Rich Oswald, L.P.C.
Psychiatry & Psychology
Speaking of HealthUnnamed pain: Coping with ambiguous lossApril 10, 2023
Speaking of Health7 anger management tips to prevent relationship damageOctober 06, 2022
People have various types of relationships, including partners, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances. Different relationships involve different interactions, responsibilities and influences.
Every relationship has boundaries or rules of engagement. You may be deliberate and conscientious about these boundaries, or they may have formed subconsciously.
Developing and maintaining healthy boundaries helps you establish and build healthy relationships, and avoid unhealthy connections with people.
Why set boundaries?
Setting healthy boundaries is necessary for your health and the health of your relationships. Living within these boundaries you create is crucial to lowering stress and increasing satisfaction in life, particularly with the responsibilities and tasks in your personal life and work.
Anxiety and stress develop when you take responsibility for others' emotions, behaviors and thoughts. Many anxieties people experience are due to poor boundaries.
A principle I refer to is the "law of relationships." It identifies that you can't control what others think, feel or do, and you are solely responsible for what you think, feel and do. Identifying and stating the boundaries in relationships that support this law clarifies where your responsibilities and authority stop, and the other person's responsibilities start.
Consider how you feel when you're given a task to complete but not given the resources you need to do the task. That can leave you feeling anxious and worried. The same feelings can happen when someone tries to give you responsibility for their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Healthy boundaries are critical for your well-being.
Creating your boundaries
Boundary-setting can be challenging at first, especially when your education, training or personal experiences may have led you to establish unhealthy boundaries.
Boundaries are driven by our view of our value as a person. Your value shouldn't be based on your performance. It's necessary to recognize how you presently value yourself and determine if that view is accurate.
For example, consider how a parent loves their child versus how they respond to their child's behavior. Nothing the child does can change the parent's love for them. The parent may sometimes be displeased with the child's behavior, but their love is not altered based on the child's behavior.
Focus on practicing behaviors that support your positive self-worth. Determine healthy boundaries that you can clearly define. Mapping out boundaries for various aspects of your life takes time and diligence. Think about your relationships with your partner, parents and children; your job and co-workers; and your finances.
Answer these questions to help you define the boundaries you want to set for yourself:
- What relationships are bringing me stress and anxiety?
- Am I attempting to control someone's emotions, thoughts or behavior?
- Do I feel mistreated or taken advantage of?
- Does the value I feel from others change based on how well I fulfill their requests or obligations?
- Do I need to adjust my responsibilities to align with the law of relationships?
Also identify false beliefs that have driven you to have unhealthy boundaries in the past. You can do this by determining what experiences caused you to have feelings of guilt or disrespect. Think of times you have felt you would upset someone or cause anger if you didn't do a specific task.
Anxiousness involves anticipating something bad is going to happen and not having a healthy response to that feeling. Take note of what you can and can't control and again, remember that you are not responsible for other people's emotions, actions or thoughts.
Communicating your boundaries
Unhealthy boundaries often are driven by believing you can't say no.
Validating for yourself that saying no is a way you can help grow your healthy boundaries. Saying yes to the activities and tasks within your boundaries is meaningful only when your no is equally valued.
Saying no to things outside your boundaries will most likely cause more pressure to say yes. Have an action plan for how you will respond in a healthy way to something that violates your boundaries. Your action plan may include practicing saying no in a firm, yet kind, way or choosing not to talk to someone who doesn't respect your boundaries.
A long-term plan
Initially, healthier boundaries require much effort to establish and maintain. Over time, you'll find they become more habitual and require less effort. Your previous hurt from unhealthy boundaries will fade away. You will also notice that the pressure to appease others will diminish.
Regularly review your actions to ensure you are following the boundaries you've created, especially during stressful or busy times. A weekly or monthly check-in can help you track your goals and priorities.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do the events you have scheduled bring you joy and purpose?
- Have your actions aligned with your responsibilities?
- Did you do something to help you reach a future goal?
- Did you stick to your budget?
Mapping out clear boundaries in your life will positively affect your self-esteem and overall well-being. Building your self-esteem will help establish healthier relationships.