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‘The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.’ — Warren Buffet

Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.

We hear about them all the time, but what are they and how do we create them?

Boundaries are personal – they are unique to you. They are the limits and rules that you set for yourself. Boundaries can be physical, emotional and intellectual. You can set firm boundaries within relationships, your energy and your time.

Boundaries grant you access to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

A person with healthy boundaries can say ‘no’ to others whenever they want to, without feeling guilty. They protect and honour their space that they have created to clarify what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable from others.

What you allow is what will continue

Most of us want to do the right thing. We make it our job to fix others or feel the need to take responsibility for others. We get real joy out of seeing others happy.

It’s not our job to make others happy. It’s not our job to make sure everyone is feeling good. And it’s not our job to fix problems that don’t belong to us.

Effective human beings have boundaries. As a result, they can see that it allows others to grow because they become more conscious of their own behaviours. Boundaries keep us in control of time, energy and safety. It’s a way of looking after yourself. It’s almost a duty for us to have boundaries. Otherwise, people will take advantage of you and walk all over you.

The benefits are endless. Not only are you contributing to others’ wellbeing, you are walking your talk and taking care of you.

This, my dearest, is how you build more respect from others and more self-respect.

A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect

Where does a lack of boundaries come from?

It’s hereditary.

The beautiful Terri Cole, a renowned psychotherapist, explains that when you were growing up, if you were not allowed to close your bedroom or bathroom doors or have a private conversation on the phone with a friend, it would have an impact on your boundaries today.

If you were encouraged or discouraged to express your individual feelings, especially if they differed from the majority and if you were allowed to differentiate from them, that too would affect your boundaries.

In addition, if it was a family system where everyone knew what was going on in your life, whether you wanted them to know or not, it would influence the way you form or do not form your boundaries today as an adult.

Terri also mentions that if there was one person in your family who was more controlling than everyone else – for example, a very domineering mother or father – that too is where your boundaries come from. The same goes for a dominating sibling, especially if they were an addict in some way and you had to sublimate your own desires and wishes because there was a greater problem to be solved.

Boundaries come from having a good sense of self-worth

Another reason for a lack of boundaries is if you had uninvolved or negligent parents, and not always intentionally so. For example, when my parents came to Australia from France to start all over again, they were never home, but they worked damn hard to make ends meet. Consequently, it meant I had to grow up fast.

In most situations when we are young, our feelings are heavily influenced by how others feel about us and treat us – especially our parents. When you don’t get the guidance and attention you need, it can cause significant self-esteem problems. This also ties in with whether your parents were vocal, verbal or physical when working through problems.

Growing up in an environment where you weren’t respected can make you feel like something is wrong with you. If you were pressured to do things you were not comfortable with and your thoughts and feelings weren’t valued, you may end up feeling that the only way for you to be liked is to do what others want, not what you need.

The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities

Prioritise your needs.

In doing so, if people get upset about you setting boundaries, they are the ones who were benefiting from you having none in the first place.

It’s never too late to regain your respect. You can start setting boundaries with a few simple yet highly effective steps: 

  1. Cultivate awareness and articulate what you need to change. What specific boundaries have been violated or ignored?
  2. Identify the unhealthy thinking and beliefs by which you allow your boundaries to be violated.
  3. Create a new belief that will encourage you to change your behaviours so that you build healthy boundaries between you and others.
  4. In turn, you will gain insight into what new behaviours you need to add to your healthy boundary so that your space, privacy and rights are no longer violated.

Awareness, change and growth are necessary for you to build strong boundaries. It is up to you to decide how you respond to others.

Remember – setting clear, firm boundaries means that you don’t automatically react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. You tolerate other opinions and do not become defensive when you disagree. You recognise that your reaction is your responsibility. You say ‘no’ with comfort and ease.

It’s time to say goodbye to abusive behaviours.

What boundaries will you set today?