In my line of work, we talk about boundaries a lot. We know what they are, why they are important, and how to set boundaries with others.
But in my early relationships, that is something I needed to learn from the inside-out.
I had to think hard about what clear boundaries meant for my relationships. It has been a game-changer in every way.
What Are Boundaries?
Knowing and holding our own limits is nothing less than an act of radical self-acceptance.
Boundaries mark where we end and others begins. And yet they do not separate us, they allow us to connect in a deeper way.
The function of boundaries is similar to that of our immune system. The only way our cells can ward off germs, toxins or parasites, is by recognizing what is not our cells. Our system needs to know the difference between what is ours, and what is an “other.” When the immune system gets confused and starts attacking our own cells, or over-reacting to harmless “visitors”, we become ill.
In the same way, the health of our relationships depends on knowing who we are–and who we are not. If we run ourselves down while letting others take over or, conversely, push people away, we cannot thrive.
One fundamental way of knowing who we are is to see the difference between our feelings and those of others. And we have to know exactly what we will not allow into our lives and disengage from parasitic dynamics.
Without good boundaries, we become exhausted, resentful, and implicated in other people’s problems. Plus, we are not able to be loved for who we really are.
Healthy boundaries, on the other hand, allow for balance between an intact self and deep connection with others.
The clearer your boundaries, the more securely you can connect with others, overlap shared values, and live your life authentically.
When we first learn how to set boundaries (for those of us who learned later in life), it’s easy to think of it as keeping people out, or pushing people away.
But the truth is that with clear boundaries you become more secure and able to love freely without fear of being lost.
If you struggle with knowing and setting your boundaries, there are 5 easy ways to begin this process.
How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Set Your Limits in a Relationship
1. Admit Your Personal Lines. Do not judge yourself. If it’s too much for you, it just is. If you don’t want to, that is OK!
2. Trust Your Intuition. Listen to the gut of your deeper self and stop second-guessing. You know what you know. Trust it.
3. Practice Limit Setting on Small Things. Pick something minor to practice saying no, for example. Then it will feel easier for the big things.
4. Spend more Time with People who Support Your Limits. Some people will guilt-trip or pressure us. Know who they are and avoid them until you are stronger.
5. Listen to Your Body. You will feel things physically that are messages. Pay attention. For example, a tightness in the stomach and chest can signal fear. If you are afraid, support your defenses and protect yourself until you can expand again.
If you follow these 5 steps consistently, it will become second nature to honor yourself. Your relationships can only benefit from you being your best self. We teach others how to treat us.
Good luck and let me know how it goes in the comments below!