Although healthy boundaries are important, not everyone grows up in a family that teaches it or practices it. In cases of abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction, or narcissistic behaviors, healthy boundaries do not exist. Most toxic environments lack empathy, compassion, and boundaries.
Of course, this is why some people are challenged as adults to form their own boundaries. They may feel as if they are undeserving of proper treatment. They may have been brainwashed to think that they're a bad person. Or they may simply not know how to make boundaries and how to implement it into their life.
The first step to creating healthy boundaries is to build awareness and to listen to that soft voice within you. Ask yourself these crucial questions:
- What are my morals, beliefs, and values?
- What are my gut instincts telling me?
- Do I give myself permission to say no to others?
- Or do I feel obligated to cave into their unrealistic demands?
- Am I a people-pleaser?
- Do I practice self-love, self-respect, and self-care?
- Can I learn to assert myself and honor who I am as a human being?
- Do I seek approval and acceptance from others? If so, is this preventing me from having healthy boundaries?
Once you determine what your standards are, which is your internal GPS, you can then set your own boundaries based on your needs, values, beliefs, and morals. Know that your healthy boundaries are not selfish. Rather, it's a big part of respecting yourself, loving yourself, and honoring your unique strengths.
By being clear and concise about your boundaries, you are verbally and non-verbally telling others how you want to be treated, what you will do, and what you won't tolerate. For example, if you communicate to a new friend that there’s topics of discussion, which you are not willing to talk about, but they constantly bring up these topics, you can tell them you’re not having that conversation.
Walk away without an explanation. If they keep harassing you about these sensitive topics, you can choose to re-evaluate your friendship. Do you really want to be friends with someone who disregards your boundaries? Are you willing to lose your peace and sanity by keeping this person in your life? It's your choice. You may consider ending the relationship.
Please understand that your boundaries do matter. It can benefit you by improving your overall emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Having boundaries and standing firm by them can prevent future chaos, miscommunication, and stress. By being clear and concise about your boundaries, you are verbally and non-verbally telling others how you want to be treated, what you will do, and what you won't tolerate.
Be aware in advance that toxic people are going to test your boundaries. You can be certain that from time to time you may encounter someone who oversteps your boundaries. They will disregard your wishes. They will not respect you, nor your healthy boundaries. You cannot fix them. You can’t change them.
If you want others to respect you and your boundaries, it’s up to you to enforce them. When someone oversteps them, you have the choice to show them to the door. It may mean distancing yourself from this person. Or it can lead to going full no contact, due to their lack of valuing you, loving you, and treating you respectfully.
How to build better boundaries and maintain them:
- Internal GPS: Know your limits and standards. Consider what you will and won't accept. Define behaviors that you will not tolerate, such as name calling, gaslighting, and physical, mental, or sexual abuse. Your internal GPS is your inner guide. It's alerting you to someone crossing your boundaries.
- Tune into Yourself: Ask yourself how you are feeling when someone says something or does something to you. Is this making you feel uncomfortable? Anxious? Resentful? Stressed out? If so, that is a red flag that someone is violating your boundaries.
- Clear Communication: Be direct in your approach to healthy boundaries. Say what you like and don't like. Communicate clearly to others what you are willing to do versus what you are not willing to do. For example, if your free time is limited, you may need to clearly say that you are not available to help someone.
- Self-Respect: Part of enforcing boundaries is respecting yourself, your talents, your time, your resources, your property, and your purpose. This means that no one has the right to dictate how you will spend your time, talents, resources, and how you live your life. You take responsibility for yourself and your choices. You treat yourself with tender loving care. You don't permit others to take advantage of you, nor what you have to offer.
- Listen to Your Gut Instincts: Everyone has the innate ability to tune into themselves. Whether we call it our intuition or gut instincts, they are signaling us when we are in danger, when something is not right, or if we're about to make a big mistake. Usually, our gut instincts alert us to trouble by increasing our heartrate, blood pressure, perspiration, and anxiety levels. Pay attention and respond accordingly. By all means, stay safe.
- Family History: Your family history and how you were raised plays a huge role in setting healthy boundaries as an adult. Your past relationships can reveal whether you grew up with boundaries or not. For some people, this is new to them because they suffered a traumatic childhood or teenage years. There may have been cases of bullying, mental abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assaults. If you relate to this you may be struggling with your boundaries as an adult. You may have been silenced, harassed, or manipulated all of your life, which makes forming boundaries quite daunting. Please trust that you are worthy of healthy boundaries, kindness, compassion, love, and appropriate treatment. Also, know that your needs, values, and health are important.
- Self-Care is a Top Priority: When we practice self-care, we give ourselves permission to care for our needs; physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, and so forth. We spend quiet time to refuel our weary souls. Good self-care is key to improved moods, health, vitality, our dreams, our interests, and relationships. Rest and self-care are a top priority. When we take time to replenish our soul, it allows us to be at our best to serve others.
- Be Responsible for Yourself: When we form boundaries, we are being accountable and responsible for ourselves. Never apologize or feel guilty for setting healthy boundaries. Understand that you are not responsible for other people, their words, their behaviors, their actions, or their reaction to your boundaries. If someone refuses to respect you and your boundaries, it says more about them; not about you. Once again, be firm, clear, and concise in establishing your boundaries.
- Do the Inner Healing Work: The inner healing work can be beneficial when you are in a life transition, battling difficult relationships, striving to increase your health, seeking transformation, and when you are open to personal and spiritual growth. Doing the inner healing work does not happen overnight. Instead, it's a process. Try to focus on the moment and being mindful. Build your awareness around you. Tune into your body and the signals it gives to you. Be willing to dig into the deep layers of pain and trauma that may need to release. This may include journaling and expressing yourself through art, music, dance, exercise, prayer, or meditation. Intentionally find time alone to promote tranquility. Some people enjoy nature walks, bird watching, or listening to ocean waves in effort to calm their soul. Do whatever you need to do to take care of you.
- Take Back Your Power: When we take back our power, we are no longer silenced. We courageously find our voice to speak truth. We embrace our amazing story. We empower ourselves by living up to our fullest potential. We are confident in our value and self-worth. We trust that we have a higher purpose for being here on earth. We are authentic, empathetic, kind, sensitive humans who know that when we heal ourselves, we send a positive message to others to heal themselves. Ultimately, when we do the hard work of inner healing and setting healthy boundaries, we trust that it will influence the world around us to be a better place.