Boundaries - Inviting People In
Establishing healthy boundaries is an important part of any type of recovery journey. In my counselling and coaching practice, it is one of the more frequent topics that people request to work through. They express how difficult it is to put boundary setting into practice, struggling with worry about offending others or appearing selfish. In reality, setting healthy, respectful limits is as beneficial to others as it is to ourselves.
Reflect back on your experiences with folks who neglect their own boundaries (and that of others). We all have examples of people in our lives with whom we felt uncomfortable and uneasy. Perhaps they communicated with passive aggressive commentary, leaving us wondering how they truly felt about an issue. Maybe they didn't express a desire, but brought it up later, complaining that we didn't meet their needs adequately. Or perhaps they say "yes" to a request, only to express resentment down the road. It's difficult to fully engage in a relationship with someone who operates this way. To truly be intimate and vulnerable, we have to trust a person to not only respect our boundaries, but demonstrate their own.
Healthy boundaries are simply limits or "rules" we set for ourselves. People with healthy boundaries:
Value their own opinion.
Don't compromise their values for others.
Share personal information in an appropriate way (does not over or under share).
Practice self care.
Are aware of their personal wants and needs and can respectfully communicate these in a direct way to others.
Are accepting of other people's boundaries, including when others say “no” to them.
Setting boundaries may sound like a way to keep people out, but it is actually the opposite. People who are comfortable saying no when necessary, and honouring their own needs, open the door to relationships that are fuller and more intimate. Setting boundaries allows us to fully engage with others, and to begin the work of releasing the resentment and shame that we often feel when we simply do what we need to take care of ourselves.
Mary Gordon, MA, LAADC, IDAAC and Peggy McGillicuddy MEd