Boundaries are an interesting topic – we love to talk about them, talk about when other people violate them, and sometimes even acknowledge that we have trouble setting them clearly. But many of us don’t really know methods for setting them effectively.
So we set boundaries awkwardly, aggressively, or not at all.
And then we get angry at, or critical of, ourselves or others for “violating boundaries” that weren’t well expressed in the first place.
What if we never learned where “I” end and “you” begin?
Maybe no one set healthy limits when we were growing up. Maybe we didn’t have any effective role models, or maybe we didn’t have support or encouragement. Or maybe we had our boundaries completely violated without our consent.There can be many reasons why we didn’t develop them, but none of those reasons actually help us move forward.
And so we find ourselves unable to say no, unable to accept when good things are meant for us; we find ourselves feeling selfish whenever we think about self-care, or we find ourselves controlling and deciding the needs for others.
But it’s not too late. Because setting healthy boundaries is a skill. It’s a skill that can be learned and adjusted as needed. Our boundaries adapt depending on the situation, yet revolve around our central values.
Boundary work requires practice. So how do we start? Maybe with these 3 As of healthy boundaries.
The 3 A’s of setting healthy boundaries
The first step in any healing and learning process is becoming aware of where we currently are, and what we want to learn or heal. In what situations are you allowing others to control you? In what situations are you trying to control (protect and rescue included!) others? How does this impact your life?
In order to make any changes in our lives, we have to take action. We can be aware of all kinds of things, but unless we take steps to heal and learn new skills, we will get stuck just living in the same routine. What new steps can you take today to make changes? And can you allow yourself to do these steps imperfectly as you practice and learn?
If you have trouble letting go or saying no, then you have to know that about yourself, and be gentle with yourself. Learning a new skill isn’t easy – imagine you were going to start learning the piano today… would you be a master of it tomorrow? Accept that this is an area of work in your life, and promise to be kind to yourself, and others as you practice.