What are boundaries?
Boundaries help to create healthy relationships. Think of them as a psychological fence between people: this is you, and this is me. We are separate. Our boundaries help to establish guidelines about suitable behavior and responsibilities. Boundaries build "win-win" relationships. I can be good to both you and me through healthy boundaries. If I close the door when I enter the bathroom, I am establishing a physical and psychological boundary: Closing or locking the door means I want to be alone when I’m in the bathroom.
Boundaries are essential if your loved one is an alcoholic or addict. As you claim your power with boundaries, you raise the likelihood that your loved one gets better. Boundary setting is absolutely essential when you're dealing with addiction, particularly teenage drug abuse.
Who needs boundaries?
Everyone needs to have healthy boundaries in relationships. There are three types of people who particularly need boundaries.
1. DOORMATS~Some people have been raised to believe that martyrdom, self-denial and incessant caretaking are righteous virtues to be practiced to the point of misery. When people are doormats, they allow others to take advantage of them.
2. ENABLERS~Then there are parents who want to make sure their children have everything they didn't get, and they protected them from every problem and emotion. It's the other side of the coin and it's just as bad. These people create a sense of over-entitlement, over-protection and inflated self esteem in their children.
3. PLEASERS~ Some people focus so much on pleasing others that they don’t focus on taking care of themselves. They avoid conflict, and have no sense of who they are, what they feel, need, want, or think. They take on the feelings of others as if they are their own. Sometimes they tolerate abuse or disrespectful treatment and can’t see the flaws or weaknesses in others.
Why have boundaries?
· Boundaries are important to help protect and care for oneself. If you’re not getting the respect that you deserve, take a look at your boundaries.
· Boundaries are also an important part of raising children. You can’t be a good parent without good boundaries. Not only do you value yourself as you establish boundaries, you're teaching your children to value themselves.
· Boundaries help you to define yourself. Without boundaries, you won’t know who you are, what you want, or how you feel.
· Boundaries help to minimize stress and conflict in a relationship. With clear boundaries, there’s nothing to argue about.
Telltale signs that you need better boundaries
· You’re constantly telling him what to do.
· You’re warning him about what will happen if he doesn’t do it.
· You’re bringing up the past of what he did wrong.
· You’re giving him solutions when he hasn’t asked for them.
· You’re preaching about what people should and shouldn’t do.
· You’re criticizing.
· You’re mind-reading.
· You’re sending guilt trips.
How Do You Set Healthy Boundaries?
Setting healthy boundaries involves taking care of yourself and knowing what you like, need, want, and don’t want. It also involves (1) going inside of yourself to figure out what you feel and then (2) clearly communicating that with the other person.
Examples of clear boundaries:
1. “Yes, I’ll be happy to drive you to the mall as soon as you’re finished with your chores.”
2. “I want to hear about your day. I’ll be free to give you my full attention in 15 minutes."
3. “You can borrow my CDs just as soon as you replace the one that you damaged.”
4. “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper by 9:00 Saturday morning, I’ll be happy to wash them for you.”
5. “Can I give Jessica a message? Our calling hours are from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. I’ll let her know that you called.”
6. “I’m sorry; that doesn’t work for me. I won’t be loaning you money until you have paid me what I loaned you previously.”
7. “You’re welcome to live here while you’re going to college as long as you follow our rules.”
8. “I’m not willing to argue with you.”
9. “I’ll be happy to talk with you when your voice is as calm as mine.”
10. “I love you and I’m not willing to call in sick for you when you’ve been drinking.”
Boundaries need to be clear, specific, and clearly communicated. You may need to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it before doing so. Practice with someone else who can help you. Good luck!
First of all, smile. Practice in the mirror until it feels natural. There's nothing like a smile to advertise your willingness to be friendly. You'll value yourself more as well.
Next, look up befriend in the dictionary. It says to act as a friend. To help. Find someone who is less fortunate than you, someone who has a bigger problem and help that person. You will find love, beauty, and joy in helping others. You'll learn to value yourself more as you give selfless service to others.
