This blog is an excerpt from my new e-book “The 7 Things That Made Me Genuinely & Irreversibly Happy: And How They Can Do The Same For You”. This chapter is taken from Part 5: Cultivating Healthy Relationships. The e-book can be previewed for free and purchased for $9.99 at Smashwords.com. Or $9.84 at Amazon.com.
Your boundaries are the rules you set regarding what you like and don’t like, what you will and won’t do. Enforcing your boundaries relates to how well you communicate your boundaries to others and how you deal with those who decide to ignore or disrespect your boundaries despite you having made them quite clear. A person with weak boundaries (including your author here who is a self-confessed-weak-boundaried-ex-helpoholic) fears confrontation to such a degree that it’s easier to simply go along with whatever is happening, habitually saying yes in order to appease and to try to keep everybody happy at the expense of themselves. Developing and enforcing a set of well-defined boundaries tailored to your personal preferences and aversions has a powerful effect on your sense of self-worth and the people you attract. Creating and enforcing my boundaries has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and adds a great deal to my overall happiness. Effective boundary creation and enforcement is a 3 step process. Let’s look the three steps in more detail:
Step 1: Creating Your Boundaries – This step is simple, think about what you don’t like and make a list. For example I hate being tickled, I mean it, no joke, it’s not fun or funny for me, and when I tell people this I expect not to be tickled. I also don’t like getting a lot of text messages or sudden, spontaneous plans, I ask that people make a plan with me in advance. I’m a sensitive guy and I often take things seriously and literally, so please don’t be cruel or mean. I also don’t like ‘drop ins’ if you want to meet up, don’t just turn up, let’s make a plan. I don’t like pubs or clubs, if you want to go out let’s go to a park or cafe. When I get to know people, the closer we get the more I tell them about my boundaries, and those who can accept and respect them are the kind and decent people I continue to enjoy my time with. Those who decide to ignore or break my boundaries get a warning, and if they continue the same way will be getting the flick. If you can’t respect my boundaries you don’t deserve my time, end of story. But I get ahead of myself, this section is on first creating your boundaries. Try and think of every little thing that annoys you, or that you hate, or find hurtful. Not everything will become a boundary, we can’t expect people to treat us like royalty 24/7 but it’s good to list everything first. Once you have a list of hopefully 10 or 20 things that really get under your skin, try and whittle it down to 7 important boundaries. These are the things that you would expect any decent person who has a modicum of respect for you to accept and abide by. These are the things that make you scared, uncomfortable, embarrassed or are painful physically or emotionally. Any decent person would be thankful for you letting them know your boundaries and are happy to help you enforce them. Don’t stress out about finding your boundaries, you can update and change them as it becomes necessary, just get a few that you can start with.
Step 2: Communicating Your Boundaries – Once you’ve created your boundaries it’s time to communicate them to others, there’s no point having boundaries if you’re not going to communicate them and enforce them. This is where assertiveness comes in. Asserting yourself can be terrifying for those who have always capitulated, appeased and generally avoided confrontation at all costs. Those who have been bullied and traumatized at a young age often have very weak boundaries. Any time you assert yourself there is the possibility that it will cause a confrontation, you must be ready to defend your boundaries, after all if someone can’t respect our boundaries they don’t deserve our time. Communicating your boundaries is easiest when meeting new people, over the natural course of getting to know someone new be sure to mention the things you don’t like, the things you find disturbing and annoying, the things that bother you and would lead to problems. You can either make your boundaries known naturally over time, or you can have a talk specifically about it. You might say something like “Before we go any further I just want to tell you a few things about me, what I like, what I don’t like and what might cause problems.” Of course when you are open about your boundaries the risk is that the person might say “Well that’s too weird for me, your boundaries make us incompatible” This may be a little scary but it’s always better to find out if things won’t work early on. The attitude I take is this; “I don’t need you to be my friend and you don’t need me as a friend. However if you want to be my friend then please respect my boundaries, this is not much to ask if you really do like me” Always remember that no matter what someone says, if they truly like who you are then they will respect your boundaries, your needs and wishes. If someone constantly flaunts your rules and breaks your boundaries then they don’t really like you. No matter how much they say “But I really like