Setting Healthy Boundaries
If you have suffered emotional abuse (click here to understand more about what is emotional trauma), especially if it took place over years at a very early age, one thing will be true and that is that your boundaries would have been broken.
The word boundaries sometimes have the association with being harsh, mean, bad, negative or even cold.
But I will tell you now boundaries are a good thing to have, in fact, it is essential in creating healthy relationships.
Boundaries give you your sense of who you are, it is how you separate yourself, your thoughts and feelings from others. It is your values, ethics, morals, and limits you set yourself of what is right or wrong for you.
Having boundaries is how you protect yourself from being manipulated, used, violated or taken for granted.
When your boundaries are broken there are several things that can happen, the first being you losing a sense of who you are. You become insecure within yourself because you feel vulnerable – on a deeper unconscious level vulnerable to emotional abuse that you know has happened (or is happening) but can’t put your finger on it since most of it is not tangible.
You lose your ability to simply say “NO” amongst many other things. Check out my last newsletter for some of the other signs!
Because of the long-term emotional abuse, you are not able to sense when you are being used, manipulated or taken for granted until it’s too late.
And even when do you realize this, you doubt yourself!! How crazy is that?
Unfortunately, emotional abusers, manipulators, narcissists do exist. This is the reality we live in.
And if you have no boundaries, you are the perfect victim of this type abuse. Your energy will be “calling” abusers to you. Know that you do this to wake yourself up or in other words to heal yourself!
What you actually need to do after healing the emotional wounds that broke your boundaries and created these negative relationship patterns in the first place is re-build your boundaries!!!
Rebuilding your boundaries is how you will also build self-esteem and once that happens you will slowly learn to trust yourself and believe in you once again!
Here are 5 ways you can start to rebuild your boundaries:
1. Re-examine Your Values
Get clear on your values, this is your foundation.
Values are principles or standards you abide by. They are qualities or virtues you hold high for example love, honesty or respect. It can also be loyalty, humility, being dependable, listening or even being open-minded.
Your values will not only help you set boundaries but they will also support you in making the right choices, decisions and know what is in alignment with you.
Once you are clear on your values you will know how to respond when challenging situations come up or when you are faced with important life choices or decisions.
You can always ask yourself, “what would someone with (fill in the blank) value do?” or “what choice is in alignment with my values in this situation?”
Aligning and acting in accordance with your values will make you feel more at peace within yourself knowing that you are congruent with your heart & soul.
Also, know that your values may change over time and that’s ok, take time to always re-evaluate your values and set boundaries accordingly.
So take some time now and get clear on your top 20 values and reflect on how you can align every aspect of your life to these values now.
2. Get used to simply say NO
Stop feeling guilty for saying NO!
You have the right to say no, whether people like it or use this against you or not.
It’s ok to say no and it doesn’t mean anything about you as a human being.
You don’t have to be aggressive or pushy either, you can say no remaining calm and assertive.
Know that a certain amount of selfishness is needed to have strong healthy boundaries. “Selfishness” that does not harm others but rather is congruent and in integrity with you.
You may have a tendency to over-explain your “no” and this stems from the people pleasing syndrome I talked about in my previous blog (click here to read it).
Get used to saying “no thank you” without giving an explanation when it’s not needed. This may be hard at first but once you get the hang of this, you will know you are on track with getting your power back and feeling more secure within yourself!
3. Look After Your Needs
After years of having your needs being made “not important” or worse completely dismissed, you will probably feel very guilty for even having needs.
You will put everyone else’s needs before your own and then wonder why you always end up exhausted as you sacrifice yourself for people who take what you can give and more.
Know that you are the only one that can look after your own needs.
Once you have worked out your values, your needs may be easy to see or you can do this the other way round!
So what are your needs? Do you even know?
Do you need your reading or relaxing time every night to switch off?
Do you have to make time daily to meditate or workout to keep your inner peace in check?
Do you feel good when you nurture your soul’s creativity weekly, monthly or spontaneously?
In some sense, knowing your needs is one thing but this is also about learning to listen to your body and soul.
