I often read of people talking about the need to have healthy boundaries, and while it comes across as a bit new-agey to some, in reality it is actually one of the most important self care strategies we can employ.
What do we actually mean when we talk about having healthy boundaries? Well everyone is different and what is a boundary for some might be a restriction for others. When I think of healthy boundaries the word that comes to mind for me is respect, for myself, my time, my energy, my health and for others.
What does it look like when we don’t have that self respect/healthy boundaries? We can wind up being over committed, saying yes to things we really don’t want to, constantly pushed for time and energy, doing things we don’t enjoy and sometimes engaging in relationships that no longer serve us.
If we don’t learn to say no and put boundaries in place, ultimately we can burn out physically, emotionally and mentally, and we wind up disappointing ourselves and others anyway. What is it about saying no that we find so difficult and uncomfortable? My feeling is that at our core, whether we admit it or not, we all basically want to be liked and want to feel included and valued and so we engage in people pleasing. Sometimes the relationship may be such that there’s a fear of disappointing someone to the point that there’s concern that the friendship might not survive the distance. I used to get all worked up over that, but I won’t people please anymore. I’m a fiercely loyal and loving friend and anyone close to me knows that. However I’m far from perfect. I have really crappy days, as we all do and I will not do something that pushes me too far any more. My mental health must come first these days and while I’ve only recently starting talking about it, I want to be respected enough by people to know that if I say no, it is with good reason, without having to go into a War and Peace declaration and explanation. I’m not talking about copping out or intentionally disappointing people here, I’m talking about honouring myself first. A good friend will and should ALWAYS understand and respect that.
I have a friend who often calls last minute that she can’t make a catch up and she knows I can do the same, we have an understanding. There is zero bullshit between us and it’s always that way. Sometimes she doesn’t have the chance answer calls or reply to my messages and I never take offence. She has a life and so do I. We have established a friendship that is based on healthy boundaries for ourselves and our respect for each other is huge. While I never lie, if I was invited to her house and really could not be bothered, I can actually call and say that very thing. There aren’t many people in the world we can do that to. We might say that we are tired, run down or flat and that is true too, but to her I can say “you know what Angela – I can’t be fucked so I’m not coming” and the same goes for her. I LOVE that!
Healthy boundaries not only apply in relationships. They are important in the workplace, in community and social commitments and families as well. In fact healthy boundaries should be in place wherever and whatever you do.
What are you doing to protect and maintain your boundaries?