to develop the habit of setting healthy boundaries:
- Practice saying “no.” When learning to set boundaries, start with those you trust and let them know you are practicing saying “no” to some requests. This will allow you to practice saying no in a supportive environment.
- Speak directly to those with whom you need to set a boundary. Instead of complaining to others about a concern you have with another, speak directly to the person with whom you have an issue, rather than gossip or going behind their back.
- Be clear about your needs. Do not assume anyone knows what you are thinking. Make “I statements” about what you need and what you are and are not willing to commit to.
A boundary is a signpost clarifying to others how you want to be treated. The truth is, no one will respect your boundaries if you don’t set them in the first place. As a Creator, clarifying and communicating boundaries is an essential practice in co-creating and collaboration.