Many of us know the meaning behind the term ‘boundaries’, but not many of us know how to effectively put them in place. Boundaries are an important way to ensure we are taking care of ourselves. When we set and maintain healthy boundaries, we are better placed to avoid the feelings of disappointment, anger, and resentment that tend to build up when we are constantly pushed to our limit.
Setting boundaries is also an important part of establishing our identities and is a crucial aspect of looking after our mental health and well-being. Boundaries can be emotional or physical, and they can range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries often falling somewhere in between. But boundaries are not rigid lines drawn in the sand that are clear for all to see. Founder of Heart Centered Academy, Melanie Verstraete has made it her life’s work to help people retrain their minds, guiding them towards inner-peace, confidence, and attracting the right partners and friendships with those who will love and respect them. Below Melanie shares her top 5 tips for building healthy boundaries in relationships.
Tip #1 Love and respect yourself first.
It’s human nature to put others before ourselves, especially in the case of parenthood or romantic relationships. But we need to learn to love and respect ourselves first before we can truly share that love and respect with others in our lives.
To do this we must change how we feel about ourselves. We need to re-train our thoughts and feelings towards two different core beliefs. The first is the false belief that we are not good enough, and the second that ‘we are not who we should be’.
In the words of Mama Ru, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”
Tip # 2 Know yourself.
Knowing yourself is what frees you from the opinions of others. Knowing exactly what works for you, what doesn’t, what is good for you and vice versa renders what others may think and advise irrelevant. You, and only you, are the expert of your own being. You are in charge of your thoughts, personality and emotions.
The independence that comes from self-awareness also shapes confidence. Simply knowing who you are and what you stand for in life can give you a stronger sense of self-confidence.
Tip #3 Speak your truth.
Sometimes, speaking openly and honestly is hard work. Whether it’s self-doubt or fear of saying the wrong thing, many of us keep silent when we shouldn’t. The first step towards speaking your truth is to just remember that admitting your truth to yourself can be the hardest part. Be gentle and loving with yourself as you admit your truth to yourself.
Speaking your truth is not the time to blame or shame, however. Try to get as clear and sober as you can emotionally before speaking your truth to others, and keep in mind that they will also have their own version of the truth.
It also helps to be prepared for the fact that speaking your truth may make you feel vulnerable. To help with this, write down your feelings beforehand, or if you are afraid of not being able to properly convey your thoughts and emotions to the other person, write down exactly what you wish to say to them.
Tip #4 Stop people pleasing.
This comes back to knowing ourselves and speaking our truths. Sacrificing ourselves for the sake of pleasing others we care for takes us down a treacherous path. Always putting the needs of others before our own can cause roadblocks to authentic caring, communication, and closeness. I’m not saying never put another first, but we need to learn when to do so.
Similarly, we need to learn not to conceal our true feelings in order to protect or placate others. Intimacy cannot thrive from a place of emotional dishonesty and inauthenticity.
Tip #5 Be okay with others’ discomfort.
Sometimes when you are on a journey of self, others around you may become uncomfortable with your growth. This is okay! Don’t let yourself be deterred by how others may feel about you coming into your own and doing what’s best for you. Those who are true partners and friends will adjust and be there for you.
Our boundaries are what define us. They show us where we end and where others begin. Failing to set boundaries and then holding others accountable is how we invite in feelings of negativity. By learning to set in place healthy boundaries in our relationships, we are not only looking after our mental health and well-being, we are positioning ourselves to develop stronger bonds with others.