HEALTHY BOUNDARIES: IMPORTANT DO’S & DON'TS

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A scenario I see on a regular basis with my coaching clients who are lacking self confidence, is an issue with boundaries. This issue involves two specific challenges;

  1. They find it difficult to set & manage personal boundaries, meaning their relationships lack authenticity and freedom.

  2. They have a misunderstanding of what ‘boundaries’ mean, leading to disappointment & over expectation on others.

Today I’d like to talk about these two key areas, as they can be integral to helping someone rebuild their self confidence, as well as the cause of a lot of angst in relationships.

When self confidence is lacking, our relationships are often an area which takes a big hit from the side effects + behaviors that arise when we’re lacking self-worth. Therefore it’s extremely common for someone lacking confidence, to feel very dissatisfied, unhappy & confused about some, or many of their relationships. This is exactly why I want to talk through these specific two key challenges and share my recommendations on how you can begin making changes in your perceptions and your actions.

CHALLENGE ONE:

SETTING, MANAGING & MAINTAINING PERSONAL BOUNDARIES

Often when clients come to me and share that they have trouble setting and managing boundaries, it’s for the simple fact that they haven’t actually asked themselves ‘what their boundaries are’, let alone being able to clearly communicate them to others. What they do know is that they lack boundaries, meaning they spend much of their time:

  • Serving & honoring other people's needs before their own

  • Feeling frustrated that others never think about them or put them first

  • Allowing others to dictate the terms of relationships based on their own needs and molding to this to be seen as a ‘good-person’

  • Feeling resentful for others’ selfish behavior

  • Being a people pleaser

  • Feeling drained

  • Unable to focus or prioritize their own goals + needs

And all of these scenarios often contribute to lacking self-confidence. Now the thing that’s most important to understand is that in order for us to create healthy boundaries, we have to take baby steps.

This begins with these four key steps;

STEP 1) ASK OURSELVES WHAT OUR BOUNDARIES ARE & LEARN WHY THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT TO US

STEP 2) BE CLEAR ON WHAT THE CONSEQUENCE WILL BE SHOULD A BOUNDARY NOT BE HONORED

STEP 3) WHEN YOUR BOUNDARIES ARE VIOLATED; CLEARLY, WITH A LOVING INTENTION, COMMUNICATE IT TO THE NECESSARY PEOPLE

STEP 4) BE WILLING TO ACTION THE CONSEQUENCE IF THE BOUNDARY IS NOT HONORED THE NEXT TIME AROUND

It’s important to be aware that if you are someone who has had limited boundaries for a long period of time, it may take people a while to get used to this new part to your relationship. Do not see this as a negative - change takes time. And you consistently honoring your clearly communicated boundary, will show them that you mean what you say and that this boundary really matters to you.

Here is an example so that you can understand how this might play out.

I had a client who was extremely frustrated, on a regular basis, that her mother in law would show up at her house, without invitation or a heads up, to see the children.  She would often not even knock - just letting herself in through the back gate and appearing from no-where. While there, she would also often clean up around the house.

This was driving my client insane. She felt her mother-in-law was exceeding her boundaries. She felt she was being rude by always cleaning the house; suggesting my client couldn’t do it herself and she felt her mother in law was behaving this way through entitlement as the only Grandmother to her children.

My client had reached a stage where she was unable to be herself around her mother-in-law as she was just doing her best to stay polite and not tell her what she really thought. Now the thing is, my client had never shared what her boundaries were with visitations and how her mother in law could behave in her home; meaning the mother-in-law was completely unaware of how her daughter in-law felt.

The Mother in law may have felt she was doing her daughter in law and big favor helping out so much? Or perhaps the mother in law didn’t care for her Daughter in law’s point of view and she liked that she was able to just do as she pleased. But either way, she had never been told, therefore it was not her problem to fix!

My client that we’re discussing, needed to follow the four key steps to starting making changes to this scenario and this is how it went:

STEP 1

She needed to ask herself what the boundaries were & why they were so important to her:

The boundaries were:

  1. To not just show up any time she wanted at the house to visit the children. This was important to her because she often had a busy schedule, as it derailed the day, as well as made her feel on edge in her own home.

  2. To not clean the house when she is there, as it’s not her job to clean their home and she wants cleaning left to her or their cleaner.


STEP 2

She needed to be clear on what the consequence will be should a boundary not be honored

  1. Once the mother in law has been told of the boundary - If she just shows up without calling ahead first or giving prior notice, she won’t be able to come in and spend time with the children and it will need to be scheduled for another day or time.

  2. If she begins cleaning the house, she would let her know that you will need to start conducting all get togethers at her mother in laws house, to avoid her feeling compelled to clean the house.  


