The Happee Times
Invest In Your Happiness
DO BOUNDARIES HOLD THE POWER TO TRANSFORM OUR RELATIONSHIPS?
Our houses have guarding, they might have fences, they have doors and locks. We decide who gets to enter our space. A house without boundaries is unsafe.
Do we all agree?
As human beings, we have boundaries too. Not doors, locks, or fences, we have physical, emotional, social and spiritual boundaries. Boundaries, as a concept, are ambiguous but we all use it. They are simply “limits”. Limits that we set between others and ourselves.
What others can say to you and what they can’t
The amount of effort you would want to put and invest in your relationships
What behaviours are acceptable to you
What level of physical proximity you’re comfortable with
What topics you feel comfortable or uncomfortable talking about
Things that you can say no to based on your ability and availability at the moment
Not mind reading and being able to communicate as well as expecting open communication from the other end
These examples only scratch the surface of what boundaries can look like. They are subjective and take various shapes and forms in different relationships.
Keep reading to see if you relate to any of the signs that indicate a lack of boundaries.
Lack of boundaries in relationships could show up as the following:
Oversharing and regretting it later
Not being able to say no to anything or experiencing guilt when you do
Always entertaining others’ needs before your own, even if it takes a toll on you
Often attracting people who try to take control of the relationship or dominate you
Not being able to communicate even when you don’t feel good about someone’s words or actions towards you
Putting in more effort than you’re getting
Feeling responsible for others’ mood, etc.
Now that we know the “what” (what are boundaries? & and what do a lack of them show up as?) it's time for the infamous “why”
Why do we tend to lose boundaries?
A tendency to please people often leads to weak boundaries. This is because when we try to please people, we put all their needs before ours. Our fear of rejection leads us to agreeing with them even when we disagree. This shows up as low self-esteem resulting in poor boundaries.
Similar is the situation with a tendency to seek validation. We all like to be validated, it’s a direct consequence of us being social beings. But validation seeking becomes a problem when its only source is external. This in turn leads to people pleasing behaviors and lack of healthy boundaries.
Another cause could be our belief systems. Some of us are brought up with the belief that we need to always maintain peace with others and that disagreeing with someone is rude. In such situations we fear to communicate what we truly feel and hence never move towards asserting our boundaries.
An empathetic individual with an added faulty belief system and lack of self-awareness is another recipe for poor boundaries. When we are sensitive to others’ emotions, we might always feel responsible to take care of them, even when we don’t hold the capacity to. In such situations, it is important to have boundaries to safeguard one’s own health as well as the relationship.
Lastly, fear of abandonment and a low self-esteem can lead to us uttering the word “yes” more than required. If one fears losing someone, they would do anything but give them a reason to do so. In this process, they break down all their boundaries and might even let the other person walk all over them.
Well, I’m sure you now realize that the concept of boundaries is indeed complex and it sounds like a chore. So, what’s in it for you? What improvements would you see through this process?
How our quality of life shoots up as we begin to set healthy boundaries.
Setting boundaries can feel like a daunting experience. Many people tend to speak about how setting boundaries, initially felt like they were doing something wrong, like they were being selfish or harming their relationships.
But they also shared that they saw the following improvements soon after:
A better and stronger relationship with self: boundary setting starts with self-awareness and forming a relationship with oneself. You get to ask yourself what feels right and what feels wrong to you. Enhances knowledge about oneself and standing up for yourself feels like care. It feels like you’re honoring yourself and addressing your needs better.
Healthier and longer lasting relationships: any relationship, be it romantic or not, requires effort, communication or understanding. We might feel like we’re keeping the peace by not addressing something that we felt hurt about but the reality is that the bitterness shows up somehow. All the uncommunicated thoughts turn into resentment and end up harming the relationship. Hence, being open about how you feel, what your needs and expectations are, etc. contributes to a longer and healthier relationship.
Managing expectations: a fundamental principle in boundary setting is communication. This communication needs to be open, transparent, and direct. It is so important for us to communicate our expectations with others and also know what they expect, to be able to reach a ground
that works for both parties. Trust me! Not all humans can mind-read.
So, communication is key.
Preventing fatigue and burnout: a significant cause of burnout is a lack of boundaries. Not having boundaries at work could look like; taking on extra work even when you know you won’t be able to manage it, not being able to say no to your superiors, feeling resentful towards others but never letting them know, etc. Taking on more than one can lead to fatigue and possible burnout. Having boundaries will make you feel in control and prevent burnout.
Enhanced well-being: having boundaries feels like a breath of fresh air. It creates space for you to think about yourself and your relationships and to focus on what you want to prioritize Setting healthy boundaries improves our mental as well as physical health.
How to set boundaries?
Boundary setting is extremely subjective. How we set boundaries depends on our situation, our personality, the person we’re dealing with, our relationship to them, etc.
