Personal boundaries aren’t nearly as hard to put in motion as you might think. And they’re likely even more paramount than you believe them to be. Even if you’re someone who has trouble saying, “no”, you can put boundaries in place without even having to say that difficult word (but more on that later).
Every time we encounter a situation when we’re asked to do something or be something we know is not in integrity with who we are and who we want to be, that’s the first sign that a boundary needs to be considered.
The issue comes up just about daily. We go to work, and a co-worker or our boss asks us to do something we don’t believe is appropriate nor is it our job. So the options are to do it anyway and send the message you’ll do anything asked of you and feel resentful. Or, you could set boundaries.
Our partners ask us to do things that they aren’t willing to do in return. Or there’s a disproportionate division of chores, money spent, or time with extended family on one person’s part, but not the other’s. We either allow for the lopsided nature of the relationship to remain in place or we address it with our own personal boundaries. If your partner always leaves the dishes for you to do, and you’re over it, you may need to step outside of your comfort zone and just let them sit. Be willing to endure a standoff until the other person budges. That doesn’t always work, but often just not taking action will shout the word, “no” much louder than our voices can carry.
This is important sh*t people. Without personal boundaries, we get taken advantage of, disrespected, and our self-esteem is eroded by the mere refusal to say the word no, even if it’s simply with our actions. There are many ways to phrase saying no. If someone asks for your time and talents and you don’t want to give them, you could just say, “My schedule is packed pretty tight, but thanks for asking me.” It’s a critical component to having a healthy relationship with anyone, most importantly with yourself.
If you have kids, oh my stars does this come into play practically every five minutes. Parents are constantly setting boundaries so kids don’t get hurt, develop ethics, understand respect, and become more self-aware. And as kids grow, the boundaries change to accommodate their maturity and level of responsibility. Regardless of the lines becoming blurred, kids still need to understand and respect the boundaries their parents set. How else are they ever going to learn to set their own, especially once they’re out there in the world without constant parental guidance? Starting at an early age and being damn consistent is what it takes for kids to adopt a respect and understanding for boundaries early on so they can continue to develop a healthy relationship with boundaries on their own.
So what to do if you know you have trouble in this arena? If you never learned to identify and set boundaries that ensure you respect yourself, there’s only one thing to do: practice!
Try these simple exercises to get you more comfortable with identifying when a boundary is necessary and how to implement it. You don’t have to go bananas and start setting boundaries everywhere you look and feel even the slightest bit of intolerance. That’s not what it’s about. Choosing the things that are truly important to us is where we look to establish healthy, considerate boundaries that make sense and will improve the quality of our lives.
Start with home. It’s typically (hopefully) the place we feel the safest. We have permission to be ourselves and a comfort level that doesn’t tend to exist anywhere else in the world. What feels dissatisfying to you about the agreements that currently exist in your home? What can you live with and what truly stresses you out? Make a list (a short one), and pick one or two things to change. If, for example, you feel that you are spending an inordinate amount of time running errands when there’s a teenager who can drive and a partner who also has wheels and a wallet, make a list of the errands you’ll continue to run, and divvy up the others between your partner and your teen. Explain that you value your own time, and you’d like more equanimity in the household and need them to do their part. Don’t apologize. Don’t play the victim. Just state what you need.
Take a look at your closest relationships. There’s always at least one that needs some boundary-tweaking. If you have a friend who calls constantly and is always in need, but just never seems to be available when you want their time or attention, start by being less available. You don’t have to say a thing. And if a confrontation is necessary, be kind but clear. Let your friend know you feel taken advantage of and that the relationship is lopsided. Have a solution for how that can change.
The main thing to remember is most people will need an adjustment period to accommodate new agreements. Be patient and consistent. They’ll either get on board or they won’t, but don’t back down and don’t take it personally. Not if it’s truly getting in the way of your contentment and self-worth. If the other people in your life can’t deal with boundaries, it’s quite possible those relationships will alter and maybe even go away. You can see that as a risk and a deterrent, sure. But you can also choose to see it as the truth opening up to you, allowing you to recognize that you matter and what you want is more important than you’ve been previously willing to acknowledge.
Lara Falberg is not just a sequencing and music addict. Mostly, but not entirely. She's been teaching yoga for eleven years, trained in Atlanta, now residing in Columbus Ohio. Her new website, http://iworkbarefoot.com/, is a yoga teacher resource offering verbals cues, mini sequences, class themes, and studio reviews. She wrote a novel, Yoga Train, about the yoga teacher training experience. Find it on Amazon for Kindle. You can follow Lara on Instagram(@iworkbarefoot), Facebook, and Twitter.