Boundaries can, and should be set with those in our lives who feel they have a right to disrupt our happiness. These people can include close friends, co-workers, and family members. Boundaries are a tool to be utilized to promote self care, and putting ourselves before others. Although that may seem selfish, it’s very difficult for some of us to be fully present with the people around us if we’re unhappy. Sometimes in order to do that, we need to tackle the uncomfortable task of setting boundaries with those who we love dearly, but have a tendency to bring us down.
By not setting boundaries, we enable others to continue their inappropriate behaviors, such as micro-managing our lives, substance abuse, being used, etc. However, setting boundaries is not an easy task. Nobody enjoys hearing that they’re upsetting someone with their personality. Generally speaking, people are unaware that their behaviors are interfering with others’ happiness. Understanding this mixture of frustration and having some compassion will help boundary setters approach the situation more carefully. Calmness shows others just how serious you are about putting your health, happiness, and life first. It’s difficult indeed, but necessary for future happiness.
1. Schedule a Boundary Meeting
If these folks live nearby, call them up and schedule a time to meet and explain to them that you’d like to discuss something serious. If not, schedule a time on the phone so that you’re both prepared for a longer call session, rather than a quick hello. They may ask what it’s about, or why there needs to be a serious discussion, to which you may reply, “I just wanted to meet to discuss my life, where I’m at, and where I’m going.” This statement is completely true. You’re about to approach them and explain where you’re at with their behaviors, how they’re affecting your life, and how you want to continue forward with boundaries in order to alleviate their negative impact.
Warning: This meeting is not going to be fun. Do not expect easygoing responses. But this preparation will definitely help ease the tension for you, and help you give them a clear message. It’s all about confidence and assurance.
2. Outline Your Boundaries
Prior to this meeting, it is important for you to outline exactly what it is you’d like to get across. Again, preparation helps ease tension, sends a clear message, and boosts your own confidence. “I feel” statements are a useful tool in these meetings. Everyone has their own version of the truth, so separating your version by simply explaining how situations have made you feel will help send a clearer message. “I feel” statements help prove the point that x, y, and z upset you, and steer away from simply explaining your side of the truth, which usually results in defensive responses.
Outlining your boundaries also helps you reflect and analyze what exactly you’re feeling when certain conversations or actions arise. Sometimes our emotions are heightened by bottling occurrences up, resulting in a much more intense conversation, and sometimes saying things we don’t actually feel. For example, my little brother gets incredibly flustered by the complications within my family and tends to verbally let it out a couple times a year. When this happens, his feelings and thoughts become a jumbled mess, and his emotions are exaggerated because his current state is panicky and anxious. We sometimes call this word vomit, and word vomit is something we should avoid with boundaries. Firm boundaries are set with confidence and certainty.
3. Reflect On Exactly What You’re Doing/Have Done
Reflection before the meeting is different from outlining boundaries. Sometimes boundaries are utilized out of anger. That being said, we should be asking ourselves why we’re setting boundaries, why are they necessary, how will this help my life post-meeting, etc.? This too will help with confidence and assurance.
Also, reflection post-meeting will help calm some nerves, and relieve some of the doubt that may arise after witnessing some folks’ reactions. Debriefing is an important self-care tool, and gives us a better understanding of who we are and where we’re going.
Boundaries can be difficult, uncomfortable, and sometimes end disappointingly. But they’re efficient, promote better future relations, and show others that you’re serious about taking care of yourself. No one has the right, not even those closest to you, to bring you down and expect you to let it go.
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