Boundaries: Blueprints for how others treat us

Kimberly Newcombe, LPC on Aug 23, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

If we were to talk about boundaries and how good you are at setting them, it might be hard to admit that it’s a struggle. The truth is that we have all been there. Setting firm boundaries with our friends, families, and acquaintances can be overwhelming and sometimes cause feelings of guilt or selfishness. If establishing boundaries is a difficult task for you, you are absolutely not alone. So many of us question why to bother even setting boundaries in the first place. My hope in this blog is to help you understand the importance of setting these and how helpful they can be in your life.

First, let’s talk about what boundaries are. In order for us to utilize these, we have to understand them. Boundaries are essentially a guideline or a rule that we set so that we can establish how others are able to treat us. When we set boundaries, we are telling others that we have rules, not just preferences, on how we are spoken to, what behaviors we find acceptable, and even on how we will respond when we feel like our boundaries have been overstepped. Boundaries help us establish better and more balanced relationships with our loved ones because when these guidelines are respected, we are able to recognize that the people in our lives are willing and able to treat us well and respect us.

Boundaries are also critical to our self-esteem. They may seem quite far away from one another, however, they are highly related. When we set boundaries in our lives, we are sharing with others that we respect ourselves and acknowledge that we are people that have worth and value. An example of this might be learning to say no to our loved ones if they request something of us that we feel we are not able to do. Maybe it’s something that we physically can’t do at the time or maybe it’s something that we simply don’t have the emotional capacity for because we’re human. Either way, we are sharing with others that we are also important and it is not selfish to put ourselves first.

This is an extremely challenging thing to do, especially when we are first learning how to set boundaries in our own lives. We often feel guilty or selfish for saying no to things or telling our loved ones that certain topics are inappropriate or not welcomed in conversation with us. If that is where you are currently, that’s completely okay. We all have to begin learning balance and boundaries somewhere. In fact, learning to set boundaries is a healthy way to begin working on your own self-esteem and confidence. When we feel more validated in our beliefs or confident in ourselves, setting boundaries can become significantly easier.

Lastly, let’s talk about some of the unexpected consequences setting boundaries can have. It’s so important for us to recognize that when we begin setting boundaries when previously we may have not enforced these, they can be met by resentment or upset by others. That’s okay. Those feelings that others might feel are a normal consequence because our boundaries are disrupting their sense of normalcy in how they have always treated us. The best thing we can do is stick to our boundaries, and of course, if you feel comfortable, explain to others why they have been set. If you struggle with how to do this, check out this example of something you might say if you feel you’re being disrespected as a parent:

“When you talk this way about my parenting choices, I feel hurt and disrespected. I am fully capable of making these choices on my own. From now on, I don’t want your opinion on how I’m parenting unless I specifically ask for it. If you don’t stop speaking to me like this and continue making these comments, I am going to have to leave and remove myself from the situation.”

In this example, you are fully explaining the behavior you disagree with and the emotions you are experiencing. You are also fully explaining what the consequences are if they don’t accept the boundary you’ve set. It’s a challenging task to set boundaries, but with practice, you will feel more confident and comfortable. Just remember: You are not responsible for anyone’s reaction to whatever boundary you have set; you are responsible only for setting these boundaries in the first place.

Kimberly Newcombe is a Therapist Website

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