HOW TO PRACTICE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES WITHOUT GUILT

Are you a people pleaser who agrees to do things that you really don’t want to do? Do you find it difficult to stand up for yourself?Do you allow insulting, off-hand remarks from pushy, aggressive people because you fear the consequences or potential conflict? Are you oversensitive and take things personally?

These are common internal conflicts we experience by not having healthy boundaries in our life. In my experience of coaching my lovely female clients, I have noticed various feelings that accompany inability to enforce healthy boundaries, whether that’s in their dating life, their relationships with family, friends, children, or in their business. These are:
• A lack of self-care and balance in their lives,
• Losing their inner compass,
• Low self-confidence,
• Living with fears which are holding them back,
• Regular self-doubt and negative self-talk.

Long-term consequences of not having healthy boundaries shouldn’t be dismissed or underestimated. They can lead to burnout, stress, depression, resentment, and low self-esteem. People who lack personal boundaries struggle to find joy of life, start feeling like a martyr, lose their dignity and self-esteem. It keeps them from achieving their dreams and prioritising their own resources. Finally, they struggle creating respectful relationships.

The lasting positive impact of practising healthy boundaries include becoming a better friend and partner, focusing on the most important priorities, self-care and self-love, higher trust and, and more authentic communication. It’s worthwhile to remember that healthy boundaries are not selfish or unkind. Guilt is behind our inability to enforce healthy boundaries. It’s a waste of energy, and has no purpose except to keep you stuck.

At the same time, it is not the responsibility of others to understand your boundaries (to read your mind). Be mindful of making assumptions. Here are some helpful reminders to practice healthy boundaries daily:

• “No” isn’t a Dirty Word. It’s powerful!

• It’s your right to say something isn’t OK with you. Remember: boundaries don’t create themselves, you have to set them.

• You’re in charge of maintaining your boundaries when they’re crossed. It may mean creating distance or stepping away from a friendship or a relationship.

• It isn’t about being aggressive or unkind, it’s about being assertive and honest in a respectful way. It’s ineffective to decide boundaries in anger or frustration. You need to set them for your life in advance, and adjust with experience and practice.

People with healthy boundaries will understand and respect you because they practice them daily in their lives without drama. People who don’t respect your boundaries, are showing you what they want is more important than what you want.

Where do you begin? First of all, practise what you’re going to say out loud in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend or partner. Let them know that you’re practising to speak up when something is bothering you, and it may feel awkward at first. When a situation arises, do it directly, respectfully, without anger, and with as few words as possible. Don’t explain yourself or apologise. Keep it respectful and on point.
Focus on progress, not perfection. Go at your pace in your own time. Be patient and encouraging with yourself. Remember that some people will test you, so be prepared and expect it. Avoid being drawn into an argument. Don’t reciprocate, stay firm, assertive, avoid anger and walk away if you must.

Your behaviour has to match the boundary that you’re setting. You can’t undo it with actions or words that say you don’t have to respect my boundaries. Mixed messages sabotage your limits.

I encourage you to make a list of all the areas of your life you need to begin implementing healthier boundaries. Then chose three of your high priority areas to start in the next two weeks.

The extended version of this article including tips to overcome guilt is available here.