Janelle Watson, LMFT, PMHC
Boundaries Abound!: How to Navigate Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries has become quite the buzzword. It warms my heart to see so many people who want to define their comfort and safety zones. However, common assumptions about boundaries suggest that once they are set, they are fixed, unyielding and are universally understood. While that sounds like a lovely notion, holding those expectations is a recipe for disappointment. If you want to tackle establishing and maintaining personal boundaries, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration.
What are your boundaries? When you realize that there is something (or someone) in your life that you are uncomfortable with, that is a good indication that you might need to renegotiate boundaries. If you have a friend who seems to take liberties with your generosity or a relative who chronically shares your personal business, it might be time to reassess some things. Think about making changes to the level of access they have. Maybe instead of telling that relative your darkest secret, you stick to casual conversation about universally known things about your life. If your friend is constantly asking you for money, stop giving it to them or establish limits of how much and/or how often.
Boundaries need to be communicated. Establishing personal boundaries involves openly communicating and asserting personal values to preserve and protect against having them compromised or violated. The key words that you are responsible for are “openly communicating’. Your boundaries must be communicated. This is not something that can be left unsaid or reliant on assumptions. We often romanticize the idea of our loved ones ‘just knowing’ our wants and needs but it’s not that simple. We have to find a way to fall back in love with direct communication.
People will have feelings about your boundaries. Once you have communicated your boundaries, you will likely notice reactions from others. People are allowed to have their reactions and their feelings are valid. That said, their reactions do not have to be the barometer used to determine if you made the right choice. Don’t let their reactions and feelings frustrate you; expect them! You are the one changing the status quo. They were likely not privy to the process you went through before deciding on your boundary. They do not have to like it, but it would be great if they respected it.
You will have feelings about setting your boundaries. You know that relative you stopped spilling your guts to? And that friend who is no longer allowed to treat you like an ATM? It’s okay if you miss them. It’s okay to feel relieved that they no longer have access to you. It’s okay that the boundary you set serves you in the long term but feels inconvenient in the short term. Get curious about what comes up for you as you make these adjustments to your life.
Boundaries are firm and flexible. Seems like an oxymoron but it’s true. Boundaries need to be firm because consistency allows you to see how that change is impacting your life. It also gives others around you an opportunity to make necessary adjustments. As you settle into these changes, you may find that some boundaries you thought you once needed no longer serve you and others might need to be strengthened. That’s where the flexibility comes in. Finding the right balance is a delicate dance.
When in doubt, rely on direct communication whenever possible!
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