It’s important to set healthy boundaries and state when something isn’t ok for you. Even more, if you a giver. Because the takers usually don’t set boundaries for you. With this exercise, you’ll learn how to set boundaries and make sure they are respected.
Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most important – and hard to do – things you can do for yourself. It’s important because when our needs are overlooked by ourselves or others, we feel a strong sense of discomfort and even rage. And as women, we even learnt how to repress rage and avoid being considered high-maintenance. When this happens, it’s important to acknowledge our feelings and act on them.
Failing in recognising our needs can cost us a lot (believe me, it costed me a burn-out in the past). When we fail in doing so, we experience pain because our needs aren’t meet and we send out a message about how our needs don’t matter and they can be ignored by ourselves and others. You see how nothing good comes from this behaviour.
When we do that, we set the standard for others on how to treat us. This is especially dangerous if you are a generous person with a tendency to give. Because you may meet people that are takers and if you don’t set the limits – and make sure they are respected – you may involuntarily open the door to all sorts of abuse.
I know that setting limits is hard if deep down you doubt about your self-worth and you learnt that you have to make with what comes. That’s why I prepared this exercise for you, to help you to protect yourself and make sure you are surrounded by people who respect you.
SET YOUR LIMITS
The first step to set healthy boundaries is to know your limits. Once you know them, you can protect them and recognise when you are reaching the limit in a situation.
- What is for you being treated respectfully?
- What is for you being treated disrespectfully?
- If you focus for a moment on the last time you were treated disrespectfully, how did you feel and what were the alarm bells that rang?
- Was there a message that your body was sending to you and you didn’t listen to it?
- How did you decide to react in that situation and what was the consequence of your decision?
MAKE A DECISION
We make decisions all the time, even when we aren’t conscious about them. It’s important that you make a decision about what’s good and what’s bad for you, for all the aspects of your life.
Select one of the aspects, for instance your professional life. Create a table in your notebook. In the column, write the following aspects of your life:
And in the rows, write your level of tolerance: desired, acceptable, tolerable, intolerable.
Now fill the cells with your level of physical tolerance, emotional tolerance and so on. While doing this exercise, notice when discomfort and resentment start to plug-in: this is the information about the limit. You decide how much discomfort it’s ok for you to feel and how much is not. Once this is done for all the aspects of your life, you’ll easily recognise toxic situations and being aware of what’s happening is the first step to learn new ways to respond.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Once you’ve gained some awareness about your limits, you can speak up to ensure others understand where the line is. It’s common to experience fear, guilt or self-doubt and holding yourself back from speaking up for the fear of the consequences. But consider that there’s no good reason to keep having your needs unmet.
Communicating your boundaries to other people is a very important step. It may not be the easiest conversation to have, but you can tune into your feelings and talk about how a specific behaviour crossed a boundary for you. It’s important to focus on how you felt instead of what the other person did, without judging nor attacking. With many people you’ll be able to work out a solution and with others – the ones that are not willing to respect your boundaries – you always have the choice to walk away.
It’s time to make yourself important for you. I hope this helped.