It took me 40 years to discover how to set good boundaries with others. If you were brought up in a family system that didn’t always demonstrate healthy boundaries, like me it might take a major life event to even realize you weren’t setting boundaries for yourself in the first place.
Much of this personal growth has been accomplished by working with my excellent therapist. I distinctly recall her first educating me about boundaries when discussing a difficult interaction I had with a loved one. I felt so puzzled at first by this notion of setting boundaries! It was so foreign, and as someone who has struggled with abandonment fears, really scary.
The first epiphany in setting and upholding my own boundaries was simply recognizing the inherent “okay ness” of doing so. It is healthy to set boundaries with those we love – and healthy people will not only respect those boundaries but will simply love us more in the ways we want to be loved.
Unhealthy boundary pushers will try to make us wrong for setting boundaries with them – trying to convince us that our personal boundaries are inappropriate or wrong. They will continually retest our boundaries to break them down.
Without this pillar of “okay ness”, it was difficult for me to uphold my boundaries at first. I would find myself overcome by the criticism. With time and practice, I’ve developed a greater sense of self that has allowed me to feel confident in the boundaries I set, even if continually tested.
One thing I’ve experienced when setting boundaries is that the best boundaries are those that I alone can enforce. If am I relying on a difficult person to respect my boundary for me, I’m going to have a hard time. It’s far more effective if I find a way so that I’m the one who gets to respects my own boundary.
I’m still learning how to set better boundaries and identify areas where I can better stand up for my needs. Lately I’ve become interested in exploring how to demonstrate and teach healthy boundaries for my kids so they may learn these skills earlier in life.
If you’ve struggled with setting boundaries in your life, or even if I’m speaking a foreign language to you right now, I’d love to hear your story. What has worked for you and what have you learned? How do you pass on these teachings to the next generation?