As an empath, it’s a constant battle to set boundaries. Although boundaries are our birthright, why then do we struggle so much with setting them in the first place? There are a myriad of reasons why we loosen that boundary muscle.
From my understanding and experience, boundaries are not about separation but more about self-respect, where you can share space with an individual but not invade their space. And it can be as simple as becoming better at reading the room.
For example, imagine if you were having a conversation with someone and suddenly someone jumped between you and the other person 2 cm away and asked you a question about a project you were working on collectively.
Now, some may argue and say that is an invasion of privacy or intrusive in nature. So, what do you do? Do you address the individual on the spot, or do you allow them to complete their question before you say anything? It can be tricky, and there are many examples; this is just one example to show you that sometimes things are not as straightforward.
Why do we avoid having these conversations in the first place? Are we avoiding conflict? Do we want to help others but don’t want to be helped? Is our self-worth tied to helping others? My astrology teacher once said that having boundaries is having the courage to love, and that was like a lightning flash that broke my skull open to understanding this.
Since I am struggling so much with setting boundaries around me, how about if I just started with myself and worked my way through from there?
Keep the promises you make to yourself…
The worst promise you can break is the one you make to yourself. How many times have you said to yourself, “I will no longer tolerate this person speaking to me with such a tone?” only to allow it to happen repeatedly? Or “I am no longer going to invest time on social media,” only to find yourself scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. What if, in fact, what you are doing is teaching yourself that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously? You are training yourself to be okay with letting yourself down and that you don’t matter as much as others. Remember that by setting boundaries, you teach people how to treat you, and this includes yourself!
The trick is to start small. If you try to change too many things at once, your brain becomes overwhelmed. You can start by writing a list of promises you want to make to yourself, and then pick the one that will have the most impact. Most of the time, when you pick the one that has the most impact, it may incorporate other promises from your list. The purpose of writing it down is to get it out of your mind and onto paper. Put it on post-it notes and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day until you’ve ingrained the habit, and then move on to the next promise on your list.
The benefits of keeping your promise to yourself include being a changemaker. It’s the best way to increase your level of confidence and strengthen your assertiveness muscle because you are keeping yourself accountable, and in doing so, you can eventually change your belief system about who or what you are. The thing is, to master this skill, you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you have been a people-pleaser and have found it hard to say “no” to others, then this may take a little time, but with persistence, you will birth a brand new you!
Daring to set boundaries for thyself…
The other important factor that we must also take into consideration is that the moment we honour our feelings, wants, and needs, we are saying, “Yes, we matter,” and once we include our feelings in every decision we make, not the other way around, we are in fact increasing our vibrational frequency. We move from frustrated to dedicated, which then moves us into happiness, empowerment, and freedom.
Just the other day, a client of mine asked, “How do I know where I have a lack of boundaries in my life?” and I replied, “Where are you feeling the most frustration in your life?” “What area of your life is not working for you?” “Where do you experience feeling uncomfortable most of the time?” These are all valid questions to ponder on because boundaries protect us against people who leave us feeling uncomfortable.
The biggest kickback that you will experience by having strong boundaries is the increase in trust that you will have for yourself, and in turn, you will have more trust for others in your life. Change is an inside job, and if you are experiencing a lack of trust in any area of your life, this is a sure sign you are lacking boundaries in that very area of your life. And the icing on the cake is that you build a level of courage like never before because you have your back—you stand up for yourself.
Generous people set boundaries…
Let’s first look at why we people please in the first place: we want to feel like we belong, we want to be validated, and we want to avoid conflict. This is one way we receive praise, and our self-worth is tied to helping others, but the biggest thing is that we haven’t worked out how to set boundaries because we don’t know where to begin. You can still be a good person with a kind heart and still say “no.”
There are four simple steps to follow.
First and foremost, you want to identify when a boundary is crossed, and that’s easy; just check in with yourself. Are you feeling triggered?
