Happy New Year Friends! It has been a while. I hope you take this topic into consideration when thinking about your New Year Resolutions. Let’s get into it then.
I happened to find myself in a conversation one day with a bunch of people; I knew them a little, I would not say we were close or best friends. All of a sudden out of nowhere, the conversation turned into a talk about sexual positions they liked and had been in and would like to be in. Yeah, it turned very awkward very quickly but I could not get out of there for a reason. All of a sudden, they were all looking at me like it was my turn, when I told them that the topic was very personal and that I was not going to talk about it, they tried to guilt trip me into spilling. One of them said, ‘Oh! this is just an opportunity for us to learn from each other’. Another one said, ‘You just heard ours, do not spoil the conversation’.
I laughed a little, in my head I was saying, ‘I did not ask you to say all that, I did not start the conversation’. I insisted that, I was not comfortable having such a conversation so I did not.
I was being true to myself and protecting my boundaries, I was not going to allow anyone to convince or manipulate their way into crossing them, which will later cause me some form of discomfort.
These kinds of situations normally tend to happen when we try to venture into new relationships or groups. Let us take a little time to find out what personal boundaries are, why we need them and how we can effectively set and enforce them.
What are Personal Boundaries?
Personal boundaries are invisible lines which separate what is acceptable or not to an individual. Each individual defines what is acceptable to them and thus where a boundary is drawn is very specific to that individual.
Boundaries are also drawn in relation to the different kinds of relationships in an individual’s life. For instance, the kind of personal information which an individual will share with a spouse will be very different from what will be shared with someone they just met on a bus.
Types of Personal Boundaries
There are a variety of personal boundaries that you need to set in order to maintain control of your life, especially now that you are in recovery and seeking to build your life back up. We will however discuss physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and time boundaries here.
Physical boundaries have to do with physical touch, personal space as well as your physical needs.
Touch, is about who is allowed to touch you when and in what ways.
Personal space is about the amount of physical space that you allow between yourself and others, for instance, maybe you are comfortable to allow people in a space of about 20 meters away from you but not closer, you have a right to communicate that to people around you. The amount of personal space you require may differ for the different people in your life; it could be closer for people you are very close to; like your best friend and wider for other people; like co-workers.
Personal space also has to do with the people you allow in certain spaces in your life like your home or bedroom; you have the right to decide who is allowed in and who is not.
Physical needs such as when you eat and sleep are things that you should be in charge of; you have the right to decide when you eat or sleep, these are things you should not allow other people to make you feel guilty about.
Emotional boundaries have to do with your feelings and thoughts; recognizing and acknowledging them as well as the right to feel a certain way in reaction to certain situations. This also has to do with how much emotional energy you have to offer in any given relationship and recognizing that you are not responsible for other peoples’ happiness, just as other people are not responsible for yours.
You have the right to decide when to share your feelings and the kind of information you share with other people.
Sexual boundaries refer to the lines you draw in relation to your sexual behaviour. The kinds of things you are comfortable doing in a sexual situation with and to whom, when, where and in what manner. An example could be clearly communicating to a partner about your desire to keep your relationship without sex until whenever you become comfortable.
Spiritual boundaries are drawn to protect your rights to believe in what you want and in what ways you worship and practice your religious beliefs, so long as whatever you are doing is legal wherever you find yourself. Like for instance, someone was trying to argue with me about the importance of fasting and praying as a Christian, because he did not believe in such a practice. I had to politely ask him to respect my beliefs and not to argue with me about it.
Time boundaries have to do with the time you make for yourself and deciding how you want to spend it without distractions from other people. It also has to do with having the right to protect yourself from having people waste your time and being over-worked. For example, you have the right to insist that your evenings are for spending time with yourself instead of being forced to take work calls.
Importance of Setting Personal Boundaries
1. Shows Your True Self
Your boundaries separate you from other people by showing what your standards, values and beliefs are. That way, you show that you know who you are and what you like and will not allow anyone to tell you otherwise. This gives you a sense of independence and confidence in yourself which will command the respect of others.
2. Fosters Healthy Relationships
Because you know who you are and what you want, the tendency of allowing other people to violate your boundaries without taking any form of action to protect yourself is very unlikely. At the same time, you communicate clearly what you need and expect from other people in your life and make sure that that is what you are receiving. This fosters respect from others and protects you from physical, emotional and sexual violations and thus fosters healthy relationships.
3. It is a Form of Self-Care
Setting healthy boundaries means that you are not tossed ‘to and fro’ anywhere or do anything just because another person wants you to, which keeps you safe and gives you peace and adequate rest.
4. Helps to Develop Realistic Expectations
When you set and communicate your boundaries effectively, people in your life know what to expect from you, you will also learn about the boundaries of other people and that will help you to also know exactly what to expect from them. Thus no one is disappointed or unnecessarily hurt.
5. Helps Avoid Burnout
Enforcing your time boundaries especially at work helps you maintain work-life balance which prevents you from burning out easily.
How to Set, Communicate and Enforce Boundaries Effectively
1. Think clearly about what boundaries you need to set and why? Never forget the why, that is what will help you maintain that boundary.
2. Let your values guide you when setting your boundaries.
3. Communicate your boundaries clearly to the people around you and let them know what actions you will take when those boundaries are crossed.
4. Follow through immediately, consistently and intentionally with actions that you communicated about taking when a boundary is crossed.
5. Re-evaluate relationships regularly to determine whether certain boundaries need to be expanded or constricted.
It is important to set personal boundaries to protect yourself from being violated physically, emotionally, spiritually or sexually. Boundaries give you a sense of who you truly are and also a sense of independence and confidence. Communicate your boundaries clearly to the people in your life and take decisive action to protect yourself when your boundaries are violated. While you are at it, learn about other people’s boundaries and respect them as well.
Go try these out, experience the new confident you and let me know what you think in the comments.