you” it’s just not true because if they truly liked you for who you are then they’d have no problem respecting your boundaries. If you want to add or strengthen your boundaries in an already established relationship it is more difficult but the same rules apply. When applying new boundaries to an existing relationship there is a higher risk of confrontation as there are already a set of rules in place. If you feel that you need more protection and stronger boundaries then you’ll have to make a time to sit down with your friend, partner, co-worker or family member and hash it out. Again, if they are a decent human being who truly likes and appreciates you for who you are, they should be open, even welcoming of this negotiation. However if this person is unreasonable, a bully or someone who does not truly appreciate you then you may be in for some fireworks should you attempt to communicate your boundaries. It may be scary but it’s best to find out whether or not you are dealing with a decent, respectful person or a psycho, then you can make an informed decision on whether you want to be involved with that person any more. Always remember that you have the right, the duty even, to inform those you deal with of your boundaries. Reasonable people respect and appreciate it, bullies are scared off by it, it’s a win-win situation
Step 3: Enforcing Your Boundaries – Once you have defined your boundaries and have communicated them to those close to you it’s time to forget about it and wait. The ball is in their court now. Most people you deal with should have no problem respecting your boundaries, however even the best of people can sometimes forget or mistakenly break one of your rules. A gentle reminder that you don’t like that should be enough for most people. What you are really looking out for is the serial transgressor, the person who regularly disrespects your boundaries. You may remind them time and again, and they may apologize profusely, yet they continue to mess you round and disregard your rules. For example you might tell people that you like to relax in the evening and don’t like receiving texts or calls late at night unless it’s an emergency. And yet this one person continually flaunts the fairly simple request. “I know you hate texts at night but I really had to tell that……” No! If you know I hate texts at night then if you truly respect me it can wait until the morning. This might seem like an insignificant example, and compared to physical and psychological abuse it is, however you must assert yourself and put your foot down, even on the apparently small matters. If you don’t, if you always allow concessions on the small things then it will only lead to greater concessions, thus defeating the purpose of having strong personal boundaries. Don’t worry it gets easier over time. Once you begin to see the results of your boundaries you’ll be hooked and you won’t settle for anything less than decent people respecting the rights and boundaries that you are entitled to as a human being living on this planet. Boundaries act as a kind of personal alarm system, when a person continually breaks in and trips your alarm it’s time to think seriously about how to get this person out of your life, or get yourself out of theirs.
And there you have it, a simple 3 step process to help you create, communicate and enforce your personal boundaries. Many people are born or raised naturally assertive and have never had a problem getting their needs met and telling bullies to take a hike. But many others are not, and so boundaries are something that need to be developed and practiced. If you are not used to asserting yourself and have a morbid fear of confrontation then this can seem terrifying. I’m telling you now that if you work through your trauma with the embodiment techniques, and strengthen your mental resolve with Stoic Philosophy then you will be able develop strong boundaries. I have, and so can you! So what can you look forward to once you’ve got your boundaries sorted? No more bullies, mischief makers or psychos. These types of people feed on the concessions made by those of us who have weak or absent boundaries. Bullies and psychos are cowards who do not like a challenge and will walk the other way when they meet someone who is not going to be taking any shit or tolerating any abuse of their boundaries. Another benefit is that decent folk are respectful of and grateful for those who put their boundaries out there, if you are confident in yourself that breeds confidence in others, it’s an attractive trait. And finally you’ll have so much more time and peace in your life by virtue of the fact that you will be dealing exclusively with people who respect you, and that should absolutely be the case. You deserve it
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this excerpt from “The 7 Things That Made Me Genuinely & Irreversibly Happy: And How They Can Do The Same For You” the full e-book can be previewed for free and purchased for $9.99 at Smashwords.com. Or $9.84 at Amazon.com.
- The Serenity Prayer
- What Is Private?
- Chair Hi-Fives and Difficult People
- Emotional Maturity and Healthy Healing
- Boundaries: A Three Phase Process in Spiritual Healing
Click the book titles to visit their Amazon pages, read the reviews, and sample or purchase the books.