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“Funny thing is I don’t think I have many boundaries but when one gets crossed I seem to know right away…” ~ Anthony Rockwell
Yes, we know we need boundaries.
The trouble we sometimes run into, though, is—how do I know if I have enough boundaries, and what kind of boundaries should I set?
How many of us have actually sat down to do a personal inventory of what our boundaries are and then made them super clear to the people in our lives?
Too often, this is something we attempt to do after we’ve been feeling used, abused, and like a doormat.
Take a few minutes this week to consider what your particular boundaries are, and signs that they’re not being honored. That way, you can recognize when you might need to respectfully remind others what they are and, if needed, to step away from the situation for some self-care. This is much easier done before they really get trampled. Enforcing boundaries after you haven’t been clear about them or letting others trample over them for years is when blowouts can happen.
I asked our readers how they knew they needed better boundaries and which types of boundaries are most important to have and this is a summary of their advice.
Signs we need more or stronger boundaries:
>> Consistently ignoring our gut feelings about certain people and then later being taken advantage of by them.
>> Feeling physically or mentally unsafe in a situation or in a relationship.
>> Constantly feeling pronounced symptoms of physical or mental illness when in certain situations or around certain people: repeatedly getting sick, migraines, worse than “normal” anxiety and depression, and increased anger.
>> We find ourselves in the habit of making excuses for someone. “They’re just having a hard time right now.” (They key phrase here is “in the habit of,” rather than the rare time someone might really just need some grace, forgiveness, and support.)
>> When your “no” is not well-received.
>> When you agree to do things you really don’t want to out of a sense of obligation. (Okay, let’s get real here for a moment. We all have obligations, and we all want to be there for others. But if you’re regretting most of your “yesses,” maybe you’re saying too many of them, or saying them to the wrong people, or not saying them to yourself first.)
>> When you begin to feel resentment.
>> When you realize you’ve been neglecting your needs.
>> When someone is micromanaging you—this can happen both at work and in personal relationships.
While these are only examples and may depend on your personal preferences, here are some important boundaries to consider.
>> Conflict must be handled with respect and maturity.
>> No surprise visits.
>> No means no the first time.
>> Ask if I have space to listen before diving right into an “emotional dump.”
>> “I recently read a saying I absolutely love: If you are a giver know your limits because the takers don’t have any. Applies in all aspects of life.” ~ Melinda Trudeau (A bit ambiguous, but pay attention to what you normally give and when it feels like too much. For me, it’s acts of service.)
>> No lending money.
>> Please don’t waste my time by constantly being late or cancelling. (Again, this is a frequency thing. Being unexpectedly late or having to cancel is not disrespectful unless it’s constant.)
>> No silent treatment.
>> I will only say yes when I have met my own needs first.
>> Six feet in public spaces and wear your mask.
Remember, once we realize we need better boundaries and identify which ones to put in place for our own well-being, the next very important step is to make sure we communicate them. If we don’t communicate them, clearly and respectfully, nobody knows they exist, and we will continue to feel taken advantage of, disappointed, frustrated, or used.
Once someone is aware of your boundaries and they aren’t willing to respect them, at that point, you can decide whether you want to continue the relationship.
And on the flip side, I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of our readers that really struck a chord:
“We spend too much time talking about boundaries, cutting people off, and keeping them out. We’re perhaps a bit too protective of ourselves. We need to do more to let people in, make space for possibility.” ~ Dan Laxer
Boundaries are important for our well-being—just don’t let them get so rigid that your relationships never get a chance to flow and flourish.