Setting healthy boundaries is one of the hardest life skills I’ve tackled. In the past feared losing the person or offending them. I grew up with my grandmother who herself lost a mother at a young age, was abandoned by an alcoholic father, and then was passed through the family until her very hard grandmother took her in. She was an amazing woman in many ways. However she had poor boundaries and abandonment fears. Even though I was shown healthy patterns by my mother and grandfather, I still picked a few poor skills and internalized poor coping mechanisms. Couple that with being an empath and the stage was set for an adult struggle. After a relationship with a narcissistic person it was a skill I had to learn for my own emotional wellbeing.
Here’s the biggest thing I learned: emotionally healthy people have boundaries and respect them. If someone consistently and maliciously violates your boundaries (or YOU) – Remove from you life cold turkey. RUN. GET THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE. They are a poison to you. However, most people simply need honest communication and are good hearted.
How to Set Boundaries
Before you set a boundary you first need to know where your emotional property begins and what you need. Your emotional property is pretty simple. It is YOUR emotions, your inner being, your growth, your physical and spiritual wellbeing. It’s not your kid’s, your partner’s, boss’, minister’s, or any person’s emotions, spirit or body.
However, knowing what you need can be harder. For example. I need a good uninterrupted two hours everyday to meditate and pray. I try to keep it to a schedule that works not only for me, but my responsibilities. Since I often have visitors I have a simple sign on my door – “I’m currently in my prayer closet. I appreciate you stopping by. Please come by later. I look forward to seeing you SOON. Thank you. Love, Moriah”. How did I figure out what I need? Mostly through trial and error. I know. Not what you are looking for, but that’s the honest answer. I knew I needed to feed my inner person. I knew I needed alone time to do it. I knew that when I fed my inner soul I had to the energy and drive to care for others. I knew I have a passion for kindness and compassion. That passion was my starting point. How to feed that passion and how it looks in my daily life was the trial and error. However, once I knew what I needed, setting the boundary became easy.
Examples of common boundaries include not hugging strangers, refusing to listen to gossip, not touching Momma Bellies, not stealing, asking for a kiss on the first date instead of assuming, refusing to purchase items on credit, and many other common everyday things we take for granted. It’s something we already do. It’s just in our emotional life we sometimes depend on our neighbors to set our and maintain our property lines and not ourselves.
Let’s go back to my little sign. It’s to the point. I don’t say it directly, but it communicates that I’ll not be opening the door. There are no accusations. There are no demands. The other person knows I still want to see them and my not opening the door is not personal – it’s something I need and applies to everyone.
If I had written something like “I’m trying to feed my soul right now and don’t need a bunch of constant interruptions so stop dropping by so freakishly early!” it would cause relationship issues. When I first started setting boundaries that’s about where my communication level sat. It caused issues, too. I was making my boundaries about the other person. I was making judgements, mostly because I was still judging myself. I was making my friends and family responsible for my emotional needs and property instead of taking ownership and responsibility. Your boundaries are YOUR boundaries. Own it and communicate it with love and power in a way that doesn’t offend.
Stick with Them
The most important part of setting boundaries is sticking with them. Puppy dog faces, pleas, and demands can unconsciously manipulate us into taking emotional responsibilities for other people’s baggage and allowing our needs and inner person to become frazzled and disengaged. Being consistent is often the hardest part.
Write your boundaries down. As life pops up new experiences write down your feelings and emotions. Write down your failures and your victories. Keep a journal about those things. It helps you to discover where you need to sure up your fence lines. Don’t judge yourself either. You don’t judge a fence for a tree falling it. Don’t judge your boundaries or your skills. Simply make note, and get to work fixing that fence line. Eventually you and the other people in your life will learn to use the gate.
Continuing the Series
The next two installments of this series will be
Dealing with Fence Cutters – How to Deal with Trespassers
Setting Boundaries in Your Internal Pastures
Until next time,
Craft No Harm,
Moriah, Profit, and the Flock