How to Set Better Boundaries and Find Your Authentic Self Again.
With the holidays arriving along with disgruntled relatives and demanding siblings– now is the time to set the standard about how you would like others to treat you. Boundaries aren’t limited to saying “no.” More importantly, it’s about creating a healthy emotional space between you and others. It becomes more complicated when there’s tension and friction during an emotional confrontation or situation. One of the most challenging things during this time is being accountable for our part in a disagreement. Is it our shit? Or theirs? The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. We still feel the way we do, and it’s about trusting our intuition that allows us to have grace when dealing with difficult situations or toxic people.
Honoring ourselves and our emotions whether we feel angry, fearful or resentful is the only path to self-forgiveness, authenticity and self-worth. Everyone should be allowed to feel any way they want about a particular situation. However, it gets muddy when loved ones manipulate us through guilt. Although, what if they weren’t able to manipulate us, because we knew we were honoring our own needs. If your feelings or words have been disregarded, projected or jumbled—more than likely, it is manipulation. But more importantly, you are allowing yourself to be manipulated.
Manipulation is extremely hard to detect, especially when you are a people pleaser. To a default, we are born to be accommodating and pleasant. We don’t want to stir the pot or start a conflict—even if it goes against honoring our own needs. I don’t know about other’s situations, but I used to be easily manipulated by romantic partners and loved ones. Or rather, I chose to devalue my needs in order to placate another’s needs. I always put other’s feelings over mine, and this has caused me more heartache than any other life challenge.
I lacked the confidence to recognize that my personal values are important too. By accommodating other’s needs, it allowed me to avoid the responsibility of doing my work—discovering my needs and believing I deserved them. Early trauma had re-wired my brain to accept disappointments, and this caused me to be accommodating but feel under-valued. It was more familiar to accept the emotion of disappointment than risk getting my hopes up for an eventual let-down.
However, by not allowing myself to value my own needs and honor my own time, I’d given my own power over to another. Without personal power, you will always default to your old, damaged story that you’ve re-affirmed in your head. Your early story plays a part in every decision you make. For instance, if you had early messages or indications that your feelings didn’t matter— you are reaffirmed that you come last and your emotions were not valued. That’s why trauma is so hard to heal, because we feel comfortable repeating patterns—even if it’s painful. It’s still familiar. Your brain convinces you by re-living parts of the trauma, we will receive a different result. If you always use pleasing attitudes and sweep your needs aside, you acquiesce to your fears.
We all have fears when setting boundaries. You might be afraid of someone getting upset at you, or someone might not like you. You may be terrified of abandonment and be afraid if you don’t react the way someone expects—they will leave you. Or maybe you’re the gung-ho helper who always says “yes” and over-commits yourself—then blame others when you took on too many responsibilities. In order to be able to deal with your fears—you have to learn to be vulnerable.
Being vulnerable can mean lots of things. However, the most important attribute of vulnerability is the ability to state your needs and opinions without any blame our guilt to yourself about how someone might respond. Being vulnerable means being authentic. Being authentic allows others to see your true nature. If you cannot truly be yourself…then who are you pretending to be? You’re creating your “self” by other’s expectations. How nice would it be if we didn’t give a shit about how other’s might respond to our actions?
Even the most confident person will have moments of insecurity from disappointing someone. I say and do plenty of shit on a daily basis, which I know some people might find unfavorable. Sometimes I beat myself up, and sometimes I give myself space and compassion. The second option is the emotionally-intelligent choice.
Sometimes we have to realize that people are going to get pissed off or disappointed. That does not mean you have to take on any of their emotions. Everyone deserves space and respect to honor their own emotions. By not allowing this to happen, you try to control their emotions with your actions– which is futile. Therefore, you’re not allowing them to grow and learn their own lessons. People need space to be upset. It’s only when you try to control their anger that a passive-aggressive snowball starts to build and eventually…combust.
When you are not sure of yourself and you can’t trust your instincts and intuition, how will you able to feel comfortable or secure making a decision? Many people pleasers have—not only a difficult time setting boundaries, but have a hard time trusting their decisions. They are so wrapped up in the expectations of others, they fall apart during any type of disapproval or disagreement. They start judging themselves and beating themselves up for a problem that is not theirs to take-on.
Just because someone else judges or disagrees does not mean it is your job to defend yourself. When you are comfortable with yourself and trust yourself—you are confident and supportive of your decisions, stories and boundaries. Just because someone has a certain opinion of you does not mean it is true. This is why it is so important to recognize your inner strength and find your power again. When your negative emotions are no longer influenced by other’s opinions—you can rest assured you’re on your way to finding your authenticity again. Embracing your uniqueness and appreciating your individual gifts, you can finally breathe and set boundaries with confidence and empowerment.
Even though empowerment might seem unattainable at times, the more you practice setting solid boundaries, the more comfort you will have when setting your next boundary. Practice with boundaries is really a test of willingness and surrender. You must be willing to recognize your patterns, make decisions that honor yourself and surrender to your fears. Some of the questions that I ask myself in order to set a healthy boundary include:
Am I agreeing to something or someone in hopes of changing the way they feel. Am I trying to control a particular situation hoping it turns out the way I want. Do I have a particular expectation that I think will happen if I act agreeable?
Does the emotion behind the act come from a place of fear, insecurity or negativity?
Will I feel resentful if I do the task or make time for them?
Do I feel the relationship dynamic is reciprocated in effort and attitude? Does this person or action uplift me, provide good energy and serve of my highest good?
Does this favor or my personal time make me feel fulfilled or resentful?
The only way to get better at setting boundaries is learning to be patient and practice them at all times. At first, it will be very difficult to say no or separate yourself from an unhealthy situation. However, I assure you, the more you practice setting boundaries, the more you will value yourself. If you don’t value yourself now, pretend you’re setting a boundary for a friend that has been mistreated. I bet you’d have all kinds of advice about how they should be treated better. Even though it is easier to set boundaries for others– don’t worry. I promise you– the more you learn to set limits and emotional space—you’ll start to protect the person that matters most…YOU!