Boundaries define our personal space. They help us create safety and take care of ourselves. Depending on the kind of family we grew up in, we may not have been given this important message: Only we get to determine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within our personal space.
We do not have control over other people, places and things, although at times we may feel like we ought to or that the world would be a better place if we did. We only have control over ourselves and the choices we make that are or are not in line with our personal values.
The first step in having boundaries is to know we have the right to take care of ourselves and to get our needs met. We not only have the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow ourselves to be treated.
We start to have boundaries when we can name our feelings, an important form of internal communication. When we avoid knowing what we are feeling, we allow unkindness or even abuse to continue. When we can name our feelings, we stop being victims and start taking responsibility for our lives.
Whether another person can hear us and understand what we are doing is not nearly as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to feel the way we feel.
We start acting in ways that honor our boundaries when we are able to name our feelings and put our own needs ahead of the needs of other adults. We know we have boundaries when we are able to say “no” to people when they ask us to do something, even if it upsets them or makes us appear “not nice.”
The need to always appear “nice” is one of the primary reasons we give up our boundaries. Resentment, depression, victimization and rage are usually the result. Ironically, the harder we try to cover up these feelings, the less “nice” we are actually able to be. Our authentic selves become lost.
Setting a boundary is not about being aggressive or in control, it is about self-care. We will not always get what we want from other people. They will not always be happy with our decision to put our own needs ahead of theirs. But we find that we do not need to protect other adults from inconvenience or disappointment.
It is impossible for someone with no boundaries to have healthy relationships.