‘’People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person’’. – Author unknown
Based on my personal life experience and after years of listening to my clients’ stories, getting to understand their needs, their wants, and their perception of life, I realized one thing; if you live your life to please others, you’ll inevitably lose yourself.
Indeed, we’re all unique and special in our own ways. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, and our minds don’t process things the same way. We also all evolve in different environments. What’s more, we all have different opinions on life and social, political, economic, or even personal issues. And more often than not, they differ from the ones of those around us. But that’s ok.
So, based on these facts, how could you possibly support and understand others 100%? The answer is that no one can.
That’s when implementing boundaries becomes critical.
Why is Implementing Boundaries so Important?
Being always available is harmful to your emotional, mental, and physical health
I remember coaching a client back in 2018. She immediately labeled herself as a ‘’people pleaser’’. She knew that she was the kind of person to always be there for others no matter what. Yet, throughout our sessions, I discovered that this wasn’t just part of her personality. Instead, it was linked to the fact that she was a single mom balancing work and three kids, including two teenage boys and a baby girl. She had grown accustomed to being dependable for years. Yet, she felt overwhelmed with the amount of pressure that came with being a single mom, having to constantly make herself available for everyone around her.
This was taking a heavy toll on her emotionally, mentally, and physically. She was losing herself.
So, we designed a plan to help her start implementing boundaries and improve her emotional, mental, and physical health. I taught her a few techniques that proved helpful, including learning how to say no and stick to it. After all, if you can’t say no, your yes means nothing.
Personal space is critical to your well-being
Many of us were raised with the idea that we need to blend in. If not, we’d run the risk of pushing others away, hurting their feelings, and ending up alone. And so, to blend in, you might have lived your life until now regularly doing things you don’t really want to do.
For instance, can you remember that time you didn’t fancy going to a party but you did anyway? Or that other time you didn’t want to attend summer camp, but you went because you were convinced that you’d be missing out?
Or when your friend set you up on a date with a man you didn’t find attractive, but she gave you a hundred reasons as to why he was perfect for you and made you feel guilty for not going?
All these situations stem from the way we raise our children as a society, guilting them and leading them to believe that they have to blend in and do the things they don’t want to do in order to be accepted by others and belong.
And this is exactly why, as an adult, you’re now reluctant to implement boundaries and tend to easily allow others to move into your personal space.
Yet, setting clear boundaries, especially regarding your intimate and close relationships, is the best way to protect these relationships and thrive as a human being. Indeed, these boundaries will allow you to set basic guidelines on how you want to be treated and ensure you live your life on your own terms. But they’ll also enable you to create and enjoy your own little safe haven, protecting you from external aggressions and giving you the opportunity to reset and be in tune with yourself again.
As a result, the better you can define these boundaries, the more grounded you will be and the healthier your relationships will be.
Ultimately, implementing boundaries will help you feel happier, thrive as an individual, and significantly improve your well-being.
How to Set Up Healthy Boundaries?
Learn how to say no and stick to it
As mentioned above, learning how to say no is crucial. Not only does it give more meaning and power to the times you say yes, but it also allows you to allocate your time to activities and areas of your life that truly matter.
Let me explain this a bit more.
If you’re always available, others will take you for granted. They’ll ask you for help whenever it is convenient for them and won’t consider that you might be busy. After all, in most instances, only when you lose something do you realize how valuable it is. Until then, it doesn’t seem that precious.
So, if you find yourself doing too much for someone and they’re not grateful for your time, effort, money, or sacrifice in general, make sure to refocus your attention on what matters the most: you. Start saying no, and they’ll become more appreciative when you say yes. If you keep saying yes, you’ll only fuel the vicious circle and enable their behavior.
And once you’ve started to establish boundaries and say no when someone is crossing them, stick to it and be consistent. The idea is for you to stay disciplined to make sure others learn your ways over time as you implement clear and consistent boundaries.
Remember that you’re in control of your own life, and you always have a choice. The choice to accept or reject certain behaviors. The choice to better use your time and energy.
Being able to make your own choices is one of the most important gifts you’ve been given, so make sure you use it to carve a happy and fulfilling life for yourself.
Know What Your Boundaries Are
Ever heard of the saying ‘’ do unto others as you would have them done unto you’’? This means that you should treat others the way you would like them to treat you. Well, in our case, this saying becomes ‘’do unto others as they want you to do unto them’’. In other words, you teach others how you want to be treated’’. I genuinely stand by this principle.
Nobody will be able to respect your boundaries, may they be your partner, your close friend, or the kindest person on Earth, if you don’t know what these boundaries are yourself.
So, if you want others including family, friends, and your partner to respect your boundaries, treat you appropriately, and appreciate your time, and effort, you need to clearly define what is acceptable, what is not, and what respecting your boundaries means to you. Make sure to name your limits, hold others responsible and explain consequences if they don’t respect them.
Only then will other people be able to abide by your rules.
For instance, say you want to implement boundaries with your partner but aren’t sure how and where to begin.
To define your limits, start by creating a list of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial boundaries that you feel are essential to your well-being and will be conducive to a healthy relationship between the pair of you. Note that this is best done at the beginning of the relationship but could still be implemented at any time. Then communicate this list clearly to ensure that they know what you’re expecting in this relationship.
Speak Up and Clearly Communicate your Feelings
One thing you should never hesitate to do is speak your truth. Indeed, it’s always best to avoid lying to protect someone else’s feelings. We’ve all done it at least once in our lives, and it’s ok.
