Boundaries – A Wonderful Christmas Gift!

In my last post I talked about boundaries and how having weak boundaries can have a negative impact on your life.  Christmas can be a very challenging time if you have weak boundaries.

You can feel put upon, taken for granted, resentful and overwhelmed – these feelings are all indicators that you are doing things you don’t want to do.

Don’t get me wrong sometimes, as an adult, you have to do things because they’re your responsibility – such as looking after your children when they are too young to take care of themselves, taking care of your home and other possessions, putting in 100% effort when you’re at work etc.

But, these feelings of resentment and overwhelm are usually because some outside force is putting pressure on you to do something that you don’t want to do.  That’s a problem because you are not able to tell the truth about what you want.

In the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life, Henry Cloud and John Townsend tell story of a 30 something woman who wanted to go skiing with her friends during the Christmas break but couldn’t because her mother wouldn’t allow her to go. Her mother put pressure on her to spend Christmas with the family as they always had, and used guilt messages such as ‘How could you be so selfish’, to ensure this young woman would come to the family Christmas celebrations.

People use guilt and shame messages to manipulate you so they get what they want. They get you to  do what they want, not what you want!  And that’s why you feel resentful, overwhelmed, put upon and taken for granted. Did I say confused…..that’s how you can be left feeling when someone uses shame and guilt to manipulate you into doing what you don’t want.

How do you tell the truth?  Especially when the consequence for you involves feeling guilty.

It takes a lot of courage to start standing up for what you want.  But before that, you have to know what you want!

And, if you’ve been manipulated and controlled for a long time, you may not even know what it is that you want.  Awareness is the key.

So here’s a little exercise for you to do over the Christmas break.

Awareness you have this year will impact on the type of Christmas you have next year.

Make two columns – A & B

in column A write down something you do, that you don’t want to do, that you feel you don’t have a choice about.

Then in column B write what you’d prefer instead.

Eg.

Column A Column B
Uncle Fred makes me kiss him I’d prefer to say to Uncle Fred ‘I won’t be kissing you today’
Mum gives me a 2nd helping I’d prefer to say ‘thanks Mum but I’ve had enough already’

Write as many things as you can think of, and see how restricted by other people you really are.

This exercise will help you to start seeing what it is you want rather than what’s being forced on you by others.  To get the most out of this exercise make sure you don’t make column B all about the other person changing!

The reason you’re where you are is because you want the other people to change so you don’t have to do anything different.

That never works!

Write in the comments box below what you find out about yourself…..it benefits all of us to hear what others are struggling with……we don’t feel so alone or quite so peculiar.

Once you know what you want it will be easier for you to start setting your personal boundaries.

Change doesn’t happen overnight so allow yourself the time to become aware of yourself and your motivations.

To help you de-stress during the festive season I’ve included a short Breath meditation. Enjoy!

 

Merry Christmas,

Jenny

Boundaries for a Stress Free Life

When we can set clear personal boundaries we are assured of having mutually respectful, supportive and caring relationships.

Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend in Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life demonstrates that when we have good boundaries our self-esteem is intact and we are generally happier.

Good boundaries help us set limits on acceptable behaviour from the people around us. Our boundaries show others whether they can put us down, make fun of us, or take advantage of our good nature.

If you feel resentful, uncomfortable or hurt by the way others treat you then it may be time to think about your personal boundaries and how you might be able to make them stronger.

Weak boundaries are one of the reasons you may feel vulnerable and taken for granted, or even abused by others.  Healthy boundaries foster self respect and will show others you deserve to be treated well…..because that’s how you treat yourself.

Strong boundaries will protect you from relationships that are harmful and they will help you avoid people who don’t have your best interests at heart.

A personal boundary is a rule that you say cannot be broken without consequence.

Happy, mentally healthy people have all sorts of personal boundaries (rules) that help protect them from other people’s negative words and actions.

Research shows that people with healthy boundaries have less anxiety, are happier, healthier and generally make better decisions. That’s a good reason to learn about them and to start setting them.

Some personal boundaries are:

  • If you call me names and abuse me then I will not stay in your company
  • I will not sit and listen to someone gossiping about others
  • I will respect others personal space and I will protect my own
  • I will take responsibility for my belongings and if I lend them to you and you abuse them I will not lend them to you again
  • I will not lend people money who clearly cannot look after their own
  • I will say no when I feel it is appropriate

Our boundaries are a guide for our own behaviour.

So, that means that when someone begins to gossip we may say, “I’m going to be leaving now, I don’t talk about others behind their back”……this doesn’t stop the other person doing it if they want to, it just makes it clear that you won’t partake of this activity.

It’s important to remember that at no point is setting a personal boundary an attempt to change someone else’s behaviour, instead, we set boundaries to show what our responsibility is, what we will and won’t do, and to protect ourselves and our belongings.

When we set good boundaries, we feel stronger emotionally because we know we can rely on ourselves to stand up for what we believe in and that’s very important to our self respect and self-esteem.

If you don’t have good boundaries and don’t know how to set them it’s a good idea to get some help  because it can be scary at first……we are taught that it’s not nice to say no and we feel guilty when we do. Also, other people, that have been taking advantage of us for a long time, will put up resistance to our boundaries and if we don’t have support it’s easy to cave in and give up.

So, get support, learn the skills and you will never look back.