With an awareness and understanding of what a boundary is, the different types and styles, and its value, we can now dig into how we actually can create them in our lives.
Because boundaries are tools through which we communicate the ways we want to be treated, I believe the first step in boundary setting is getting really clear on who we are, what we believe about our Self (which may be based on our own truth or someone else’s opinion), and what we value in general.
Without this knowledge, a boundary is a generalized drawn line rather than one that works specifically for you.
Step One: Get to know your Self! Without judgement, get curious. Sit and breathe, or run and think! Just ask some questions, like:
- What do I love about me?
- What fulfills me?
- What kinds of things make me happy and why?
- How often do I give myself the opportunity to experience these things?
- When all of the outside noise is gone, what is something I feel deeply in my soul?
Step Two: Go deeper in your curiosity (this might be challenging, so be patient and remember to keep judgement at bay) :
- How much acceptance do I have for my Self?
- How much compassion do I offer my Self on a regular basis?
Here’s why I think this is a critical step. Until we actually accept ourselves fully, our beliefs, needs, and values are hidden behind the internal walls we’ve built. We have to get really honest about this, because if we don’t tell our whole story to our Self, accept it, and offer compassion for it, we will leave parts out that are critical. Remember, we want to build a structure that lasts, so we need to use each and every metaphorical brick to create a true, strong foundation.
A great resource to get curious here? Take this quiz from Dr. Kristin Neff about self-compassion located here.
Step Three: Start to identify your non- negotiables.
What are the things you know for sure that you won’t budge on? Is it doing your job well? Making sure everyone eats a healthy dinner at 6 pm? No yelling during conflict?
Whatever they are, these are the things you know for sure. Take a look at them, get to know what they are and what values they represent (doing your job well could mean you value reliability; serving healthy dinners at a specific time could mean you value punctuality and taking care of your body). Write them down. Visit with them a bit. They are a part of you!
Step Four: Practice saying no.
This one might be hard. Really hard (and we can get into the reasons why in a different post – people pleasing, fear of retribution, cultural expectations, codependency, and many more).
But this is an essential skill.
Start with your non-negotiables. Practice saying no to the things that interfere with them. If this is a challenge, get curious. What makes it feel so impossible? What are you telling yourself that stops this word from coming out of your mouth?
And if you want to take it to the next level? Remember that no is a complete sentence. Give yourself permission to say it without explaining why.
Step Five: Practice saying yes.
Believe it or not, it can be just as difficult to say yes to the things you want as it is to say no to the things you don’t.
Here is where getting to know your Self from step one will come in handy. If you know what makes you happy, can you find ways to create space for that in your life? If you are aware of the things you love about your Self, can you say yes to the experiences that bring those forth?
Step Six: Be patient.
Just these six things can take real time to get through and lock in! It is a process to get these answers. And, as I said in Part 1, it’s also a set of skills we have to learn to apply the information to the next step – the expression and enforcing of your boundaries.
I’ll use another post to share my thoughts on that whole next set of boundary development! For now, I’ll leave you with a quote from Melody Beattie, whose work has helped me immensely in my life.