But by being authentic and expressing your true feelings, you’ll be able to create a trustworthy network of friends and family members, forge healthier relationships and enhance your well-being. Someone who genuinely loves you will understand your boundaries and respect them or at least be open to discussing them with you.
Say your partner wants to go to a fair and jump on some really scary rides with you. You really don’t want to go. You’re scared to death, and you know you won’t be enjoying any of these terrifying rides. Eventually, you agree because you don’t want to ruin their evening and excitement, and you tell yourself that it’s ok; you’ll sacrifice your comfort and happiness for theirs. The right attitude in this situation would have been to speak up and clearly communicate about your fear. Your partner would have then known that taking you on scary rides was crossing your boundaries and encroaching on your level of comfort. And if they wanted what’s best for you, they’d have reassessed the plans and made sure you were both enjoying the activity they picked.
Let’s take another example. Say you’ve agreed to go on a date with someone you’ve met online. If they ask you out at the last minute and suggest going to a place you’re not comfortable with, make sure to communicate this to them. Let them know you like to be given a few days’ notice so that you can organize your schedule and what kind of places you like to go to. This will make for a smoother start and help you to avoid getting involved in relationships that might not be suitable for you.
Communication is key in any relationship and situation, may it be personal or professional, because it allows you to express yourself, clearly explain what your boundaries are to the other person, and ensure that, knowing your limits, they’ll be able to respect them moving forward.
So, make sure to always exercise your right to speak up, and clearly communicate about your feelings and limits.
Note that often, when disagreeing, we get emotional, and certain words can act as triggers, making us lose control. So, if that happens to you, remember that these triggers and feelings absolutely have to be addressed. You should always strive to communicate calmly and be understanding of the other in order to resolve the issue.
Remember that Boundaries Can Be Flexible
Boundaries must be agreed on by both parties involved in a relationship for them to work and help improve your well-being. While it’s important that you get your say in the relationship and that your voice is heard, it is equally important that your partner, friends, or any other loved ones feel comfortable with your boundaries too. If they’re unreasonable or too rigid, you might push the person away and lose them even though they’re really important to you. So, at times, if necessary, consider reassessing your limits.
For instance, in a romantic relationship, gratitude and personal freedom are very important concepts. If you feel trapped and uncomfortable or if your partner feels trapped and uncomfortable, you need to re-evaluate the situation and implement new boundaries. Otherwise, one of you is being held prisoner and the relationship will most likely deteriorate, ending up in a painful breakup.
Therefore, sometimes, compromises must be made. After all, that’s the essence of a healthy relationship.
So, while I encourage you to always communicate and speak up, I would also encourage you to listen and reassess your limits as you go. The idea is not to agree to everything someone else wants but rather to reestablish new boundaries that are beneficial for both of you. You must both feel comfortable and happy with these new boundaries for this relationship to be healthy and thrive.
The Key to a Successful Romantic Relationship
Establish Boundaries Together
A romantic relationship is a partnership. Each one of you is bringing something different to the table and not everything will be compatible. You both have your own beliefs and attitudes on specific topics. Yet, you also share many things in common. After all, that’s what brought you together in the first place and helped you connect to each other. Therefore, when you work on establishing these boundaries, acknowledge your partner’s contribution and strive never to judge or criticize them. Remember that these boundaries should act as a guideline or a GPS system to guide you both through a satisfying and fulfilling journey together.
So, take each day as an opportunity to learn something new about your other half and adjust to make your relationship work.
Be Open-Minded and Flexible
As mentioned above, communication is critical so, when relevant, make sure to ask for clarification or express your concerns (always diplomatically and without judging) to build strong foundations and positive boundaries.
Be grounded, in tune with yourself, clearly define your needs and wants, and be confident once you’ve established them. Then communicate about your limits in a positive, open-minded, flexible, and approachable way to build trust and help your partner process and acknowledge these boundaries.
Establishing clear boundaries in a positive and confident manner will help your partner feel comfortable with them too. Besides, being assertive and feeling empowered will allow you to deal with your partner’s response in a positive way, even though they disagree with you. You’ll then be equipped mentally and emotionally to find ways to reassess and reestablish your boundaries successfully, without losing yourself in the process.
However, even though implementing boundaries is important, don’t forget to enjoy your relationship and try to not always get stuck in boundaries. A relationship is all about self-love, curiosity, excitement, honesty, trust, intimacy, joy, and happiness. You can’t always control the outcome and living in the moment, creating wonderful and unforgettable memories together is as important as setting clear boundaries.
A Final Word of Advice
As a final word of advice, if you’ve decided to take control of your life and implement boundaries to improve your relationships, I’d encourage you to build a strong network system you can rely on. For instance, it could be an amazing friend that understands you and will support you through these changes you’ve decided to implement, sticking around no matter what.
Or it might be your partner, your coach, or your social group who are committed to holding you accountable in this process.
Changing your ways will not be an easy task. It will take a lot of effort and a lot of support to keep you grounded throughout the process and help you stick to your goal. If you want to achieve success and happiness in your relationships, you’ll need to put yourself first and keep your personal goals in mind, which can be challenging when you’ve always been putting others’ needs and goals first.
And even if you feel lost, know that someone will always be willing to help you. The most important thing is to reach out for help.
Lastly, don’t ever be afraid of doing what feels right for you. Remember that people will come and go in your life, so you should be the priority while trying to build healthy relationships with others.
And when it comes to your romantic relationship, keep in mind that a relationship grows and evolves. Love is a journey, not a destination. And even though you’re both traveling together, you’re in the driver’s seat of your life, a firm grip on the steering wheel, and can always take a different turn if you feel like it’s the best decision for you!