Setting healthy boundaries is the key to maintaining relationships where we can get our needs met and stay true to our identity. These four tips will help you develop a balanced approach to creating healthy boundaries. (Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes)
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”— Brené Brown
Throughout history, boundaries have played an important role in human interactions. Ancient kingdoms, towns and villages marked their territories by building various structures such as moats, walls and forts.
Our ancestors instinctively sensed the need to protect their communities against external threats and predators who were constantly on the prowl. These predators included soldiers and nomadic barbarians from other regions who were on a quest to loot and plunder.
Today, we live in a relatively civilized world where political boundaries are respected and adhered to. Yet, this doesn’t imply that we should eliminate the need for protective structures.
Just as countries need to maintain defined, political boundaries to protect their citizens, we too need to establish personal boundaries to safeguard our individual interests and shield ourselves against harmful influences.
Although creating healthy boundaries is a critical social skill, it’s important to find a balanced approach. If we create too many boundaries, we risk living a life of isolation and fear.
Many of us fail to build healthy boundaries because we were raised to believe that we should give people the benefit of the doubt, and strive to see the good in them. The media perpetuates this notion by setting unrealistic standards for relationships.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a utopian society where everyone can be trusted. The reality is that human nature is unpredictable and we can never know what kind of neurosis or unhealthy behavior patterns other people might be harboring within them.
Just think about the countless stories you’ve heard of people who believed in others, either in their workplace or in their personal life, and were eventually hurt, betrayed or even physically harmed by them.
If they listened to their intuition and created boundaries, they could have prevented any damage from occurring.
Now I’m not saying that we should all become paranoid every time we encounter new people. Not only will that make us come across as unfriendly but it will prevent us from developing meaningful connections.
Instead, we should balance a congenial disposition with some cautious pragmatism. By becoming more conscious of our interactions with others, we secure both ours and our loved ones’ safety.
Even in relationships where there’s an implicit sense of love and trust, boundaries are still required to preserve our sense of identity and fulfill some of our needs that our partner is unable to meet.
Here are four tips on setting healthy boundaries effectively:
1. Take your time when getting to know new people: Use your instincts to help you discern others’ motives and intentions before opening up and making alliances. Observe and assimilate the other person’s behavior patterns before deciding how close you would like to get to them.
2. Maintain your identity in friendships, groups or relationships: If you are not aware of your values, strengths and purpose, you will find yourself being easily influenced and made to follow another person’s script.
3. Have at least one person in your life with whom you can openly share your feelings with: Everyone needs an “emotional cushion” to fall back on whenever things get tough. Choose someone who you feel safe with, who has earned your trust, and has your best interests at heart, such as partner, a family member, a friend, or even a coach or therapist.
4. Make “me-time” mandatory: Create time away from the hustle and bustle of life to reflect and rejuvenate. During this sacred time, engage in activities that nurture you. When you get comfortable with spending time on your own, building boundaries will feel more natural to you.
The world is filled with people from all types of backgrounds. By learning how to interact with others from a place of love and strength, we’ll build our capacity to create fulfilling relationships that will enrich us.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Where do you need to be setting healthy boundaries in your personal relationships? What has prevented you from creating them in the past?
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