How to set your boundaries is one of the most common questions that private and business clients come up with. What are these ‘boundaries’, and why do women in particular often find it so difficult to guard them? Sometimes the way you deal with your boundaries can stand between you and fulfilling your ambition or business success. This way you can have the feeling that you are being walked over, and that you are not seen at promotions. What can you do about it?
What Are Boundaries?
Personal boundaries show the demarcation between ourselves and the other. They come about because we identify with the one and not the other. They distinguish us and thus indicate the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual boundary between ourselves and the other.
Borders are made up of all of our values, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, experiences and lifelong learning. Think for a moment that a boundary is something like the covering of yourself. That which holds you together as yourself, like a vase holding the water together with a beautiful bunch of flowers. After all, without the vase, the flowers and water would end up on the ground. That is also the case if you do not handle your own boundaries properly. You experience how you are overwhelmed, how your energy seems to be spread over everything, how you experience little control over who you are and what you do.
You can even make yourself vulnerable to manipulation by others if you don’t represent who you are and what your want. If you experience difficulties in setting boundaries, you often do not know where ‘the you stop and the other starts’. It can be challenging to appreciate and respect yourself because you are too often and too concerned about the needs of others. And that means that you have little regard for your own needs. In other words, you struggle to maintain your own integrity. By setting your limits you could approach life from your strength, with focus and confidence.
When you talk about boundaries, you are also talking about how you experience and want to experience connection with others. Sometimes you can see when boundaries disappear. You can sometimes see that very clearly when we are absorbed into a fast moving mass of people. Suddenly we are much less of an individual and much more of a mass, a collective movement. Just think of people in a football stadium where the group identity is very strongly experienced. Personal boundaries can be dissolved through a joint, shared experience, such as in that football stadium or with a couple just in love, but it can also be through fear, violence, or hunger.
Dealing With Boundaries
Perhaps so many different people, so many different boundaries, because everyone deals with boundaries in their own way. One person will treat his / her boundaries gently, the other in a very rigid way. Women often experience dealing with boundaries in a different way than men, and that is mainly due to the different ways in which we have been socialized, in which we have learned to meet the demands placed on us from society. For example, assertiveness is often not as self-evident for women as it is for men: a woman is more often expected to be compliant, while the opposite is often expected from men.
It is often the case that we go beyond our borders because we think that everything is expected of us. It is important to note that it is usually the case that we ourselves create that expectation because we always do it that way, or through promises we make and then have to keep. It is very possible to deal with your limits in a healthy way.
Allow and keep your distance
The core of this is that you have the option of being able to switch between allowing and keeping a distance. You do this by knowing for yourself what is and what is not permissible, and then developing the necessary alertness. It is also important in all of this that you realize that if you are not used to setting your limits, it can be a challenge. After all, every time you set your limit and stand up for yourself, the other person will also be confronted with his or her limit. It may then seem as if the other is pushing back. And that is very common to experience in the beginning. Over time, others learn to accept you and therefore your limits.
It is very possible to deal with your limits in a healthy way. The key to this is that you have the option of being able to switch between allowing and keeping a distance. You do this by knowing for yourself what is and what is not permissible, and then developing the necessary alertness. Below are 10 tips for ‘better boundaries’.
10 Tips for better boundaries
- Respect for yourself : If you want others to respect your boundaries, then of course you should do that yourself. So you have to clearly define how you want others to treat you. What is acceptable and what is not? Take responsibility for who you are. Respect starts with yourself.
- Mimicry : Think of someone you truly admire in your immediate environment. He or she probably has very strong boundaries that you sometimes experience as annoying. How do they steal their limits? Observe their behavior and try out for yourself how you could set boundaries with it.
- Think first, act later : What is important to you? How do you want to be treated by others? Before you decide to let others know how you feel, take a moment to think things through. Borders are important. So write them down and think about how you are going to tell others what they are for you.
- Relax yourself : Before setting your limits, relax by taking a few deep breaths. Be aware that you are saying “YES” to yourself.
- Communicate without anger : Communicate your boundaries after thinking about them, not in the heat of a conversation! Communicate in a clear and respectful way to the other. Use language that feels best to you.
- Show yourself : Speak up if you don’t agree with something, if something isn’t right in your opinion. If you experience a certain situation as unpleasant, it is very likely that others will experience it to a greater or lesser extent. And just like you, you are also reluctant to say that, to rub someone against the hair. Every time you do speak up and show yourself you make yourself, and therefore your limits, stronger.
- Saying no, .. and explaining : If you say ‘No’ to someone, also include the reason why you said no. This makes it less harsh on the other and gives you an opportunity to show what you find important. It is important to keep in mind when you say ‘No’ that you are doing this to a request, not to the person making that request. If it is the case that you cannot say ‘no’ because the situation is too important or because you just have to say ‘yes’ then be very honest. So find a compromise that respects your boundaries and fulfills the other person’s demand.
- Win-win search : If you are faced with a last minute request that seems unavoidable, say “Yes” and attach a condition to it. So “Yes, I will, but only after I finish my work”. You can also propose another option for the other. So look for a win-win!
- Promise less and do more : When you are asked for something, promise less than you can give or do. For example, say it may take a little longer than you expect at best. Often things are delayed and you can still deliver on time, or if nothing happens and everything runs smoothly, you will be ready earlier. And the client is pleasantly surprised. Managing expectations of yourself and others is an essential part of setting boundaries.
- Teach others how to interact with you. Every day you actually let people know how you want them to interact with you. Whether you do that unconsciously or consciously. By not expressing consciously what is and what is not acceptable to you, you indicate that how they act towards you is also OK in your world. Saying ‘no’ is the easiest and fastest way to show others who you are and set your boundaries.
Do you want to set boundaries? Then of course you can do that by trying for yourself. But if you want to use some support with that, you can. For this you can request a free introductory meeting with me via the website, call me or e-mail me for an appointment. It is also possible to work on your limits through the group work that we offer.