Understanding Boundaries: What they are and why they matter
Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves for what we are willing and not willing to do, as well as what we will and will not tolerate from others. They can be physical or emotional and vary from person to person.
For example, a physical boundary may be not allowing someone to touch you without your consent, while an emotional boundary may be not allowing someone to speak to you disrespectfully.
Boundaries are important because they help us to maintain our sense of self and protect our emotional health. They also help us to build healthy relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. By communicating our boundaries clearly we can create a sense of safety and security in our relationships.
Setting and maintaining boundaries, like saying "no" when your answer is "no" or telling a friend how it affects you when [fill in the blank] happens and what you prefer instead, can be hard for many women.
Is it hard for you to say no?
Do you distance yourself in friendships when you can't talk about a problem?
How often do you say when your answer is really no?
Boundary problems bring lots of women to counselling. Not wanting to say "no" and not speaking up about something that isn't okay with you, because doing so might create conflict, is a boundary problem. Many of the women I work with say "I'm not a good communicator" instead of "I'm not good with boundaries." When it's clear to me that they are very communicators. Here's my personal example:
A good friend of mine once said to me, "you don't say no to me very often but, you cancel our plans a lot. So when you say yes, I've started making backup plans in case you cancel." Ouch! My friend gave me a gift that day, though it didn't feel like it at the time. As we talked more about it, I realized that she was right. Until I started saying no, when my answer was really no, my yes, at best was only a maybe. Maybe I would do the thing, or maybe I would cancel, but why couldn't I say no?
Why couldn't I say no?
Was it because I didn't want her to think I didn't like spending time with her? If so, it wasn't working. My friend WAS disappointed when I cancelled, she did feel like I didn't want to spend time with her AND she felt awful trying to figure out why I wouldn't just talk to her about what was going on for me. Yuck, right? Me saying yes, was me reactively "putting the pain in mail" (you know the old snail mail, kinda mail?) to avoid saying no and feeling bad in the moment. And it allowed me to avoid seeing how it affected my friend when the cancellation was delivered a short time later. I am still embarrassed to admit that I behaved like this. So if you're feeling badly for similar things, please know you are in good company.
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While you wait - I highly recommend the book on boundaries
"Set Boundaries Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself"
by Nedra Glover Tawwab
Read More About Elizabeth Lacey MSW RSW here
Oakridge Counselling offers in-person, phone, online, Walk & Talk Therapy, Walk & Talk for Wellness Group, Supervision & Consultation and Counselling in London Ontario.