I can tell a lot about your emotional health from your answers to the following questions:
- Do you have difficulty standing up for yourself?
- Do you often agree to do things that you really don’t want to do?
- Do you often feel guilty about putting your own needs first?
If you answered yes to these questions, it’s time to set stronger boundaries!
Let me explain. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself. They let others know your limits on what they can say or do around you.
When you allow others to cross your boundaries, because you fear disapproval or confrontation, you end up feeling angry, frustrated, and resentful. And, you’re more likely to shut down emotionally, because you can’t trust yourself to say or do what it takes to get your needs met.
On the other hand, healthy boundaries allow you to be more available to others. They enable you to tell the truth and be yourself, essential ingredients for satisfying relationships. You’re also less likely to blame others for your problems, and more likely to interact in a relaxed and open-hearted way.
How well constructed are our boundaries? Take a few minutes to find out.
- My boundaries are specific and clear (“I don’t accept phone calls after 10 p.m.”) rather than vague and mushy (“Don’t call me too late.”)
- I’m consistent when I create boundaries. If I say “no phone calls after 10 p.m.,” I don’t make exceptions unless the situation is truly exceptional.
- As soon as I realize people are crossing my boundaries (criticizing me, taking out their anger on me, making comments about my weight), I announce my boundary. “I won’t continue talking with you if you raise your voice at me.”
- When people refuse to accept my boundaries, I walk away rather than get into a situation that could escalate. I say why I’m leaving.
- I exercise my right to make requests or take actions to protect my time, energy, self-esteem, and personal power. This includes, but is not limited to:
-asking for more information from a medical practitioner
-asking for help around the house
-requesting that a friend or colleague be on time for an appointment
-asking for a rain check when I don’t want to do something with a friend
-returning calls or email within a week (rather than a day)
-asking not to be disturbed when I trying to concentrate, meditate, or simply relax
- I don’t take responsibility for how others respond to my boundaries. If someone gets angry or resentful because I won’t accept a 10:30 phone call, or because I didn’t reply to their email the same day, I don’t have to try and make it OK for them.
- I respect others’ boundaries and ask for clarification when I’m not certain of limits. “How late do you accept phone calls?”
- I let people know when I have extended a boundary. “It used to be OK for you to be late, but now…”
If you discover that your boundaries are weak, here are some steps you can take. (My Mood Switch home-study course explains and leads you through each of these steps.)
- First, identify the hidden, automatic thoughts that keep you from speaking your mind and standing up for yourself. (Examples: She’ll get mad at me if I ask to change the appointment; It’s easier to do it myself; They never listen to what I say anyway.)
- Determine which “Thought Traps” or illogical thought patterns cause you the most problems. Many people with weak boundaries often engage in “Perfectionism,” “Illusion of Control,” and “Should Beliefs.”
- Counteract each negative thought with more logical, realistic thoughts
Setting boundaries becomes easier with practice. Remember that every person has a right to set boundaries and to expect that their limits will be respected. Boundaries held firm will help make life easier, reduce conflict and improve relationships. Plus, they’re a real self-esteem booster.
If weak boundaries make it difficult for you to enjoy life, I invite you to contact me by phone (630-960-2887), text (630-202-3909), or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I offer a variety of options, from on-line home study courses to phone and in-person sessions, to help you experience long-lasting relief from emotional upset.