Many people think that letting go of their 'ego'—egotism and pride—will make them vulnerable. This is a big misconception, an absolutely wrong belief. Rather, not having healthy boundaries in place, makes one vulnerable and prone to be taken advantage of. To maintain healthy and sustainable relationships, one also needs to set healthy boundaries. You set boundaries by communicating them, but you can't communicate them when ego is at the forefront. We need to silence the ego to hold an honest conversation with the people concerned.
WHAT ARE BOUNDARIES?
Personal boundaries are the guidelines we set which articulate how we would like to be treated in our relationships. They define what we can and cannot accept from others. While boundaries are crucial in maintaining relationships, most people struggle with setting them in the first place.
Here as some reasons why it might feel difficult for some people to set boundaries:
- Boundaries may not have been modelled to you when you were younger, especially if your parents did not have clear boundaries with each other or with you.
- Based on your childhood experiences, you may have learned to put others' needs above your own.
- The need to be liked and accepted overpowers your ability to set healthy boundaries.
- You do not know what boundaries are, or you believe others should just know what they are without expressing them clearly.
- You believe that setting boundaries may jeopardise the relationship, so you aren’t assertive enough in communicating what to you is acceptable behaviour.
- You believe that setting boundaries is a selfish act and that you might be perceived as rude.
WHY ARE BOUNDARIES IMPORTANT?
Boundaries help us practice self-care and self-respect. They allow us to communicate our needs clearly in a relationship. They create a sense of safety in relationships, and as a result, make space of positive interactions. Without them, chances are we are either being abused or abusing others and if our boundaries keep getting violated, resentment starts to grow. The following are forms of 'violations' of emotional boundaries:
- Taking responsibility for another person's feelings
- Feeling guilty when you say ‘no’
- Not accepting when other people say ‘no’
- Disrespecting other people’s beliefs when you don’t agree with them
- Letting another person’s feelings dictate your own
- Sacrificing your own needs to please another
- Blaming others for your problems and accepting responsibility.
An example of a physical boundary could be letting the other person know how you’d like to be touched or not touched.
How can the violation of boundaries lead to resentment?
Consider the following scenarios:
- Let’s say you are the type of person who really needs personal ‘me time’, and you didn’t inform your partner about this fact at the beginning of the relationship. Your partner, however, is the type of person who wants to spend all their time with you, and because you're in the honeymoon phase, you just went along with it. However, after a while, you start to feel as if you are suffocating, and that builds up and keeps on stacking up to the point that you suddenly blow up because your boundary has been violated over and over again. You've lost your sense of freedom or your sense of personal space. You could have prevented this situation by simply communicating your personal boundary from the outset.
- You and your partner were raised in different cultures, different environments and some things that seem okay to him aren’t okay to you and vice versa. Unfortunately, you’ve never talked about these differences together, so both parties are unaware of the other person’s belief systems. Now that you’re together, you notice that your partner greets people by kissing them on cheeks. You feel uncomfortable around that. In fact, you might even consider it inappropriate, but you don’t address this to your partner. Perhaps you're scared that you’re going to lose your partner, so the partner unintentionally continues doing this not knowing that it is triggering you. You bottle it all up, and eventually, it blows up. You could have prevented this from happening by letting him know at the beginning of the relationship how this particular behaviour made you feel.
When we are communicating our boundaries, we want to make sure that the ego is silent: we are not name-calling, nor resorting to blaming. We also want to acknowledge that it is the specific behaviour that we are talking about, and not the person or personality. Remember that honest communication is key.
Consider the following examples of communicating boundaries with your family:
- “Please text me before you come over as I may have other plans.”
- “I am not available to respond to your calls or texts right now, but I would love to schedule a time to connect.”
- “When I share something private with you, please do not share it with other family members.”
- “I know your intentions are pure when you are giving me advice, but I would really appreciate it if you listened without giving advice.”
Some examples of setting boundaries with your partner:
- “Please do not share details of our intimate life with your family members or coworkers. It makes me feel uncomfortable.”
- “When we are discussing an important topic, I would appreciate it if I had your complete attention, so please put your device away.”
- “When we’re having a conversation, I cannot be present if you raise your voice, or speak to me in a condescending tone.”
Setting boundaries can be difficult, but it is necessary to maintain healthy relationships. It also allows us to communicate more freely and candidly, to be open and vulnerable in a healthy way. When our partner does respect our boundaries, we really want to let them know. We need to express our sincerity and appreciation—positive reinforcement is a good motivator.
Remember that boundaries are not meant to punish others. They exist for our own personal wellbeing and protection. Healthy relationships have healthy boundaries; thus, setting boundaries is a form of self-care and self-preservation.
About the Author
Tannaz Hosseinpour, founder of Minutes on Growth Coaching, is a Dubai-based certified life coach specialising in mindset and relationships. She helps millennials manifest and cultivate empowered lives through one-on-one coaching, online programmes, podcast episodes and social media content. She is the host of her self-improvement podcast, Minutes on Growth, available on Spotify, Apple and Google Podcast. She holds a Masters of Law degree in alternative dispute resolution, specialising in family mediation. Since 2017, she is also the CEO and founder of TP Education Consultants, an educational consultancy firm based in Toronto, Tehran and Dubai.
Learn more about Tannaz on her website, and follow her on social media: