What comes to mind when you think or hear of the word boundaries? What are the boundaries you hold and how do you articulate to other's what those boundaries are?
These are the questions I often ask when working with clients. Oftentimes client's are unsure exactly what their boundaries are. However, client's will usually say something to the sort of "I know I have them, but not really sure how to word them or talk about them."
Well, this is a great conversation to have, because without knowing how to communicate what your boundaries are then it is even more difficult to know when someone has crossed the lines. Helping others to think of their boundaries as someone crossing the line meaning- they have went into the zone of what is unacceptable to you, violating the rules you have for yourself. This could be in terms of asking personal questions, violating personal space or unwanted touch or conversations that are not okay for you.
It is important to understand what you stand for and how certain things make you feel. Boundaries are not to restrict you in anyway, and instead should be viewed as making space for what is healthy and safe for you. It allows more clarity in your life and a better sense of control and holding yourself and others accountable.
Assertiveness is key to enforcing your boundaries. Let us be mindful that assertiveness and aggressiveness are two separate words and have two separate connotations. One can be assertive and not show any aggression. It is basically owning the "I" statements and articulating yourself. A lack of boundaries however, may lead to aggressiveness or passive aggressiveness. Also, a lack of boundaries could leave you feeling drained, unimportant confused and even violated, which perpetuates unhealthy relationships.
Spending time with your feelings is also a good idea. For instance when something happens and you are unsure how you felt about it, allow yourself to sit with that and reflect on if there were any potential boundary violation. Therefore, the next time you may be in a similar situation it will help you know how to handle it more effectively. This is not to say be on guard in all potential situations. This is more to say be prepared for how you will effectively communicate were you stand without feeling blame. Feeling guilty or regretful are often normal when you first begin to implement your boundaries, especially with those who are close to you. However, it is also important to remember that boundaries are essential for any healthy relationship to function.
Remember, that anytime you are starting something new it may feel awkward and unnatural at first. Continue to assert yourself and it may be helpful to start in small increments. Showing yourself kindness and compassion while being mindful that feelings of guilt may be normal, and that does also does not equate that you are "wrong". Self-awareness is key and being conscious about potential situations are also key to holding effective boundaries. When unsure about where you stand with your boundaries, it is okay to pause, take time and reflect on your true feelings.... Remember, you are taking charge of your life and that is beautiful...
As always my best,
Shatara Sheppard, LPCA