Much is said these days about setting boundaries in our relationships, but what does this mean?
Boundaries are the standards for how you expect to be treated. What it is important to remember is that for these standards to be truly effective they must have two elements:
1. Standards by which you expect others to treat you
2. Standards by which you treat yourself
In my experience these are not the same thing. How we speak to ourselves can often be so harsh that we cross the line of what we would accept from someone else – however flimsy that line may also be at times!
That’s why when you set these boundaries, you must commit to upholding them both privately – behind closed doors and in your mind – as well as publicly through your actions, behaviours and words. Only then will we build vital self-trust, but also communicate to those around us that we mean what we say.
In order to know what your boundaries are, you need to articulate them. The best thing to do is to write them down. In my work with clients, I like to call this a ‘Character Commitment’. It’s a promise you make to yourself about how you will behave towards yourself and others, and the ‘code of conduct’, as it were, that you will hold others to account for adhering to.
Where do you start with writing your Character Commitment?
First, write down your values. That is, what are the principles that are important to you in life? Examples would include integrity, reliability or open-mindedness. Pick what matters to you.
Once you have these listed, start forming them into brief sentences about how you would demonstrate those values yourself or how you would expect others to behave.
To get started, ask yourself these questions:
• What do you want to be known for?
• How do you want people to feel when they have interacted with you?
• What won’t you tolerate in your life?
• How will you handle people who don’t meet your standards?
• Why is it important that you treat yourself with kindness?
Once you have your Character Commitment, the hard part is living up to it and holding yourself to account for taking action when it is being breached.
Don’t let being nice or guilt make you drop those standards for the sake of others. If others are not prepared to accept your boundary, then see it as confirmation that the boundary definitely needs to be in place! Be aware that others are likely to make it hard for you to maintain the boundary, so anticipate this; think about what you’ll do or say so that you have your response pre-determined. This will help to maintain your resolve.
If your standards are compromised, ask yourself:
• Who is benefiting from my current lack of boundaries with them?
• What is the standard that is being breached?
• What can I do about it?
These may be tough questions, but they are necessary because the answers will be revealing and may just strengthen your resolve.
Remember, there is always something you can do. Trust me.