Recently, the hubby and I found ourselves dealing with some very unpleasant shit in our lives due to a house guest in our home. It wasn’t long before the resentment and anger built up over finding ourselves dealing with bad manners, a lack of respect for us and our home, denial and an utterly unpredictable attitude — in OUR safe place.
Now before ya’ll start — we did work to establish quite a few clear boundaries, and we spoke up on things we didn’t agree with right from the start which was not honored by our guest. But the ugly truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what our guest did or didn’t do. It is entirely on us that the situation continued.
Because we allowed things to slide because both the hubby and I were raised to avoid conflict and keep the peace with our guests because they are guests. As a result, WE allowed our integrity compromised. It was our responsibility to say “NO” while setting boundaries.
Does it excuse the bad behavior of the guest? Of course not. But when it comes down to someone compromising how you feel or believe, no one but you can enforce your boundaries and say “No, this is not acceptable to me.”
What Is a Boundary?
Boundaries are the limits you willing to accept or not accept how another person is allowed to act or behave towards you based on your morals, ethics, and values. They help you feel safe, valued and provide a sense of self-worth. Everyone’s boundaries are different, so it’s okay if yours don’t match someone else’s, including those of your family, friends, boss, teachers, and co-workers.
How to Recognize Boundaries
Learning how to recognize your boundaries is as simple as paying attention to that icky, uncomfortable feeling you get inside screaming “this is NOT okay with me.” While some boundaries are easily known, others you may not learn about until crossed. Regardless, of when you know, it’s okay to say “that doesn’t feel right and it’s NOT okay with me” when someone crosses your boundaries. It’s essential for your self-care and well-being that you do learn how to recognize and set your boundaries.
So, how can you set, inform and enforce your boundaries in a kind, caring way that honors you, allows you to express yourself and keeps you from turning into a raving vat of anger and resentment?
Quick Action Formula for Boundary Setting:
- Be Clear and Kind
- Stand Firm
- Use the Informing Steps Above When Enforcing
- Use “I” Statements
- Don’t Wait
- Be Prepared to Walk Away
Setting Your Boundaries
First, off — you can’t expect someone to keep a boundary if you don’t let them know there is one. It’s okay to speak up and say “that’s not okay with me.” Unfortunately, many people, including the hubby and I, are naturally people-pleasers because we want to fit into the tribe. And conflict upsets the tribe, so we sacrifice and compromise ourselves to keep the peace, rather than doing the scary thing and speaking up.
BUT with a little time, practice, a mindset adjustment, and the Quick Action Formula for Boundary Setting, setting your boundaries becomes easier.
Setting your boundaries is your responsibility. Once you know what they are, it’s up to you to inform and enforce. And here’s how you do it.
You always have to start with communicating your boundaries in a respectful manner. After all, how is anyone going to know you have the boundary unless you tell them. Telling someone the boundary is usually the most uncomfortable part of setting limits because we’re afraid of how the other person is going to react. But if you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?
2. Be Clear and Kind
State your boundary in a clear, kind manner. You might be upset but unless it’s extreme when someone has physically attacked up or something like that, keeping yourself under control is essential when establishing boundaries. Remember this is the first time the person is finding out something was unacceptable to you. So, be very clear about what was not okay with you, explain is necessary and be kind while doing it.
3. Stand Firm
You might receive some pushback or argument from the other person as to why they did what they did or feel they can keep doing it. Continue with the communication in a clear, kind manner but stand firm that the behavior is unacceptable to you.
It’s easy to allow things to slide when we’ve tried to set a boundary and the other person pushed back, but with time and practice, it will become natural. As you practice, you’ll begin to see that you become more self-confident. And people will stop crossing your boundaries without you mentioning them. So, keep it up and keep going.
While you may want to release the inner bitch when someone you’ve informed doesn’t respect your boundaries, now isn’t the time. It’s okay to be angry, but when enforcing your limits, it’s best to keep things as civil as possible. So take a deep breath, count to ten, or whatever you need to do to present a calm front and then:
1. Use the Informing Steps Above When Enforcing
Inform the other person that they have crossed your boundary. Communicate, stay clear, kind and firm about your limit. Keep any passive aggressive remarks or behaviors out of the process. Sometimes easier said than done, but essential for setting up a respectful, trusting relationship.
2. Use “I” Statements
Don’t pull out the “You did…” statements. Using “you” just immediately puts the other person on the defensive. Instead, form your comments using the “I” statement. “I feel…” It hurt me…” or “It’s not okay with me that…” Keep it about you, your thoughts, your feelings and try to avoid the “you.”
3. Don’t Wait
When someone crosses your boundary, don’t wait to let them know. Inform them of the behavior immediately while it’s still fresh in both your minds. It makes it easier to recognize. If you don’t address it directly, come back to it as soon as possible and be clear about what action you’re discussing. Don’t let it just simmer and build up inside you.
4. Be Prepared to Walk Away
Finally, if someone refuses to respect your boundary and you’ve tried informing and enforcing it several times (less if violence or harm to your health is involved), you may have to remove the person from your life. If it’s someone you can’t entirely remove, like at work, be prepared to minimize contact as little as possible. While it can be painful, keeping people in your life that don’t respect your boundaries is much more harmful to you, both mentally and physically.
What Happens When You Don’t Set or Enforce Boundaries
Not setting and enforcing boundaries leaves us feeling angry, resentful and compromised. It can affect our self-confidence, sense of self-worth, even our health. And also lead to self-destructive behaviors such as overeating, drinking, driving too fast, ignoring our self-care, or even deeper unhealthy behaviors including binging and purging, self-harm and suicide.
You don’t have to feel less than or unimportant — like what you want isn’t important. Who made the other person more important than you when you didn’t enforce your boundary? You did. And while we blame the person who made us feel this way, the truth is it all comes down to us.
It’s also not good to walk around with a bubbling pot of resentment, anger and hurt inside you from someone pushing your boundaries because it will eventually boil over when the pressure gets too high. And it usually comes out in a very unhealthy manner. So, don’t let yourself get to that point. Learn how to set clear and healthy boundaries that protect your sense of self and well-being. The more you establish your limits, the less you’ll find people violating them.
Final Thoughts on Boundary Setting
All the responsibility lies on you to set and keep our boundaries, even if the other person chooses to ignore your set limits. In the case, of our infamous houseguest, it was our responsibility to inform and enforce that what was happening was not okay, and if things didn’t change — ask the person to leave. People only violate or continue to break your boundaries because you allow them to. Yes, it’s scary and causes icky feelings inside, but the more you are clear on what your boundaries are, the less you’ll find yourself in compromising situations.
Need help building your self-wealth and learning how to set boundaries? Email me at Heidi@TalktoHeidi.com.