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Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Have you ever purposefully left your front door unlocked? When you do, you run the risk of anyone, including unwelcomed guests, to come in. Having unhealthy boundaries may look like this, allowing other individuals open access to step into your life as they please without limits; often leaving us anxious, drained, discouraged, resentful or feeling guilty. How do we recognize if we have unhealthy or healthy boundaries? First, let me give you a definition for a boundary. Simply put, a boundary is a property line. When you buy a home, you learn where your property begins and ends. Boundaries let you know what belongs to you and what belongs to your neighbors. They inform you of who is in control of the home on your land. You have choices of what type of landscaping you are going to have and what type of décor you will have inside. In addition, you have responsibility for what’s on and who enters the property.

When we talk about boundaries in relationships, it is important to acknowledge that personal boundaries are unique to everyone, and they may change overtime, depending on life circumstances. Boundaries in relationships are rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what is reasonable, safe, and permissible for other people to behave around them. This includes having a clear understanding of how you will respond when someone steps outside those limits. Think about healthy boundaries as a “No Trespassing” sign, which sends a clear message that when boundaries are violated, there are consequences. This is the perfect picture of how personal boundaries can help you decide what behaviors are acceptable and what steps need to be taken when limits are not respected. You can set boundaries and still be kind. Let’s take a look at some characteristics of unhealthy and healthy boundaries.

Unhealthy boundaries:

1. Feeling responsible for other individual’s happiness.

2. Inability to say “no” due to fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

3. Not respecting other’s boundaries.

4. Determine how you feel about yourself by how others treat you.

5. Allowing yourself to be controlled or manipulated by others.

Healthy Boundaries allow you to:

1. Make your own decisions.

2. Protect physical and emotional space from intrusion.

3. End an abusive conversation. Remove yourself until both have calmed down to talk.

4. Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared.

5. Confidently and truthfully say “yes” or “no” and be okay when others respond in the same manner.

6. Separate your needs, thoughts, feelings and desires from others. Recognizing everyone has different needs and boundaries.

7. Be honest and expect honesty from others that you are in a relationship with.

How can we begin to set healthy boundaries? First, it is important to identify the need to set a boundary. Do not justify it; instead, set the boundary clearly, calmly and firmly. Do not apologize for the boundary you are setting. What a life changing moment when you understand that you are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. However, you are responsible for communicating your boundary in a respectful manner. Most important, be clear about the boundary you’re setting. When we send mixed messages, chances are the person might not fully understand or follow through.

Learning how to set boundaries takes time, especially if we have internalized and taken responsibility for other people’s feelings and reactions in the past. A great coping skill to adapt when feeling anxious about setting boundaries is to identify feelings of guilt and/or fear when they arise. Think about a time in which you have set boundaries and what the end positive result was. How did that make you feel? What internal dialogue worked in order for you to set that boundary? Remind yourself that it’s okay to take care of yourself, and setting boundaries is a good place to start being healthier for yourself and for those around you!

If you would like to speak with a therapist about learning to establish healthy boundaries, please contact me at www.diannebrown.live to schedule a free 15-minute consultation. We can be kind and Christ-like by establishing healthy boundaries, allowing us the freedom to love as Christ does.

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9:00 am-4:00 pm


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