We all know what a “No Trespassing” sign means.  It marks a line that designates private property.  We are not to cross that line without permission.  We also know that there may be penalties for crossing that line without permission.  You probably have no problem with a fence around your yard or locking your doors at night.  But many of us have problems setting personal boundaries.  

A personal boundary is that invisible “fence” that separates me from others.  It is where I begin and end.  Just like a fence, personal boundaries help us keep the goodin and the bad out.  When people come into my office we often talk about their boundaries.  Some of them have weak or no boundaries.  It is like a storm came through and blew their fence on the ground.  People walk all over them.  

Some examples of weak boundaries would be:

  • An inability to separate my feelings from others.  I allow someone else’s mood or feelings to dictate how I feel.  I can’t be happy unless they are happy.
  • I feel overly responsible for someone else.  I think it is my job to fix them, to please them, or to make them happy.  That is not my job.  Conversely, I may feel it is someone else’s job to make me happy.  I am responsible to others and formyself.
  • I blame others for my problems.
  • I continually sacrifice my plans and dreams for others.
  • I over-share private information even though doing so makes me feel too vulnerable.

Instead of weak boundaries some people have rigid boundaries.  They are walled off from others.  They have no gate in their fence that allows the good to come in.

Some examples of rigid boundaries are: 

  • An inability to be emotionally intimate with the significant people in my life.
  • An inability to take a risk to trust.
  • Having to have things done my way because my way is the right way.
  • An inability to be wrong and say so.
  • Being so walled-off no one can get through.  This may cost me friendships.

Deciding to set boundaries may feel risky, but the payoff is so worth it.  Others will either get on board, or they won’t.  If they won’t, you may have decisions to make.

Here are some tips for setting your boundaries:

  • When you need to set a boundary with someone, do it clearly, appropriately, an in as few words as possible.
  • You cannot set a boundary and take care of another person’s feelings at the same time.
  • Anger, rage, complaining, and whining are clues that boundaries need to be set.
  • Expect resentment from those who are not used to your newly set boundaries.  They will most likely push back.
  • A support system is helpful as you strive to establish and maintain boundaries.
  • Strive for balance and flexibility.  You don’t want your fence on the ground, but you don’t walls either.  The goal is to have a healthy sense of self and to treat others the way you would like to be treated.
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