STEP 3

She needed to clearly, with a loving intention, communicate this to her mother in law (but only if and when the boundary had been violated)

With a loving intention” is super important here! Often when someone has had poor/little boundaries with someone or in their life, they start implementing them as though the other person is being reprimanded. Remember, the fact that YOU have had poor boundaries until now, isn’t there fault!

So take a step back and realize you are doing this to help improve a relationship and the best way to do that is to have a loving intention and outcome in mind. If you communicate your new boundary with this in mind, it is far more likely to be well received by the other party. That being said, we also aren’t in control of how other people will feel and react. And how other people feel isn’t our responsibility either. So if someone reacts in a highly offended way to your ‘lovingly intended’ new request, you need to be okay with that too. We can’t make everyone happy. And going back to having poor boundaries in order to try and please others, is not an option either; as it only makes us resentful & insincere. This is necessary if we want to start living life in alignment to our own needs & values.


STEP 4

She needed to be willing to action the consequence when the boundary was not honored the next time around.

This is often the hardest part , especially for recovering people pleasers.  BUT it is essential if you truly want to have this boundary honored in your life & if you want to show the relevant people that this is how you want to be treated from here on in. So in the scenario shared about my client & her mother in-law, this is what parts 3 & 4 looked like --

(COMMUNICATE BOUNDARY)

“Hi Pam, I need to ask you to do something for me. Recently you have been popping over to the house quite regularly during the week to visit the children.  We absolutely love your visits, however, because I never know you are coming, they often derail my day. I haven’t said anything until now as we do really enjoy you coming over, but I realize that I’m getting to the end of my week and I haven’t been able to do all that I want to. So I want to ask if you can ring ahead of time, before you pop over. That way I can see if we have time to hang out together or if not we can schedule it for a more convenient time. Is that okay?”

(COMMUNICATE CONSEQUENCE)

“This would mean a lot to me. I’d just hate for you to come all the way over to our house and for me to have to say “sorry, but not today” & to ask you come back another day instead”.

My client has now clearly communicated her need and boundary. She has shared it with a loving intention and she has shared what will happen if that boundary isn’t honored.

Her mother in law did show up a week later, unannounced, and my client had to ask her (with love) to leave and to reschedule for another day. Just to be clear this was extremely hard for my client to do. It felt unnatural, it felt mean, it felt difficult. But it also felt very freeing as she knew she had just honored herself and been honest & authentic with her Mother-in-law in the process.  

So ask yourself, where in your life do you feel you either lack boundaries or have boundaries pushed or violated by others. Once you are clear on where the issues are, take yourself through this four step process and recognize how your relationships AND self confidence both begin to improve.

CHALLENGE TWO:

MISUNDERSTANDING OF WHAT ‘BOUNDARIES’ MEAN

On many occasions I’ve had clients share with me that ‘other people’ in there life are not honoring their boundaries and when asked what boundaries these are, they share examples such as:

  • They do not return their phone calls on a regular basis

  • They regularly forget their birthday and this causes resentment

  • They often speak to them in a bossy nature

  • They are regularly late for meetings

  • They rarely reach out - meaning the relationship is one sided

Now these may, to many of you, sound like boundary issues - but in fact they are not. They are specific expectations you have about your relationships, which involve you trying to control someone else’s behavior toward you.

The core difference I want you to understand about Boundaries vs Expectations is;

  • A boundary is there to protect a core value, a core human need, to keep you safe and secure.

  • Expectations are often the unwritten, unspoken rules & guidelines we have for many of our relationships, of how we would like to be treated by others.

Having someone respect your personal space, emotional health needs, and core values, is where we need to create healthy boundaries. If someone violates these boundaries, often our mental, emotional & physical health can be threatened. In the example I shared above, the client needed to create a ‘boundary’ as it was her ‘home’, a place that most of us hold as a space to be safe & secure, and it was being entered without invitation or permission.   

Having someone be a ‘good’ friend, remember birthdays, call you regularly, or for a husband to take the trash out, do the laundry, call the in laws more regularly… this is an expectation we are putting on others. And there is nothing wrong with having expectations and communicating these with others BUT we aren’t in control of how others behave; nor should we try to be; or start creating various consequences if they don’t behave how WE want them to.

We can definitely explain our hopes and expectations of these individuals, but we should not hang our happiness on whether or not they action these. This is not in our control! Our happiness needs to be driven from our own actions. If you have a friend who regularly disappoints you, then you can talk to them about this if you wish, but you are not in control of changing their behavior, right? So do not place your happiness on an outcome you have zero control over.

The next time you tell yourself that you NEED to get better at boundaries -- ask yourself, “is it really a boundary” issue, or do you have some firm expectations of others which you need to review? I’d love to hear your thoughts on implementing boundaries.


Success stories, current challenges…
& any questions, please share them below!

Rebecca sparksComment