Look around your place in this world. See those kids without a ball? Bring one to the street and let it rip. See that old guy eating peanut butter everyday? Bring him a cup of coffee and a smile to go with it. Lady at the store needs a little extra change? Offer it with a smile. Do these random acts of friendship in your area and you just can't miss. Make up different scenarios in your mind and follow through with them. Someone needs a ride? Give it. Invite your neighbor to dinner. Tell her to bring a friend. Meet her kids, Hey! This is easy.You can help make the world be a better place. Every city and town on earth has need of volunteers.
Try stepping outside your comfort zone and do something a little scary--like going to a book club, talking to a stranger in a coffeeshop, taking a community education class, or sitting in a public park and chatting with strangers. Join Twitter and Facebook. Have a hobby? Go to meetup and schedule times you can meet with people who have similar interests.
Happiness is a lot like jam. You can't spread it without getting a bit of it on yourself in the process.
How to define healthy relationships in twenty-two words:
1. I can be me.
2. You can be you.
3. We can be us.
4. I can grow.
5. You can grow.
6. We can grow together.
This marvelous summary is from The Struggle For Intimacy by Janet Woititz. If you value yourself, you allow yourself to be yourself. You allow your partner to be him/herself. Assertiveness helps you to speak your truth, set limits, appreciate differences while respecting your partner.
Struggle for Intimacy by Janet Geringer Woititz
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If you feel people use you, take advantage of you, or break their promises to you, then you need to make some new choices. No one wants to be victimized, but victims often don't know how to get out of their rut. They don't understand that they have taught people to treat them poorly by the poor treatment that they have accepted in the past.
I used to work for an employer who often asked me to work six or seven days a week on a very meager salary. I really needed the job because I was a single parent at the time. However, as much as I did not want to lose my job, there came a time when I needed to stand up for myself. My fear-based behavior acted as a lightning rod for my corporate bully boss. I took a big risk as I firmly but politely set limits with how often I would work overtime. Fortunately for me, he backed down.
Learn to Value Yourself
- One of the easiest ways to learn to value yourself is to learn assertiveness training. When you assert yourself, you speak your truth in a kind, calm, mature manner.
- Ask yourself, "Is this relationship a two-way street? Am I getting as much as I'm giving?" If not, time to re-think your relationships. You deserve to be treated with as much respect as what you give to others.
- Determine your boundaries. Where do you draw the line? Claim your power so that you don't feel victimized. Being a doormat is a self-destructive habit that can be changed.
- Remember that every adult relationship is voluntary. Yes, I said every relationship. You get to determine how close you want to be with your sister, parent, spouse, neighbor, or boss. To a large extent, you also determine the quality of the relationship.
- Be good to yourself. Be as kind to you as you are to others.
Becoming Your Own Best Friend
When you start treating yourself as if you are fabulous, terrific, and wonderful, you don't allow others to walk on you. When you start believing that you're a magnificent limited edition of one--unique in every way, you put out a different energy in relationships.
If this is something that you can't believe right now, then becoming your own best friend is really important. Because if you feel good about yourself then other people will treat you with respect. Remember: we teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.
People who are prone to anxiety tend to share certain personality traits. Some of these traits are positive--such as empathetic, sensitive, creative, intuitive, and amiable. These are the traits that endear these people to their friends and relatives.
Other traits tend to aggravate anxiety and interfere with relationships. These traits are:
- An excessive need for control
- A tendency to ignore the signs of stress
- An excessive need for approval
Let's look at these traits more closely. Perhaps you can start to identify, work with, and change these traits that provoke your anxiety.
Perhaps you're overly concerned with small flaws and mistakes in yourself and/or others. You may have expectations about yourself, others, and life that are just unrealistically high. When anything falls short of those expectations, you feel disappointed and perhaps become critical. Nothing is ever good enough. And you perhaps drive yourself to the point of stress, exhaustion, and even burnout. Your self esteem suffers. You don't value yourself.
Tips for Perfectionists:
- Recognize your thinking errors. Are you using the words "should, must, ought, have to, or got to" in your thoughts (e.g., "I should be able to do this." "I must not make a mistake."
- Let go of the idea that your worth is determined by your accomplishments. You're not a human doing, you're a human being.
- Stop magnifiying the importance of small errors. We all make them. Let it go!
