My last blog introduced the topic of personal boundaries. As a recap, personal boundaries could be defined as a boundaries that keep a healthy balance of what is yours and what is not as well as who to let in and how to keep others at a healthy place outside your boundaries. A personal boundary is this imaginary space that helps us keep things that will nurture us in and keep the things that will harm us out. (This includes things that drain us, make us feel trapped or confused, use up our valuable time or perhaps entice us to compromise our values.)
Last time we looked at a possible scenario that demonstrated some blurred boundaries and if you missed it go back and give it a read. I now want to share a couple ways you can develop your personal boundaries.
Words – How can you use your words to create a personal boundary? There is one small word that is very useful and that word is “No”. That was easy! If it was that easy, then why do so many people find it hard to say it? We are all “nice” people who don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings…right? But, in the meantime we may end up getting hurt by doing things we really don’t want to do, or hanging out with someone that we really don’t want to be with, or giving so much of ourselves that we don’t know how to retreat. Learn to use your words in a clear assertive way using “I” statements. Here’s an example: “I prefer to shop alone but thanks for the invitation to go shopping with you”. Be open and polite, as state what you like and don’t like and what you will do and will not do. When you use ‘I” statements it is about “you” and not about the other person. How they respond is outside of what you are responsible for. You are actively keeping things that nurture you in and things that drain you out. It takes practice but is quite empowering. A funny movie called “Yes Man” demonstrates that you really don’t have to say yes to everything and you don’t have to say no to everything. It is important to know that you have a choice to say either if it is really what you want to say. If you find it hard to express your feelings clearly (lots of people do….), counselling may help you with better communication skills.
Truth – Who knew this could be a boundary builder! Take an honest and truthful look at who you are. Look at the three parts of yourself – mind, body, spirit. What makes you distinct and unique from every other person on this earth? What matters to you? What do you believe and are you living that out? Truthfully knowing yourself helps to define your boundaries. Let me give you a couple examples. Lets say you decide that you want to loose a few pounds but someone you hang out with always wants you to go with them for ice cream. What do you do? You are not much of a night person and prefer to be in bed by 10pm. Your friends typically call and text after 9 and you often find yourself heading to bed just before midnight, waking up the next morning exhausted. What do you do? These two examples demonstrate opportunities to create your own personal boundaries.
I want to take a moment to address those who have had their “no” violated in some way. Maybe you have a spouse who is very controlling or a member of your own family or co-worker that did not respect your boundaries. These and/or other situations may have painful memories for you. I encourage you to seek counselling to help you manage those feelings and set a path where you regain a sense control over your life.
Lastly, remember that we are not responsible for making others happy. We are only responsible for our own happiness. Yes, it is enjoyable to be with others. We are social beings who love, laugh and cry with others. When we use our passions to explore life’s opportunities, the possibilities are endless. One positive step to take control over your boundaries is to throw off the weight of people who intentionally or not, take, push and invade your space and life.
You own your boundaries and you can always renegotiate a boundary that you had if you find yourself in a safer place. Appropriate, well-articulated boundaries simply gives you power and control over your life. It is not being selfish; it is taking responsibility for “me”. If you don’t know where to start, find someone to talk to and discover the freedom of personal boundaries.
Again, there is more to discover on this topic, but I hope that this has given you an opportunity to think about your personal boundaries and why they can be used to build self-esteem and increase self-empowerment.