My little sister is screaming “NO” on top of her lungs, and I do not care. We are on a car trip and my sister, 6, and I, 10, have the backseat to ourselves. We have a well constructed boundary between us and I am slowly but surly taking up more than my half of the backseat. Totally ignoring our agreed upon boundary I am making myself comfortable by sticking my whole foot over on her side. Making her wrong for enforcing her boundary. Luckily she has since forgiven me for that incident as well as the countless times I crossed her lines.
Being around family this summer has made me recognize how grateful I am to be in a family that have learned how to set clear boundaries and communicate cleanly about them. It sure makes being together less stressful and so much more fun!
Boundaries are those invisible lines you create around yourself that let people know the limits of what they can say or do around you. And that also alerts you to when someone is crossing your boundary. When the energy of anger is rising in you, it is a sure sign that your boundaries have been violated. When you make your boundaries too solid you build walls, when you make them too weak or pliable you allow others’ actions to harm you. Boundaries needs to be communicated, conflict often arise when we assume others knows our boundaries.
Take a few minutes to find out how well constructed your boundaries are.
How many of these statements are true for you?
- I start statements with “I” rather than “you” or “we.” This lets me own what I say and is less defensive than “you,” and more clean than “we.”
- My boundaries are specific and clear: “I don’t accept phone calls after 10 p.m.,” rather than the vague and mushy: “Don’t call me too late.”
- I’m consistent when I create boundaries. If I say “no phone calls after 10 p.m.,” I don’t make exceptions unless the situation is exceptional.
- When people attempt to cross my boundaries, I don’t assume the worst (they don’t care, they weren’t paying attention, they’re selfish and inconsiderate); I simply restate my position.
- As soon as I realize I’m in a situation that might be headed for trouble, I announce my boundary: “I won’t continue talking with you if you raise your voice at me.”
- When people refuse to respect my boundaries, I walk away rather than get into a situation that could escalate and I say why I’m leaving.
- I try to avoid situations and people where I know my boundaries will be continually tested.
- I don’t take responsibility for how others respond to my boundaries. If someone feels resentment because I didn’t wait when she was twenty minutes late for our appointment, I don’t try to make it okay for her.
- I respect others’ boundaries and ask for clarification when I’m not certain of limits. “May I talk to you about business after hours?”
- I let people know when I have reconsidered a boundary. “It used to be okay for you to be late, but now…”
- I believe that everyone has to create his or her own boundaries. What’s okay for me might not work for someone else.
When you hold your boundaries firm, they can help make life easier, reduce conflict and improve relationships. Plus, they’re a real self-esteem booster. When you know how to set healthy boundaries, you also become an agent of your own life. You get to choose when to move your boundary to accommodate someone else and when not to! It is a powerful feeling to know where YOUR invisible lines are.
If you answered true to fewer than 6 of these questions, you might need some help with boundaries. I have some free sessions available at www.meetme.so/KarinGreen this summer and I’d love to explore with you how to tap in to the deeper joy of self discovery.