- Focus on what's right. A positive point of view can really help in this area.
- Make your goals realistic.
The Need to Control
You want life to be predictable. This is the opposite of faith; trusting the process of life. And you probably have very good reasons for not trusting the flow of life. But, if you want to eliminate anxiety and be more happy, you're going to have to let go of this need to control.
Tips for Control Freaks:
Here are some practical strategies that can work for you. Keep in mind that the cultivation of these strategies take time.
- Cultivate patience. When I'm in a hurry, out shopping and in a long line, I use this silent affirmation: "I'm practicing my patience virtue." For me, this is a good time to check the voice mail on my cell phone, read a magazine, tell myself positive thoughts, and perhaps think about what I'm going to prepare for dinner.
- Trusting that most problems eventually work themselves out. We don't know what the future holds for us, so it's best to choose to trust life.
- Acceptance. This is big. A sense of humor will help with this. Very often things don't go our way. And that's OK. (By the way, those are the precise words that I tell myself--"That's OK.") If you have the irrational belief that things ought to be a certain way, you're in trouble. You're swimming against the current of life, and you're going to get hurt. Learn to go with the flow and accept things the way they are.
- Developing your spirituality. In AA, we talk about "Let go, and let God." Learning to trust a power higher than yourself can help in this area. Another way that spirituality can help is learning to trust that there is a larger purpose in life beyond what we can see. Things happen for a reason, although we may not know why they happen.
Ignoring the Signs of Stress
Many people with anxiety disorders have a long history of ignoring the physical and psychological signs of stress. They push themselves unreasonably, and it eventually catches up with them. Are you ignoring tension in your muscles (jaw, shoulders, forehead), upset in your stomach (bowels included), or fatigue? Are you sleeping enough? Do you have mood swings? Do you feel overwhelmed?
Tips for Noticing the Signs of Stress:
Get in touch with your body. It may have some message to give to you.
- Breathwork can be very helpful. Go to the related article on this web site and read how to do this.
- Relaxation Techniques that can help include meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, bodywork, and massage. See the related articles at the bottom of this page.
- Assertiveness training can be very helpful.
- Develop your sense of humor. Watch funny movies, read funny jokes and books, laugh and have fun!
The Need for Approval
Yes, we all need approval. But the person with anxiety seems to have an excessive need for approval. If you're overly concerned with approval, you will need to address your inner sense of feeling unworthy or somehow flawed. You may be the ultimate pleaser.
Tips for Pleasers:
- Look at the thinking errors that lead to an excessive need for approval. They could be as unrealistic as "If people really knew me, they wouldn't like me." to "If someone doesn't seem friendly to me, it's because I did something wrong."
- Learn to look at criticism objectively. My mother always said, "First consider the source." Do you value that person's opinion? Is this person qualified to make an objective criticism of your work, your skills, your traits? If so, ask for specific details. Decide whether or not it has validity, then decide if it's a good opportunity for you to learn something new.
- Recognize your codependency. And then let it go. A need to be needed can only cause you sorrow. Learn to shift the focus to yourself rather than always having a focus on others.
As you can probably tell, addressing these four traits is a process, a journey of self discovery. This journey will go a bit faster if you do it with a therapist.
This is basic, but important. You have legitimate rights just because you exist. So many obstacles to change begin right here. For example, your relative says that you're being selfish by focusing on changing yourself. It takes time. You're learning about the change process, so perhaps you're not serving others as much as you used to a week ago. And that's OK. It's time to claim your power and value yourself more. You have rights!
When I worked inpatient at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Utah, we had the patients decide where they were from the following two lists. This is taken from The Stress & Relaxation Workbook by Martha Davis PhD et al, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, CA. Circle the beliefs that you have by how you behave.
Mistaken Traditional Assumptions
You did not have as much choice about which traditional assumptions you were taught as a child. Now, however, you have the option of deciding whether to continue behaving according to assumptions that keep you from being an assertive adult. Each of these mistaken assumptions violates one of your legitimate rights as an adult:
- It is selfish to put your needs before others' needs.
- It is shameful to make mistakes. You should have an appropriate response for every occasion.
- If you can't convince others that your feelings are reasonable, then they must be wrong, or maybe you are going crazy.
