How To Create Strong Boundaries

Saying no to something or someone is simply saying ‘yes’ to ourselves.

Creating boundaries is so important. I’m sure you hear people talk about them all the time. However for some, it can feel hard, or even uncomfortable to say them let alone enforce them and stick to them.

 

It is natural to find it difficult to say no to people, which is why most of us do, to a greater or lesser extent, find it uncomfortable. It comes from the primal part of our brain wanting to conform. On that primal level, saying no could rock the boat, and we don’t want to do that. That would not be a good idea as that would potentially mean being excluded from the community which would put us at risk and in potential danger. We are social, ‘herd’ animals. We have safety in numbers. We have protection from our ‘tribe’. So saying yes, being compliant, doing what is asked of us, is the best thing for our survival.  

 

However that isn’t the case in the modern world. We have much more freedom now and are not at risk of life and death by making different decisions. We also need to consider that in our modern world we have many more ‘communities’ making requests and demands on us that we are trying to keep ‘happy’. Our work, our colleagues, our families and extended families, our friends, often various different circles of friendship groups these days, our own wants and needs, our education, learning and further development. So many pressures that we feel we ‘need’ to say yes to. 

 

It sounds exhausting doesn’t it? And it is exhausting. It depletes our energy and we end up having nothing left to give, completely burnt out. We need to look after ourselves and take time to reset, re-energise and if we don’t then our body will go to extreme measures to make sure we get that rest! That is when we end up getting physically ill. If you don’t listen to the warning signs, those gut feelings that you should be taking a break or you shouldn’t  be saying yes to that ‘thing’ or you ‘can’t’ take on any more- then the body goes to the next level. It is very clever at getting what it wants! It is doing it for your own good. 

 

And here is the thing- the more you look after yourself, the better boundaries you have, the more you can give to others. Let me give you an analogy. Imagine you are a watering can and you are watering all the other plants (giving to others, say yes to everything) but eventually you will run out of water. There will be nothing left to give. If you get to this point you are going to have to stop to refill the whole can. This can take some time because you emptied it dry. If however you regularly paused to top up the can (you) with water (energy), the pauses for refill would be so small it would seem like you have a continuous amount to give. 

 

This might seem like a rather simple analogy, but I think it demonstrates the point well. If you have ever heard of the incredible Brene Brown, an American professor, researcher and author, she tells us that those people with the strongest boundaries are the most compassionate, because their boundaries keep them out of resentment. When I heard that the truth of it really struck me. Giving because you want to and choose to rather than feeling like you should or you have to is like putting miracle grow plant food in that watering can!!! 

 

So how do we do it? How do we set those boundaries? Here are a few steps you can take to start practising creating boundaries. Remember, if you are a natural people pleaser, this will not feel easy to start with, but like building up muscle, it will strengthen over time the more you practice it. But please, please, be kind to yourself in the process. It IS a process. When you say yes to something you don’t want to, remind yourself of where you have demonstrated good boundaries. Congratulate yourself for recognising that you didn’t handle it as perhaps you wished and acknowledge that it is a learning process and that next time you will do better. 

 

 

1: KNOW YOURSELF FIRST

 

First, you need to seek a good understanding of yourself. What your values are. (To work out your core values check my blog here) What your limits are. What you are okay to put up with and compromise on and what you are not. It is also helpful to know what self care means to you and what your signs are that you need a bit more of it. Do you feel more anxious? Do you want to retreat from the world? Do you want to sleep a lot? Do you busy yourself with lots of things to distract you from how you are feeling? Become aware of what your signs are, how they show up and what might make them happen.

 

 

2: DEFINE YOUR BOUNDARIES

 

Once you are clear on what your limits are, your needs and your triggers, get really clear on what those boundaries look like and with who. How do you determine them? What do they look like? How will you know when you need to declare them?

 

 

3: COMMUNICATING THEM

 

This part will feel uncomfortable, so again, get clear on how you are going to communicate them. You can do this in a clear, kind way but you want to be confident with it. Practising some phrases beforehand that feel kind, honest and clear and that you feel comfortable with will help. Write them down and repeat out load so they start to sound and feel familiar to you. Also practise saying no without giving a reason. A simple no thank you is enough. You do not need to give an explanation. 

 

 

4: PRACTICE

 

Do it! The more you do it the easier it will become and the more you will start to notice that you feel different. You are respecting yourself and others will respect you for that too. When you do, check in with how you feel about it. Does it feel good? Empowering? Do you feel guilty? Hopefully your body will tell you you have done the right thing, especially if you were listening there first for the signals beforehand. 

 

Remember, saying no to others is simply saying yes to yourself. Remind yourself of this. Have a mantra if you need to. ‘I prioritise my self-care’ ‘I say yes to me now to be able to give more to those I love’. Anything that feels right to you.

 

If you are struggling with creating these boundaries, sticking to them or are feeling guilty or worried about them then please get in touch. I can help you move past those feelings and towards the liberation that is knowing your worth and the importance of putting yourself first. You can contact me here. 

 

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