Life isn’t always perfectly balanced, things happen, work gets busy, family comes visit, unexpected moves are needed so either daily, weekly or whenever you feel slightly off balance, check in with yourself.
Are you sleeping well? Are you eating well? Are you getting enough fresh air? Are you nurturing your soul? Do you simply need time to relax and recharge?
Emotional abuse will cause you to neglect your own needs and to put other people’s needs before your own. It will make you feel like a bad person for even having needs so you must continuously check in with how you are doing on all levels; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
You may feel selfish doing this initially, but know that you can only function optimally when your basic needs are met. You will feel good, more centered, grounded and even have more clarity in your thoughts.
Remember you can’t give from an empty vessel.
Ask, “what does my body or soul need right now to feel more balanced / energized / fulfilled etc?”
And when you feel good more often you will start to notice when you feel slightly off. This will then be your “sign” to stop and look at what where your basic needs are not being met once again.
4. You Are Not Responsible for Other People’s Emotions
Having no boundaries makes you an emotional garbage bin for those people who are not willing to be responsible for their emotions.
Please know that a lot of the times this happens energetically, you will certainly “feel” it! You know the times you feel drained after seeing a specific friend who complains about the same thing yet does nothing to change it.
You have been programmed (through emotional trauma) to believe that it is your responsibility to take on other people’s emotions, especially the ones they are projecting. The problem with this is that you cannot process other people’s emotions! You can only process your own.
Emotions are the language of the soul, it is how you process your experiences and how you grow, evolve and embody the wisdom of each incident, circumstance or challenging situation you find yourself in.
Processing emotions are essential to breaking free from negative relationship patterns and self-sabotaging behavior amongst others. This is why I always emphasize on healing the emotional wound first!
If someone cannot handle or own their emotions, it is not your fault. Taking on their emotions or making it your obligation to make them happy will not actually help them either.
I am not saying don’t help them, dismiss them or don’t be there for them.
You can support someone by owning their emotions by truly listening and understanding their needs. Sometimes people will “get this” and the ones that are not ready to heal simply won’t. It’s ok. That’s their journey. You can only own and be responsible for your own emotions, remember that.
You can only own and be responsible for your own emotions, remember that.
On another note, if someone is upset by your no or by you putting your needs first that’s ok. As long as you are not doing it intentionally to hurt or harm others, you’re bound to upset a few people. You cannot please everyone.
Know that those who love and respect you will understand even if they are slightly upset, it will not affect your relationship negatively. In fact, from my personal experience, it has strengthened most of my real authentic relationships!
5. Follow Through!
This is the make or break point – literally.
As you start to build boundaries because you haven’t had any previously, you will want to “cave” only because having boundaries is sooo unnatural to you.
It will feel off and uncomfortable for you. It may even be very scary at first.
As I mentioned in the previous points, you will feel like you’re a horrible person, guilty, bad and selfish for putting yourself first. You may even say no and then want to immediately take it back when the guilt kicks on or if the abuser push your buttons.
Follow through with your no and continue to align with your values as well as looking after your needs as this is the only way you are going to fully re-build your boundaries and ultimately your sense of self.
I know it will be scary to say no, put your own needs first at times and rebuild your boundaries initially, but please be consistent and stick to it.
Be patient with yourself, this is a process.
You are the only one that can set your own boundaries!
If you don’t those that don’t have your best interest at heart will take full advantage of this consciously and unconsciously. It is only when you can respect and honor your own boundaries that people will respect and honor yours too.
I know the journey is not always easy so if this resonates and if you feel you need some support, I would love to help you stand in your power once again!
Tell me what you’re struggling with and let’s get you started on sealing these holes in your boundaries and letting go of what no longer serves you!
All techniques and information I share are considered coaching, self-help or complementary therapies. I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor, I have a degree in Health Sciences in Complementary Therapies. Everything I write and talk about comes mainly from my own experience in healing myself and the tools, techniques, and resources I learned throughout my own inner journey.
For more insights on boundaries click on the images below.