I have been someone who derived a great deal of self-worth from how others accepted me. As someone who has been overweight from childhood and with not such a good looking face, I had to face variety of rejections, weird comments, abusive behaviour. I didn’t know any better back then. So I would go the extra mile for people, stretching myself to extents where I fully forgot about myself. Result ? I had attracted people who constantly put me down. A little less than a decade later by the time I started working, I saw how it had hit my confidence. I had become an emotional doormat. I realised I had to learn how to love myself enough to keep my cup full by myself. I learnt that an important part of self love is learning to set personal boundaries. There is no love without boundaries.
Boundaries are limits we set with others, which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behaviour towards us. It helps us manage our energies better in a way to enhance our personal wellbeing.
Personal boundaries have two key features — Identifying your boundaries and setting your boundaries.
The ability to know our boundaries generally comes from a healthy sense of self-worth. Self-worth is valuing yourself in a way that is not dependant on how other people feel towards you. It involves being very mindful of your –
- Intellectual worth and boundaries
- Emotional worth and boundaries
- Physical worth and boundaries
- Social worth and boundaries
- Spiritual worth and boundaries
Well, there cannot be healthy co-existence without healthy boundaries. It is a highly important aspect of yourself which makes you love yourself and the world around you more authentically. Not acknowledging your boundaries is not acknowledging various aspects of your own self. This opens a gateway for abuse. Whether it is others abusing you or you abusing yourself or you abusing others. Lack of healthy boundaries is toxic.
So, how does one identify if we have healthy boundaries or not ?
Well, if I can simply put it into 3 categories , Rigid , Healthy and Weak boundaries , these are the typical traits we can see in ourselves
Healthy: You have healthy boundaries if you:
- value your own opinion as equally as you value others’ opinion
- don’t compromise your values for others even if it is your close family and friends or spouse
- appropriately share personal information about yourself evaluating the context and the people
- are accepting of others when they say no to you
Rigid: You have rigid boundaries if you:
- avoid intimacy or close relationships with people
- usually don’t ask for help
- have very few close relationships
- may seem detached
- distance yourself to avoid rejection
Weak: You have weak boundaries if you:
- over-share personal information
- have difficulty saying no to the requests of others
- get over involved with other’s problems
- tolerate abuse or disrespect
In my experience these traits are contextual. As in , our boundaries may differ in different areas of our lives. Identifying and categorising how your boundaries are gives clarity on where we need to work on.
Another effective way to identify is to observe the body sensations. There might be a sense of contraction in many parts of the body or a sense of loosing energy or a feeling of crying in some intense cases. The moment we identify it, we have to be brutally honest with ourself and tell ourselves what we truly feel. It might be scary and it might be intense , there might even be consequences , but it’s important not to give into fear and feel the feeling fully until you fully accept both the situation and the emotion.
Two of the biggest hurdles while setting boundaries is mostly fear and guilt. Fear of loosing people who might no more like us and guilt for making oneself a priority. People with weak boundaries or areas in which our boundaries are weak , we would not be used to making ourselves a priority. So it could be difficult initially , that’s when we need remind ourselves on the intention of setting boundaries, “personal wellbeing”.
A big part of setting boundaries is communicating it in a way that doesn’t offend the other. We need to be mindful of communicating only about what is ok and not ok with us instead of telling someone else what they should do and shouldn’t with us. Accepting that people might get offended anyway and they might reject or accept what we say is important. When I communicate my boundaries, I fully accept any consequence of it as my choice and no one to blame. For me personally, this has worked like magic. People who truly value you, will try to understand your intentions and not just see the words and project their story over it.
I would like to share a quote from one of my tarot books and it goes like this..
“Saying NO and having clear boundaries is a spiritual act. The most loving and compassionate people are those with the clearest boundaries”