Setting Healthy Boundaries
Recently I read a post someone made in a forum, and they were really stressed with how they were being treated badly by their friends. That post got me thinking about personal boundaries, so I wrote this article.
We teach others how to treat us by the boundaries we set (or don't set!). Furthermore, if we do not set any lines, then others will set them for us according to what suits them, or just how they naturally do things.
Now suppose you have a friend who is respectful and sensitive to others, then you may be treated very well by them with no boundary issues at all. Now let's look at the opposite end. Suppose the friend does not have much self-love, was abused as a child, and very critical to the world, then this person would most likely treat us in a way that reflects how they judge the world.
Rather than secretly hope that others treat us respectfully, leaving it in their hands, wouldn't it be better to make our boundaries clear through confidence in how express our personality, body language, and communications?
Have you ever seen someone who is very self-confident, and able to speak up for themselves, and others just seem to treat them with respect and take them seriously? I have, and it is so awesome to watch these confident people in action because they are masters at expressing themselves with very clear self-boundaries that earn, not command, respect. Healthy boundaries are not about fear, in making someone afraid so they treat you good. They are about honoring yourself, while at the same time being respectful to others with the way you communicate what is ok, and not okay for you. This allows respect.
An easy way to learn healthier boundaries is first to make a list of all the ways that you are and are not okay with being treated.
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left column, write a list of all the ways that you don't like how people treat you. For each one you write down, straight across to the right side of the column, write the contrast to each one of how you do like to be treated. Ex: "I don't like it when John calls me stupid". On the other column: "I want John to talk to me with respect."
Once you have made this list, you will have a good view of what is acceptable behavior with how you want to be treated.
Here are five points to contemplate:
Ask yourself if you treat anyone in the ways that you don't like to be treated. If you do, then how can you expect others to treat you any better than how you treat them? If you want to change this, then use the positive statements you created in the right side column to guide you.
Ask yourself, "With my inner self-talk, do I treat myself in those disrespectful ways that I don't like others to treat me? Do I say negative stuff to myself in my thoughts? Am I hard on myself? If you do, then how can you expect others to treat you any better than how you treat yourself?; as you are setting the standard by this behavior!
When someone treats you in a way that you feel is disrespectful, do you say that you are uncomfortable with how they are treating you? If you don't let them know it is not ok, then how can you expect them to stop if they don't know how you want to be treated!
If you express that the way they are treating you is not ok, and they keep doing it, and you have told them again that it is not ok, do you let them keep doing it? Do you keep spending time with them while they are doing this? If you do, then you are letting them treat you this way by training them that your boundaries are not actually serious.
Usually, expressing that the behavior is not ok will be enough, but with some people who do not have healthy self-love and respect, if you want them to stop, you may have to become firmer with your "NO" to them, and even add a consequence if their unacceptable behavior continues. If it continues, and you have done your best, you will have to follow through with the consequence that you stated, otherwise you are selling your own self-respect to them. You might have to let them go... as sometimes, we just have to learn how to love people at a distance... And honestly, if someone does not respect your boundaries and keeps treating you in ways that make you feel bad, spending time with them will cost you more energy than you gain and it is not worth it!
The simple truth is that self-boundaries are something we have to construct yourselves. Through experience, trial and error, listening to your heart, observing others you respect who have healthy self-boundaries, and some good books on the subject, we all can learn how to do this well. It all depends on how much worth you want to place on yourself, and what you are willing to do about it, because self-esteem, self love, self-confidence and self-respect, all come from setting healthy boundaries.
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