by Lynn Owens
Boundaries are the invisible lines that separate our responsibilities from other people’s. They help us to know where we end and other people begin. Boundaries help us to keep good things in our lives and keep bad things out. . Establishing healthy boundaries with family, friends and in the workplace allow you to feel empowered and capable, rather than feeling constantly taken advantage of or lacking control over your own decisions.
When we are people-pleasing and afraid to say no, we become stifled and can’t fully live out our purpose. Our health in all areas is affected and we are unfulfilled and exhausted.
People who are struggling with weak boundaries often:
• Give away too much of your time
• Say yes when you want to say no
• Feel guilty for saying no
• Feel guilty for taking care of your own needs
• Have a history of toxic relationships
• Are passive aggressive or manipulative
• Often feel like a victim
• Are a people pleaser
• Make decisions on what other people might think, feel, or do
• You call it helping, but really you are enabling other people
So what do you do if you have weak boundaries? You learn to have healthy boundaries. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but it is absolutely doable (is that a word? I don’t know) but the point is, it can be done. A key to remember that establishing healthy boundaries is a LEARNED behavior. Even if you don’t know how to set healthy boundaries NOW, you can absolutely learn how to.
I’ve helped lots of people learn to have healthy boundaries and the word they all use to describe it is FREEDOM! Boundaries help us to make good decisions and those good decisions result in good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
People who have healthy boundaries:
• Are assertive
• Able to say no without feeling guilty
• Ask for what you need
• Practice good self-care
• You say yes because you want to, not because other people expect you to
• You take responsibility for how you think, feel, or behave
• You avoid or get out of toxic or unhealthy relationships
• You enjoy relationships with other people but you don’t seek their approval
It is important to remember that setting boundaries is your responsibility, but you are not responsible for how other people feel about your boundaries. Boundary setting includes deciding what limits you will to set regarding your time, your body, your money, etc.
Boundary setting also includes enforcing those limits. While we don’t have control over what other people say or do, we have control over what we will accept. Sometimes enforcing boundaries requires us to make ourselves unavailable to be used, disrespected, or manipulated. That may mean that we restrict access to ourselves or our property with people who refuse to respect our boundaries. In other situations it may mean requesting assistance from someone in authority (i.e. a boss, law enforcement, etc.), or making other people aware of the situation. Having other people who will support us and hold a boundary offender accountable can be an effective way of enforcing boundaries.
If you are struggling with boundaries, I strongly recommend counseling, as well as some bibilotherapy (that’s counselor talk for, “read this book and it will help you”). One of the books I recommend to many of my clients is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Lynn Owens is a licensed professional counselor and the owner of Made to Thrive Counseling. Made to Thrive Counseling offers Christian counseling services, as well as counseling for women, marriage, families, teens, and children. To contact Made to Thrive, call 252.364.8741 or visit madetothrivecounseling.org.