Sunday, November 13, 2011

Healthy Boundaries: Getting There

Now that we've discussed the basics of boundaries which are unhealthy for being too loose or too rigid -- and the importance of having healthy boundaries for their positive impact on your self-esteem and your relationships with others, let's learn how to establish those boundaries with others.

Step 1. What do you need?  Sit down and really figure out what you need in a relationship. What makes you feel respected? What makes you feel uncomfortable? Determine what your own personal needs, wants, and rights are. Establish boundaries based on what you think is reasonable. Remember that your rights and needs should be separate entities in and of themselves, and that your rights should end where those of others begin.

Step 2.  Discuss these boundaries with others. State your case clearly, and in with a neutral but firm attitude. Don't speak angrily or in a long-winded way. Just keep it clear and concise. You do not need to apologize for, rationalize, or argue while establishing this boundary. Be firm and respectful.

Step 3.  Remember why you're setting this boundary. If you expect people to understand and respect your needs, you must also understand that their reactions to this may be negative, especially if they are used to behaving in ways that are contrary to these boundaries. Don't apologize for protecting yourself. Don't feel selfish or guilty, just stand by your decision and remind yourself why you need your rights and needs to be respected by those who should care about you. This is a normal, natural and healthy part of the process. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but things will get easier with time.

Step 4.  Prepare yourself for the possibility of being tested. Most people will understand your feelings and respect them, but there might be people in your life who will not respect these boundaries. Others might accuse you of being selfish or mean for denying their unreasonable requests. But nevertheless, if their behavior is unacceptable to you, you must be confident and assert yourself. You cannot set a boundary and then apologize or rationalize it to others -- this sends a mixed message which might enable others to take advantage later. You can be respectful of the fact that some may not agree with your boundaries, but stay true to yourself. You have the right to be treated with respect. If people still don't respect your boundaries, you may have to put distance between yourself and them, possibly end the relationship or even pursue legal options if the other person still doesn't respect your rights.

Step 5. Establish a support system. This should be made up of people who do care about you, and who are willing to respect your boundaries. Healthy relationships with friends, family, and other people whose jobs are to care for you will make you stronger and more confident in yourself. Eliminate disrespectful, controlling, or abusive people from your life. Make more room for relationships with people who are caring and respectful.

Step 6.  Grow and evolve.  These changes may be uncomfortable or even scary for you at first.  But just keep in mind that you're doing this to improve the overall quality of your life, so some unpleasant backlash may be necessary for this growth.  Protecting yourself with healthy boundaries can enhance your relationships, boost your self-confidence, and radiate outward to inspire other positive changes in your life as well.

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