Boundaries essentially mean that you call the shots. You choose what your limits are, and when someone pushes them, no matter who that person is, you say enough is enough. That doesn’t make me seem like a bitch, right? So why do boundaries always get such a bad rap?
It’s way easier said than done because every relationship and emotional limit is situational, but that doesn’t mean we have to take bullshit and let others control our lives for their benefit.
I know what you’re thinking. Cutting someone out of your life? All because they cross the line? Setting boundaries can seem selfish. But think about it this way: we can’t pour from an empty cup. Being “selfless” can drain you of everything you have to give. You are allowed to have ground rules for your relationships. You are allowed to have morals and values that you hold to a certain standard. You do NOT have to be walked all over like a doormat.
I’ve set boundaries and had good outcomes. They’ve allowed me to identify my values and understand what it means to lean into them. I’ve gotten more confident in saying no and disappointing others in order to protect my integrity. And guess what? The people who love me for who I am still love me! I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t have to please anyone. I am able to live life as my true self and embrace that.
I’ve also set boundaries that have hurt other people. But if those people are outraged that you set boundaries that fall in line with your values, maybe they shouldn’t be your friend or partner? If your values are the limit for them, is that enough for you to say goodbye? Your integrity matters, and it can only be achieved if you align your life to your values and live accordingly.
Setting boundaries can be painful. It can really freaking hurt. Truly. But the boiling point of setting boundaries in my relationships brought up this blaring question: if I wouldn’t let someone I choose to be in my life (a boyfriend, a friend) treat me this way, why would I let someone I didn’t choose (a family member, a colleague) treat me this way?
Do yourself a favor and set boundaries. Here are some thought-starters to begin the process.
Know your values.
You get to decide who is in your life, and you get to decide the standard to hold them to. What do you value? What are your core beliefs? Positivity, justice, equality? Why are you letting your racist Uncle Joe rant on Facebook when your fundamental value is that everyone is equal? Unfriend or unfollow him! Or maybe your values are support, love, and laughter. What about your friend Megan, who is total negative-Nancy, never picks up the phone, cancels all plans, and only laughs when she’s laughing at you? Goodbye Meg. Know your values and see who fits accordingly.
Good girls CAN say no.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wincing at the idea of calling out your Uncle Joe for being a total racist. Really question why you feel that way. Chances are, someone in your life has made you feel that setting boundaries made you a bad person. “Good girls don’t say no!” Good girls say yes ma’am and sir and do what they are told. Sound familiar? It’s so ingrained in us that when we are afraid to live into to our core beliefs. Stop being so afraid to disappoint others. You’re only disappointing yourself.
You are in control of your relationships.
Maybe you won’t be friends with someone who takes the Lord’s name in vain. I respect that. Maybe equality matters too much to be friends with racists and homophobes, however subtle it may be through micro-aggressions. It could also be something simple, like the fact that you don’t like people who judge others or lie or are disrespectful. You get to decide who is in your life and how far you let them go before enough is enough. A relationship is a two-way street. Don’t let them determine the values you stand up for because it’s better for them.
Let your people know how their actions make you feel.
If you don’t communicate what upsets you, they will never know. There’s a chance that if someone is walking all over you, it’s because you let them at some point. There’s also a chance that this person respects and loves you, and they have no idea they’re hurting you. Setting boundaries doesn’t have to have a negative outcome. COMMUNICATE. Lack of communication kills everything.
Hold them accountable.
Yes, people can change. And I hope they do! It’s never fun cutting people out of your life. But if you go against your word and tell them that a boundary doesn’t matter anymore because you miss them, they’re going to continue to do it again and again until your word means nothing. That’s you looking them in the face and saying “you matter more than my values.” WTF is that?! Respect your damn self.
Boundaries are a reflection of you.
If you can’t set boundaries for the people that you love, and you keep people that you don’t love in your life, what does that say about you? What does that say about what you value? To me, it says clearly that you don’t value yourself. Stop letting people walk all over you because you’re too afraid to set some ground rules in your relationships. Set boundaries with yourself if you have to. Understand and believe that you are worth setting boundaries.
You are worth having alone time if you need it. You are worth saying no if you need to. You are worth explaining how you feel. You are worthy of having feelings and values and guiding principles in your life. Respect yourself enough to let others respect you. You deserve that.