Setting boundaries with friends, loved ones, even clients or patients in business can be one of the hardest things you will ever do. Why is that? If you are like me, you may be a people pleaser. You want to make everyone happy and not rock the boat so to speak. The problem with that is, again, if you are like me, it is usually at my expense or happiness. They may like me, but I don't like me when I feel taken advantage of or like a spinless jellyfish. A lot of us suffer from the "disease to please" mindset.
Family seems to be the hardest to set boundaries with for me. They are my family, I want to see them succeed, have a good life and not have any hardships. However, that isn't my job. It has taken me a long time to realize this. Even with my children. It is my job to guide my children, to teach them how to make their own decisions, to grow up and live a healthy, happy and prosperous life. Not to make all of their decisions for them.
We need to set our boundaries, express them, then decide what we are going to do about it if they are crossed. It seems the people who have the hardest time with us setting boundaries are the ones who are benefiting from us not having any. They are usually the ones who are knowingly, or maybe not so intentionally taking advantage.
We all know about natural consequences, right? You know, when you do something even though you know it wasn't the best choice and have to live with those consequences. I am trying to teach my younger children this, within reason. I won't allow them to knowingly do something dangerous but if I know they aren't going to get badly hurt, I allow them to make their own decisions in different situations. I'll give you an example. My 11 yo insists on wearing shorts to school, even in our winters when it's below zero. He wears the long shorts with knee high socks so most of his legs are covered. It's cold here in the winter but he insists. So, instead of fighting with him about it, I allow it. It didn't take him long to figure out that he was cold and it was too hard to go out for recess with no pants. Now, he will either bring sweatpants and wear them over the shorts when he goes outside at all or he will wear a pair of compression leggings on under the shorts. This is living by a natural consequence. You think going without pants in winter is a good idea until you do it, then you rethink your strategy because it isn't.
We need to start doing that more with the people we share out lives with. It isn't our job to live their lives for them or make their decisions. If they choose to go against our advice and do something that blows up in their faces, it's on them to fix it. We don't need to fix anyone else's problems, we just need to be there as support if we so choose. Just because we know and/or love them doesn't mean we need to be there to fix anything.
Why are Boundaries a Good Thing?
When we have boundaries in our lives, it helps us maintain the priorities and goals we have for our own lives. We don't get bogged down in all the drama and stuff that isn't our own. We can lose our focus on where we want our lives to be headed because we are getting sucked into drama and situations that are beyond our control, not our doing and have literally nothing to do with us.
Signs of Healthy Boundaries
When we reach a point where we feel good with the boundaries we set, it is so freeing. I will admit that at first, I felt bad setting those boundaries. I was getting so much push back from those who were benefitting from me having none that I was questioning myself and my actions.
One day the website of SharonMartinCounseling.com "Signs of Healthy Boundaries" popped up in some of my research. It was so freeing to read and understand this.
Signs of Healthy Boundaries
saying "no" without guilt
asking for what you want or need
taking care of yourself
saying "yes" because you want to, not out of obligation or to please others
behaving according to your own values and beliefs
feeling safe to express difficult emotions and have disagreements
feeling supported to pursue your own goals
being treated as an equal
taking responsibility for your own happiness
not feeling responsible for someone else's happiness
be in tune with your own feelings
knowing how you are, what you believe and what you like
How do You Set healthy boundaries?
The hardest part for me when starting to limit those who I felt were taking advantage of me was the decision to set the boundaries I felt necessary to have. I was sick of felling like a human door mat, by me not saying no and sticking up for myself, I was allowing these people to take away my personal power. The more I realized how much of my power I was giving away, the angrier I got.
I consciously made the decision to set these boundaries. I wavered at first as people were getting upset with me. It didn't take long to step into my power and push back. I did so by removing the emotion. Setting simple but firm boundaries with a neutral tone or removing the emotion was so much easier than getting upset and coming back with a "how dare you ask that of me" attitude. These people had no idea that I was working on my boundaries, they aren't mind readers so I needed to tell them exactly what was going to work for me, or what I wanted. It was very uncomfortable at first, I got a lot of push back but in the end I felt so much better about myself and what was happening that it stopped bothering me.
I told a few friends what I was planning so I could go back to them and talk about it had it not worked out. They could give me an unbiased, non-emotionally charged recommendation on how to handle a similar situation in the future if one arises. You never know what you are capable of if you don't try!!!!
Many people have no idea they are being critical, taking advantage of you or asking or things that we can't or aren't willing to give. It doesn't matter what that is, even a minute of your time counts!
Don't feel you need to make an explanation. It is fine to simply say, "thank you for asking, but I need to decline." You don't owe anyone an explanation. No means no, elaborating isn't necessary.
If you are like me, I can say no to family and friends pretty easily. Where I found it hardest was in business. Friends, family and even complete strangers know that I study natural health. I get questions every day asking for free advice. Nothing devalues your time in the professional world like people asking for freebies because it's "quick, easy and you can share the result with me so I don't really need to make an appointment". Ummmm...... no. You are paying for my time, my education, my expertise, my experience and my caring. People don't bat an eye when they make an appointment with their hair person, doctor, lawyer, etc. They know these are fee based services, so why is it ok to expect free advice from a friend, family member or complete stranger when they too run a business? It isn't.
Stand up for yourself, walk away when you aren't being heard, be direct and above all, once you say what you need to say, DON'T APOLOGIZE for it and DON'T WAIVER. If you do, you could undo all the progress you have just made. If people aren't going to be respectful of your boundaries, maybe you need to rethink your relationship with them.
You can do this!!!!! Should you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day, stand tall and proud, you are doing this for YOU and no one else.
Love and light,