So, it’s best to understand this through an example:
Pooja and Sonam have been friends for a couple of months. Their friendship is getting stronger day by day but there’s some discomfort that they both feel. This discomfort arises from the fact that Sonam feels like she puts in more effort into the friendship, she calls and texts Pooja every day. On the other hand, Pooja, being an introvert, quickly runs out of social energy but also feels guilty about not taking the effort to call Sonam often.
How did Pooja and Sonam handle this situation?
Sonam opened the conversation, stating that there is a lack of effort from Pooja’s end. Being well aware of her time and capacity, Pooja communicated that after her work day, she feels exhausted and runs out of social energy. This is why she doesn’t call Sonam often.
Sonam stated that it feels like a lack of effort to her. She also stated that every time this happens, she fears that their friendship is getting impacted.
Pooja’s guilt was heightened after she heard what Sonam had to say. She realised that she hadn’t set her boundaries or communicated well with her friend.
They both acknowledged the situation and understood each other. They decided to come to a compromise where Pooja would make time to call Sonam at least twice a week and Sonam would set her own boundaries regarding her efforts.
Pooja set the boundary about what someone could make her feel guilty about. She also conveyed that her not calling her friend does not mean that their friendship is towards the low now.
She reinforced this by making sure to call her twice a week and spending quality time with her. She also made sure to show up on occasions that are important to her friend.
This also helped Sonam to understand that Pooja did not have any bad intentions. They came to a middle ground and the communication strengthened their friendship even more.
Through this situation, the process of boundary setting becomes clearer. But this is only one situation. We set, use, and reinforce boundaries throughout our lives in several situations.
So, here’s what we can work on for being able to form healthy boundaries:
Self-awareness: boundaries and comfort look different for different people. It’s totally subjective. An action or behaviour could feel like violation for some and totally normal for others. Hence, the only way to begin setting healthy boundaries is to become aware of where you stand. Reflect on things like what are you comfortable with, what behaviours are acceptable to you and what isn’t, what you’re comfortable talking about, etc.
Open and clear communication: the next step after self-awareness is communication. Unless you communicate that certain behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable, the other person won’t know. It is unfair to expect something from someone if you haven't communicated the same with them. Hence, clear and open communication is key.
Being assertive: while you communicate, practice being assertive. Communication assertively means that you communicate your message or beliefs confidently, without harming others but also holding your stance. Individuals who aren’t assertive might feel like they’re being rude to others when they state their beliefs and this is a common experience. At the same time, It is important to understand the difference between the two.
Expressing your emotions: on the same lines of clear communication, it is essential that one expresses their emotions. There are so many times when our loved ones tell us how they felt about a situation, much later after the situation had occurred. And it occurs to us that we had no idea that they were feeling this way. The same applies to us. Unless you show and tell others what you’re feeling, firstly, they won’t know and secondly, they won’t be able to alter their behaviour accordingly.
Self-worth: like mentioned before, a low sense of self can have a major role in us letting others violate our boundaries. Hence, working on your self-esteem and confidence is a prerequisite to practising assertiveness in enforcing our boundaries with others.
“The more you value yourself, the healthier your boundaries are” – Lorraine Nilon
The art of saying no: this is much talked about but still one of the most difficult artforms. Many of us struggle with saying no. “No, I can’t go out tomorrow, I need to rest”, “No, I can’t take up any other work currently”, “No, I feel differently about this situation”. Why is it so difficult to say this two-alphabet word “no”? It is because saying so, we fear that the other person could misunderstand us, perceive us as uptight, rude or rigid. It is important to understand that saying no is actually the secret to longevity; longevity of relationships, self-preservation, avoiding burnout in work, etc.
Using more I statements: a very practical way of setting boundaries is using more “I” statements while communicating about them. While reinforcing a physical boundary, instead of saying “You’re standing too close to me”, saying “I am not comfortable with your standing so close to me” proves to be more effective. This could be because with “I”, we’re able to state that we have certain beliefs and would like to stand by them, we don’t blame the other person directly and we’re able to be assertive.
Respecting others’ boundaries: working on the simple principle of reciprocation, treat others the way you want to be treated. The more you respect others’ boundaries, the more they will feel comfortable in your presence and do the same for you.
If one has never been familiar with boundary setting, it can feel uncomfortable at first. It could even feel as if you’re been selfish but replace the term “selfish” with “self-preservation”. Boundaries ensure that we feel heard and comfortable. They are actually a recipe for healthy and long-lasting relationships.
In another perspective, when it comes to relationships, one also needs to understand that boundaries are permeable. They aren’t walls so they needn’t be rigid. Shaping a compromise and forming a common ground that is acceptable to both parties and also respectful of boundaries on both sides is what works practically.
Boundaries can also look different with different people, based on the nature of the relationship, how close you are with them, what is the situation we’re talking about, etc. To understand this better, taking this topic up with your therapist proves to be a fruitful idea.
In conclusion, we could say that the answer to the question posed by the title of this article is a certain and strong YES.