Once you have connected with the boundary violation, then it’s time to communicate your boundary. Start small, and you don’t need to explain yourself. It can be as simple as, “The way you are talking to me right now is making me feel uncomfortable; can we come back to this conversation once there is less emotion involved?”
Now if the individual totally ignores your request, then it’s time to reinforce Step 3, which is to communicate the consequences if they continue, and it can be as simple as “I am going to walk away from you if you continue to speak to me in that tone.” Expect resistance and remain firm; don’t take on the other person’s emotions as your own—a super important tip. Let them know you feel hurt when they don’t consider your feelings. You are helping the other person become conscious of their behaviour and letting them know what is acceptable and what is not.
It’s time to be more self-full…
Do you want to know why people find it so difficult to create strong boundaries? If you were always told off as a child every time you stood up for yourself, you may fear standing up for yourself. If you’ve spent most of your life worrying about others and trying to please everyone, you might not even be aware of your own needs. You may not even know what you want. That can be so overwhelming and confronting because you have never had to think about yourself and your needs. Furthermore, you may even begin to believe that others regard you as “selfish”.
If you have struggled with self-worth, self-love, and self-esteem, you may have the belief that you don’t deserve to have boundaries, and you may feel guilty for thinking about yourself. It feels awkward, uncomfortable, and foreign, but know this, my dearest: a lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect. Which would you prefer: a lack of respect from others or establishing boundaries for yourself?
There are many forms of boundaries—financial, friendships, relationships, and purposeful boundaries for alone time, just to name a few. Be more self-full. If you are a giver, always looking out for others and having everybody’s back but your own, if you’re feeling depleted and exhausted because you’re breaking yourself to keep others whole, it’s time to focus on yourself and what you value. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Take inventory of your boundaries…
This is the part where you make it clear what’s okay and what’s not okay. We have all been in situations where we felt taken advantage of or treated disrespectfully, and although it feels like a punch in the gut, you must ask yourself why these scenarios take place in the first place, and to be honest, 99% of the time it’s because there are no boundaries.
When you experience feelings of rage, hurt, or betrayal, it is a sure sign that your boundaries have been violated and that individual has crossed the line. Most of the time, we tolerate this kind of behaviour because we don’t want to come across as a terrible person or we fear the consequences of how they may react if we were to stand our ground and say this is not okay.
We are letting them know it’s okay for them to behave this way if we don’t address it and if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your inner child. That is how I have learned to respect boundaries. I couldn’t do it for myself because I am a recovering people pleaser, but as soon as I placed a photo of me in France when I was 18 months old, everything changed because I would always look at my little girl and ask myself, “Would you ever let anyone speak to your little girl like that?” 100% of the time, the answer was no!
Courage to stand in your truth…
Once you have identified where your boundaries were violated, the next step is to install your boundaries, and that takes courage, commitment, and compassion for yourself even when the other person is reacting with rage, anger, or irritation. This is the time to reinforce your boundaries because, when you do, they will respect you.
Many moons ago, I had this one person who was always so rude to me, and one day I just had enough and said, “Who do you think you are speaking to?” You should have seen the look on his face, and I promise you, after that very day, everything changed! He apologised and expressed how embarrassed he was and that it would never happen again, and it never did. We really do teach others how they should treat us.
As difficult as it may seem to set boundaries, the trick is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Especially when every ounce of your being is saying “don’t do it” and you experience a moment of shaking in your boots, that’s when it’s most pertinent to ignore that inner dialogue and just do it!
Say what you need to say from your heart. When you speak from your heart—a place of love—it always lands very differently, and there is no need to feel guilty because you haven’t done anything wrong; you are just addressing poor behaviour.
Boundaries can be life-changing because you are getting out of your comfort zone, and we know from research that is how we grow. The other benefit is that it builds your confidence and inner strength, which in turn grows your trust.
Having strong boundaries is how you become the best version of yourself.
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