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The When of Boundaries

Last week I wrote a post on boundaries and I got a lot of feedback about the challenge of setting boundaries.  Setting healthy boundaries are a natural part of a healthy relationship.  In essence, being lovingly aware of our boundaries is a good thing.  I have noticed over the years there seems to be 2 main issues with setting boundaries.

1. Knowing WHEN to set them.  If you were taught growing up to not make waves, not be demanding, not stand out. You learned early on that speaking your needs was if not a lost cause, one that wasn’t values. So before you can learn how to set boundaries you have to know what your needs are to be able to speak them.

2. Knowing HOW to set them. So if you know your needs and want to set a boundary knowing how to do it becomes the next challenge.  At this stage all types of fears come up…what if they get mad at me…what if they don’t like me…what if a conflict starts.

So today I am going to address the WHEN of boundaries and next week I will tackle the HOW.

First off to know when to set boundaries you need to get clear on what you NEED.  To get started it might be helpful to download my Live Happier 101 Mini Course which has a great exercise to start drilling down on what is most important to you. You can sign up for the mini-course here.

A great way to figure out what you need is to simple pay attention to yourself. Have some genuine curiosity and notice throughout the day when you feel anxious, frustrated, angry or stressed.

When you feel yourself getting anxious or frustrated then pay attention to what is going on.  Who are you with?  What tasks are you engaging in?  Is there something you need right now? Just start getting clear on what you NEED.

Some examples might be:

  • you need more time,
  • to someone to back off,
  • to take something of your to do list,
  • to go eat,
  • to have a girls night

At first, just give yourself permission to just start naming the needs to yourself. Getting comfortable with the fact that you have needs and knowing what they are is the first step in knowing when to set boundaries.

As you get more comfortable in knowing and naming your needs then start asking yourself what has to happen in order for this need to be met…

do I need to say no? ask someone something?  speak up for myself? just do it?

Eventually you will see where boundaries need to occur in your life.  You will see that yes you do have needs, your needs ARE important AND you can speak up and have some of your needs met.

Now I do want to do a quick clarification here:  As with anything when taken too the extreme it can become harmful. Setting healthy boundaries is about knowing your needs, speaking up when needed, and recognizing when to compromise.  There are people in our lives that we will have to set ridged boundaries with and there are people in our lives who we can have loose boundaries with–the empowerment comes from being able to hold and set all types of boundaries. When we are too ridged we miss out and when we are too loose we miss out.

Check in next week for the HOW of setting boundaries.

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