Stepping on your toes, invading your space, crossing a line, ignoring your wishes – whatever you call it, when somebody does it to you, it feels bad. It means they went beyond your personal limits, also known as boundaries. Your boundaries are a reflection of your personal Identity. They define who you are and area measure of your self-worth.
Boundaries are important for you to have.
When someone doesn’t respect them, it says that person doesn’t respect you. You feel like you don’t matter
Also, and more often than you – or anyone - would like to admit, when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, you feel powerless, even unsafe. Safety is a too-often unexpressed or hidden fear, especially in women
In the workplace, it could be anything from office gossip or dumping extra work on you to asking you to do something inappropriate. In relationships it can include interrupting, over talking, muzzling, criticizing, yelling, and physical violence....and those are just the big ones.
When it happens to you, what do you do? I used to suck it up. Then, in therapy, the therapist told me I had terrible boundaries. He was correct, and I knew it. I needed to make a change. I did.
If you know what I mean, and want to make a change too, read on...
How to Create a New Boundary
The thing about boundaries is that very often you don’t know what your boundaries are. You can turn that around. Here are four steps you can take:
- Decide on the boundary you want.
Pick a period of time (a week or a month). Notice what happens and pay attention to how you feel.
- Do you have a co-worker who consistently interrupts you during meetings, You’re annoyed, yes, but why?
- Does one of your friends talk down to you, and when s/he does, you feel “less than” or stupid? Is it the words, the tone of voice, or something else?
- When you and your spouse argue, does s/he go from 0-10 on the anger scale fast and starts yelling? What happens inside you?
- What do you want instead?
This is is important because you can't just complain. It's unproductive. For example, you want the co-worker to hear you out before speaking, or your friend needs to change the tone, or nobody – not even your spouse – can yell at you.
- Decide how you will tell the offending person.
When you have a boundary, you have to know what to do when someone crosses it. That can be a challenge – especially if you were raised in “good girl” mode. So you have to know what to say.Start by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt; many people don’t even recognize what they’re doing. So sometimes a simple “I don’t know if you realize it but you [behavior] and when that happens, it makes me feel [your reaction]. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t’ do that anymore.” Chances are that person will be surprised, and apologize. And then you can let them know that you’ll have to stop them if it happens again.If the offending behavior doesn't change, create a signal - word (like STOP!) or a gesture (Like a "talk to the hand" sign).
Like anything you do in life, you aren't going to get good at boundaries right off the bat. You're likely to experience stressful signs, like a red face or fast heartbeat. That's normal. It'll get better with practice.
You deserve to live the life you love with a good sense of self-worth and the feeling of emotional and physical safety. Boundaries will go a very long way in giving those to you!
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