Want Respect? Learn How to Set Boundaries

healthy habits mentalhealth Jun 20, 2024

Want Respect? Learn to Set Boundaries.

All of us want to be respected but we don’t often take the time to do one of the most important things to bring us that respect -- set boundaries. Boundaries are the basis for healthy relationships. They create respect at home, at work, with friends, and in the community. They are guardrails on the emotional cliffs of life that show us how far we can safely go.

Boundaries take care of us. Boundaries keep our bodies, finances, emotions, and spirits safe. When we don’t practice boundaries, it is hard to stay safe. Because we don’t like to say “No.” to people, it’s easy to be taken advantage of and put ourselves on the path to harm. We don’t like to let people down and so we sacrifice our time, energy, emotional wellbeing, and sometimes even our safety. People pleasing is a very “Nice behavior. In truth it is nothing more than a defense mechanism based in fear.

Using the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. model for setting and keeping boundaries produces the respect you want and the safety you need in your life. We train others how to treat us. If we want to be treated with respect, we need to show others using boundaries how we are willing to be treated and where we draw an appropriate line.

“Consistency in enforcing boundaries teaches others how to treat you and respects your personal integrity.”

— Dr. Nedra Glover Tawwab, Therapist and Author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace


R - Recognize Your Needs

E - Explore Your Edges. 

S - Share Your Boundaries

P - Prepare for pushback

E - Enact Boundaries

C - Checkup

T - Trust Your Decision

R - Recognize Your Needs 

“Recognizing our own needs is crucial because it allows us to take responsibility for our emotional well-being.”

— Melody Beattie, Author of Codependent No More

Boundaries are a tool to help us meet our needs within relationships. So, it is crucial that we understand what those needs are and understand that those needs are valid and important. Your safety, comfort, and values are deserving of care and attention.

Take some time to reflect on how you are treated by the people around you. What do you appreciate about your interactions with other people? Is there anything that you feel worried about or uncomfortable with? Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of in any way?

Are there any needs you feel have not been or are not being met? How do you react in moments where your needs are overlooked?

E - Explore Your Edges.                                                                

Decide what your limits are. How far will you go and what types of behavior will you not tolerate? It’s time to stop accepting the unacceptable and be Kind to yourself. “Nice” people are typically boundaryless because they are afraid that saying “no” will be seen as rude. Kind people are excellent boundary-keepers because they understand that it is kind to hold boundaries. It is kind to care for your needs with boundaries.

Consider each of the 6 pillars of intimacy, what are your boundaries in each area? What are your emotional boundaries? What about physical, financial, spiritual, recreational, and sexual? Now consider the more specific areas/situations where you may need more defined boundaries (work, social media, family gatherings… etc.). This would be a good time to write down a boundary in each of these areas.

Here are some real-life examples of healthy boundaries:

  • Emotional - I will not take responsibility for anyone else’s emotions. I am only responsible for my own.
  • Physical - I will not stand for abuse or violence toward me or my family.
  • Financial - I will not go into debt when aiding someone else.
  • Spiritual - I will not engage in destructive conversation or actions.  
  • Social - I will not connect on social media with profiles that are negative or degrading.
  • Sexual - I will not allow myself to be touched in inappropriate ways.

S - Share Your Boundaries

“Setting boundaries isn't about making demands. It’s about communicating your needs with respect and clarity.”

— Dr. John Townsend, Psychologist and Author of Boundaries

This third category is about communicating with others what you are and are not willing to do. Practice how you will explain your boundary so you can calmly explain in the moment. It is much easier to communicate boundaries when you have prepared beforehand. 

Do your best to share your boundaries at a time when things are calm, before any opportunities for boundaries to be crossed occur. Having clearly and cleanly articulated your boundaries ahead of time will avoid adding tension to an already emotionally heightened moment. Do it before your boundaries are crossed, not during. It will produce a much higher likelihood that your words will be accepted.

P - Prepare for Pushback

“Expect that some people will not like your boundaries. Be ready for resistance and stand firm in what you know is right for you.”

— Sarri Gilman, Author of Transform Your Boundaries

People will either grow with you or fight your growth. If you haven’t had defined boundaries in the past, there is a good chance you are in one or many codependent relationships. A codependent relationship is when one person (or both) is unhealthily attached to the other and puts the other’s needs before their own. Moving from codependence to boundary interdependence can feel very uncomfortable and distressing for both parties. There are many vulnerable emotions involved in relationships, communicating boundaries often triggers some defensiveness. Be prepared for pushback. 

It is important to remember that you do not owe anyone an explanation of your boundaries. Your needs are valid and important, and you get to protect them with the boundaries you choose. There is nothing to prove, your boundaries are valid. Long explanations of your boundaries in tense moments allows for people to argue with you or try to convince you otherwise. Each point of your explanation creates ground to argue on. The shorter you are, the more people will recognize that you are serious and will respect you for it.

For example, your boundary may be “I will not go into debt when aiding someone else.” If your sister asks to borrow money to pay off her rent and you cannot afford it, you can communicate your boundary by saying something as simple as “I’m sorry that must be hard. I can’t afford to give you money right now.” and leave it at that. You do not need to prove it or explain why you don’t want to go into debt. Communicate your boundary and leave it at that.

“Resistance to boundaries is natural. Expect it and be ready to explain your reasons with calm assertiveness.”

— Dr. Harriet Lerner, Clinical Psychologist and Author of The Dance of Anger

E - Enact (Execute, Enforce) Boundaries

Dr. Henry Cloud says, “Boundaries are essentially about saying, ‘Here’s where I end, and you begin.’ Consistency in enforcement helps others understand and respect this demarcation.”

Your boundaries are for you. You cannot set a boundary for someone else, and they cannot set a boundary for you. Your boundaries can only guide your own behavior. For example, the boundary “I will not engage in destructive conversations or actions” involves other people within the conversation, but only guides your actions. When a conversation or action gets destructive, I cannot force other people to be kinder, my options are to communicate my boundary and ask the other people to change the topic or to leave the conversation.

Boundaries are communicated through actions not words.

C - Checkup

“Boundaries are not static. They should evolve as you grow and your circumstances change.”

Dr. Lisa Firestone, Clinical Psychologist and Author

Are your boundaries still serving you? Do a regular check-up to make sure that the needs from the past are still relevant to the person you are today. Children need very different boundaries than adults. Check-in to make sure your boundaries are still serving your needs today.

T - Trust Your Decision

“Trust yourself enough to set boundaries and know that you deserve to have them respected.”

— Cheryl Richardson, Author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care

It is easy to question your decision when you get pushback. Trust your decision. It will be hard at first. It will also be worth it to find a new life of respect and growth.

“Good fences make good neighbors. Knowing where your limits are and communicating them effectively creates respectful relationships.”

— Robert Frost, Poet

I invite you to spend time today writing out your boundaries and then dive deeper into boundaries setting and being Kind instead of Nice by signing up for the 5-Day Self-Paced Masterclass.

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