Ever had someone cross the line and ask you something way too personal? Learn to set boundaries, stop pleasing people, and have healthier relationships with others and yourself. What are boundaries? It is the limit we set within ourselves on what we will or will not tolerate. Most of us have never even thought of where our boundaries are, and this is because they were not clearly defined. You overcommit, you try to please everybody and in doing that, you end up hurting yourself. At times, you tend to say yes to something that you did not want to do out of obligation and feeling bad. You sacrificed yourself in order to keep the peace in a situation to make everybody else happy. So to those who have been identified as people pleasers, peacekeepers or those who don’t want to rock the boat, afraid of conflict you have spent time and energy managing the perceptions of others and taking more responsibility than what is yours. Time was invested in abandoning yourselves to make sure that others are okay instead of checking in with yourself to see if you are okay. So let’s take back your power, control how you spend your time and instead of giving everything away to everyone. Stop depleting yourself and really give yourself what you need because you have to look after yourself. You are your number one best friend and supporter so you got to have your own back. Let’s learn how to set boundaries and stop pleasing people.
The first thing is self-awareness. You need to know yourself as a holistic individual, understand your inner feelings and where your boundaries are. In every situation you should ask yourself “What’s my preference?”or “What's my desire?”. Know what you want so you can consider yourself with your needs first. Such questions are often neglected. As a result, others come into the picture and decisions were made on your behalf.
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After finding your inner self, the next thing to commit to is setting the margin for your limits and expressing your desires. Voice out those boundaries so that other people know where you stand. If you never express it, people won’t know. they are going to do whatever they want, they are going to push for what they want and that’s just how it is. Many doubt if this act is acceptable, with assurance, it is definitely ok to voice out. So it is possible to communicate directly, honestly and in a kind way regarding your boundaries to others. Using the right vocabulary in starting the topic is also very crucial, words such as “you”. “You always” or “you never'' would escalate the state to a more aggressive manner. Situations like this will not easily end with a collaborative conversation, however if we take responsibility for ourselves, and come from the place of , “I feel X, when you do Y, and in order to Take care of myself I will do Z”. One can also take the opportunity that comes when the person comes over with a question. Here is a go-to script for saying no to others with grace and gratitude. Simply to be able to say, “I appreciate the invitation I'm not available”. So there is no apology, no excuse and no reason. Do it with gratitude, “Thank you for thinking of me, thanks for inviting me” and no apologies. Taking ourselves into account as much as not more than others.
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Setting boundaries within families requires one’s emotional intelligence in phrasing and delivering the desired message hence here are some tips to get started with. First, identify the problem. Take a moment to sit down and think it over, maybe journal to help you identify what is bothering you in your relationship with your parents. Second, identify unhealthy dynamics in the relationship. This is a two-way street, reflecting on both what your parents might be contributing as well as what you might be contributing to the unhealthy dynamic. For example, if you identify a problem you might identify your mum tends to utilise criticism and you react with defensiveness followed by stonewalling. Thirdly, identify what changes can be helpful like step one and two mentioned above see if there are any natural or obvious changes solutions that would be helpful for you. In the earlier example given , your mother being more compassionate on how she voices her concerns such that she is not criticising your character, additionally you might be able to ask for space and come back to the conversation later when you are ready. Fourthly, identify what strategies you've already used, see what has been helpful out of all those, was there anything that didn't work or needed to be modified to help them be more effective. If you have made attempts to address the issue in the past and your parents react unsafely this is important feedback to consider before making any future attempts, consider whether there is any changes you can make to the environment to foster greater safety such as having a sibling, or loved one to be present to help you to diffuse tension. Having a conversation over the phone rather than in person or setting some ground rules before having the conversation. For example, saying something like “I'd like to bring up something sensitive but I would step away from the conversation if I'm criticised”. Lastly, know your limits. After step four you identify that your parents may not be safe enough in order to have a conversation or even after having several conversations and it just hasn't landed and gotten the response that you are needing, it might be time to set appropriate limits in the relationship.
Boundaries are important. The lack of it will lead to a vicious cycle of frustration and disappointment in any relationship. If something makes you uncomfortable, voice it out. If there’s a boundary that you had set but your parents kept pushing the limit, talk it through.
By: Megan Yeow Pei Yen