Setting Emotional Boundaries
Setting Boundaries is essential in healthy relationships. Without boundaries, we feel unsafe, unsure, unhealthy in relationships, depressed, anxious, and the list goes on. Why are personal boundaries important? For example, unhealthy boundaries would be like leaving everything you own outside just sitting in your yard for anyone to take, touch, comment on, and exposed at all times. Imagine doing that. Chances are, you would not allow your personal property to be exposed like that. This is because you respect your belongings and you want them to be safe. If left outside for everyone to have access to, you have no control over your belongings, anyone can take advantage of your personal items, and nothing is safe.
At the same time, boundaries that are too rigid aren't ideal either. If everything was locked inside your house at all times and you never allowed anyone in to see that beautiful new piece of artwork, your favorite fall candle, or that new paint color in your bathroom, people wouldn't ever have a chance to see what is going on inside. They'd know nothing about you, and therefore the relationship would not be as strong as it has the potential to be.
So how does this apply to emotional boundaries? When you have weak emotional boundaries, you're allowing yourself to be exposed to all kinds of negativity from others. So why would you not want to set healthy boundaries with people? FEAR and GUILT are two huge reasons. Maybe your mom comes to your house three times a week unannounced. You know she's been going through a difficult time lately and you don't want to add to it, so you decide not to say anything. Three times a week turns into five times a week and now she sleeps over on some nights. None of this was discussed beforehand, so your plans had to be changed and you're feeling stressed and anxious because of it. But if you say something to her, you fear that you may hurt her feelings, so you let it go. In this situation, would you expect anything to change? You can hope, but you won't have much control of the outcome. You can hope she decides not to stop over as much or hope she would call beforehand, but without having a conversation about it and setting boundaries with her, you're left with a high probability that the situation will remain the same.
Now picture the same situation with some healthy boundaries being established. You talk with your mom in a clear, calm, and firm tone, letting her know you value her company and her visits. You mention to her that you've been feeling stressed and anxious lately, and you understand that she has too, and you think it would be helpful if the two of you could set up scheduled times before to come over. Weekly dinners, maybe an extra 20 minute phone call during the week, something that is predictable and scheduled in advance. However, she is not used to this. She wants to test the boundary. She has always been able to come over and drop by whenever she wanted and why does it have to be an issue now? Well, you've already explained yourself and are in the process of setting and maintaining these healthier boundaries. Your mom isn't a huge fan, but how do you feel?
Establishing healthy boundaries feels empowering. You allow yourself to have a sense of control over a situation and are taking responsibility for yourself. You said no. It's OK to say no. It's great to say no! You don't have to do something just because someone else wants you to. You set the boundary. It may take time for the other person to respect it, they may never respect it, but you feel good about yourself because you know that you've done all you can to keep yourself as safe and emotionally healthy as you can. You are not responsible for how the other person reacts to the boundary. You are not selfish for setting boundaries either. You need to take care of you, and establishing healthy boundaries are a way to do that. So go ahead and take that first step. Over time, You'll feel amazing!