Do you have a hard time setting boundaries? Do you usually say yes when you wanted to say no? You tackle things that you were not supposed to deal with? If so, then today’s topic is for you. Let’s get some tips that can help you set some boundaries.
Importance of Boundaries
You may ask: Why is it important to set Boundaries?
First, because you may be a person who didn’t know how to do this since you were a child. You may have been a victim of other abusive, dominating children, or you suffered from adults who were not sensitive to your needs as a child, needs that you did not know how to claim. Father and mother need to teach children from an early age to know how to defend themselves from abuse. You may have become an adult who still struggles with the issue of setting limits. Hence you suffer unnecessarily, assuming tasks, responsibilities that you shouldn’t have, but since you take them on, your life gets stressful, heavy and unhappy.
Boundaries are attitudes you should have and need to practice, in order to protect what is good in your life, and not allow bad things to overcome you, whether in your home, your body, at work, in your religious community, in the neighborhood and in your own mind. Limits are important. Think of the boundary between your house or apartment and the neighbor’s house or apartment. The limit can be the door, the corridor, the sidewalk, the wall, the fence, right? And what about the limits between a town and another town, between a state and another state, between one country and another country. Look how important limits are, the border is important, isn’t it? I remember a saying I read a while ago: having a neighbor is good, but put up your fence.
An emotionally sensitive person, if he suffered a lot in childhood relationships, he may have built up tight boundaries on his personality, in order to avoid suffering pain again. Sometimes we hide ourselves to protect from the pains we have experienced in the childhood past, to make sure they are not repeated in adulthood. But we can exaggerate our boundaries that keep us away from more intimate contact with others, and even with ourselves.
Some children may not have learned to put limits during childhood against family abuse. They may have been criticized for wanting to be alone for a few moments when it was normal for their temperament. They may have been hampered in the process of delineating their self, in the construction of an identity that separates them from others. They may have had difficulty making decisions independently. Some children and teens may have suffered in their families for being aggressively repressed when they tried to complain about something unjust and cruel. Children who grow up without having learned to set just and necessary limits for the preservation of their own identity, become adults who are generally victims of abuse in marriage, with an authoritarian husband, with an authoritarian wife, or with a co-worker, boss, or abusive business partner.
Now let’s look at some tips on how to establish healthy boundaries.
First make sure you express yourself clearly. Many sensitive people, more prone to not knowing how to set boundaries, often express themselves, but not in a clear and firm way. They may say something like this: yes maybe, I’ll try, if I can, when they really wanted to say no. You can be clear, firm, and at the same time polite and tactful.
A second tip: you have no obligation of always needing to give a reason for your decision. Think about it: you can say no thanks, I don’t want that, and that’s it. Speak politely, without shouting, and if the person insists on wanting to know the reason for your decision, you can repeat your answer and say that you do not want to explain. You have the right not to explain yourself to an abusive person, who just wants to bog you down.
The third tip on setting boundaries. Only you know whether or not you are overwhelmed. If people know that you are overwhelmed, they may not ask you for another difficult task. So say you have a lot to do or too many responsibilities around your ears.
A fourth tip: You have the right to tell a person that you will need more time to think about the decision he wants you to take right away. If you feel not safe to take the final decision right now, say that you need to think and that you will get back to them as soon as you can.
The fifth tip for you to set boundaries and protect yourself. If you think it will be easier to say no by email, by phone, by the message on your cell phone or other means, without being face to face, then use one of these means of contacting the person.
The sixth tip has to do with respecting yourself and thinking that you are on same ground with another person, or you may even be better prepared, for example to perform a certain task. Someone who is bossy, with a dominant temperament, usually chooses the best seat, the quietest place, the largest office, dictates the rules, determines tasks, doesn’t he? So do not feel or place yourself as inferior to that person, but with the same rights if you are actually in the same hierarchy. If the person doesn’t see you as someone who has the same rights as he does, when in fact you have a right, see what you can do to change that.
Make an effort to say no when it is the right thing to do. When you arrive at the final judgment, God will not ask you why you were not the same as someone else. If you don’t take better care of yourself, putting boundaries on what God expects you to be, he will ask you why you have not been the best of yourself. So think about it. You have a right to set boundaries, and if you have not learned it in childhood, you can learn it now. Protect yourself and set boundaries!
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.