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What are boundaries?

I like to explain boundaries as the limits and guidelines we set and hold in place to inform other people (and ourselves) how we want and need to be treated, in order to stay happy, healthy, safe and well.

Boundaries allow us to feel secure and confident, they bring order to our lives. When we strengthen our boundaries we get clearer on our needs and this empowers us to decide how we want to be treated in relationships with others.

“It’s not your fault how they choose to behave towards you. But it’s your fault when you let it continue.” – Marion Bekoe

A boundary is not about telling another person what to do. It is about telling another person what YOU will do in the face of the other person's continued unkind or undesirable behaviour.

While it is hard for most people to accept, we cannot control another's behaviour. What we can control is our own response in the face of others behaviour. A boundary is about telling your truth and taking action on it. For example:

"I'm no longer willing to be with you in public when you put me down. I will leave and take the car or a cab home."

"I’m no longer willing to be late to events because of you being late. The next time you are late, I will leave without you. If you continue to be late, then I will just plan on taking separate cars."

"Your constant criticisms feel awful to me. From now on, when you are critical, I will tell you that it feels awful and leave the room."

Then you have to follow through

Then, of course, you have to take the action you have said you would take. If you do not take action, then what you have said is a manipulation rather than a truth. A boundary means nothing until you are willing to take the action.

You can't control others, but you can control how you react to their treatment of you

The tricky part of this has to do with your intent. If your intent is to control the other person rather than take loving care of yourself, then your statement and action is just another form of control. If your desire is to take responsibility for yourself, then your tone of voice will be calm and matter-of-fact as you are just letting the other person know what you will be doing or are doing. If your desire is to control the other person, then your tone of voice will be angry, blaming, and accusing, and your energy will be hard and closed.

We cannot hide our intent; it will always come through in our energy and our tone of voice. However you might try to mask an intent to control, the other will always pick up on it and probably react to it with his or her own controlling behaviour.

You are coming from a place of personal power when your intent is to take loving care of yourself rather than control the other. Since you cannot ultimately control another, trying to will leave you feeling frustrated and powerless.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” - Brene Brown

The challenging part of this is taking loving action on your own behalf. In order to take loving care of yourself, you need to be willing to let go of the outcome regarding how the other person will feel and behave. If you are focused on controlling how the other person will feel in the face of your actions, then you will not be able to take the loving action.

If your focus is on the other person, such as, "He will feel hurt and angry if I leave the party", or "She will be furious with me if I leave without her", or "He will feel rejected and tell me I am running away from conflict, if I leave the room when he is critical", then you will be unable to take the loving action.

Setting boundaries is an act of self-love

Only if you are in compassion for yourself will you be able to act on your own behalf. Compassion for yourself means that you are 100% willing to take responsibility for your own feelings rather than trying to get someone else to do it for you, or rather than trying to control another’s feelings. It means that you are willing for the other person to be upset with you rather than continue to be treated unkindly.

“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”- Tony Gaskins

People tend to mirror how we treat ourselves. If you tolerate unkind treatment, you are letting others know that it is okay to treat you badly. By taking loving care of yourself in the face of others' unkind behaviour, you will find that generally others will respect you and treat you well.

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is an essential part of not losing ourselves in our relationships! We cover this in the Healthy Relationship Formula, an 8 week program empowering women to confidently attract and thrive in a mutually respectful, loving and happy romantic relationship!

The next live group course is starting soon!! Are you ready to heal your past and be supported as you do the inner work in order to have a beautiful relationship, first with yourself and then with others? If so click this link to read more and apply!


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