- You should respect the views of others, especially if they are in a position of authority. Keep your differences of opinion to yourself. Listen and learn
- You should always try to be logical and consistent.
- You should be flexible and adjust. Others have good reasons for their actions and it's not polite to question them.
- You should never interrupt people. Asking questions reveals your stupidity to others.
- Don't rock the boat.
- You shouldn't take up others' valuable time with your problems.
- People don't want to hear that you feel bad, so keep it to yourself.
- When someone takes the time to give you advice, you should take it very seriously. They are often right.
- Knowing that you did something well is its own reward. People don't like show-offs. Successful people are secretly disliked and envied. Be modest when complimented.
- You should always try to accommodate others. If you don't, they won't be there when you need them.
- Don't be anti-social. People are going to think you don't like them if you say you'd rather be alone instead of with them.
- You should always have a good reason for what you feel and do.
- When someone is in trouble, you should help them.
- You should be sensitive to the needs and wishes of others, even when they are unable to tell you what they want.
- It's not nice to put people off. If questioned, give an answer
Your Legitimate Rights
- You have the right to put yourself first sometimes.
- You have the right to make mistakes.
- You have the right to be the final judge of your feelings and accept them as legitimate.
- You have the right to have your own opinions and convictions.
- You have the right to change your mind or decide on a different course of action.
- You have a right to protest unfair treatment or criticism.
- You have a right to interrupt in order to ask for clarification.
- You have a right to negotiate for change.
- You have a right to ask for help or emotional support.
- You have a right to feel and express pain.
- You have a right to ignore the advice of others.
- You have a right to receive formal recognition for your work and achievements.
- You have a right to say "no."
- You have a right to be alone, even if others would prefer your company.
- You have a right not to have to justify yourself to others.
- You have a right not to take responsibility for someone else's problem.
- You have a right not to have to anticipate others' needs and wishes.
- You have a right not to always worry about the goodwill of others.
- You have a right to choose not to respond to a situation.
If you're like most people, your behavior reflects some mistaken traditional assumptions. The more that you can start living your legitimate rights, the more likely it is that you will allow yourself to make important changes in your life that will affect every other area of your life. You will value yourself more and become a better person in the process.
Imagine yourself in the driver's seat of your car. You're all ready to go. Whose hands are on your steering wheel? Who is driving your life? So many people that I see say that everyone else's hands are all over the steering wheel--parents, spouse, boss, children, and so on. In fact, quite a few clients don't even see their own hands on their steering wheel!
If you would like to feel less victimized, you'll need to firmly and politely remove everyone else's hands from your steering wheel. Claim your power! Whose life is it anyway? They've got their own steering wheels! Can you imagine what it would be like to drive a car with four hands on your steering wheel? As you come to value yourself more and more, you'll find yourself politely by firmly removing other people's hands from the steering wheel of your life.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you should be rude, aggressive, or selfish. And in a marriage, you learn to work cooperatively with each other in a balanced interdependence. Just be aware of your rights and your boundaries.
"Value yourself. The only people who appreciate a doormat are those with dirty shoes." --Leo Buscaglia
Copyright © 2009 Kathie Keeler, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored, or transferred by any print or electronic means without the express written consent of the copyright owner.
What do you think of when meditation is mentioned? Buddhist monks sitting in monasteries on mountaintops? That’s what I pictured. Did you know that more than 1,000 scientific articles have been published on the subject of meditation? Impressive research tells us that meditation induces a sense of well-being and emotional balance. It helps to reduce the body’s reaction to stress. And let’s face it. Stress is a killer.
Researchers at the Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, found that meditation has an enormous impact on stress reduction. When they examined a group who had meditated for four months they saw that they produced less of the stress hormone cortisol. They were therefore better able to adapt to stress in their lives, no matter what their circumstances were.
So, just what is meditation? I would say that it is focused attention on reality. It's connecting with all that is and being in the present moment. It's deep relaxation however you want to do it--whether you're walking, running, cycling, sitting in a yoga class, lying on your bed or being mindful of the present moment as you do the dishes. I find breathwork the easiest process to enter this focused attention.
- Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation
- Increased happiness
- Increased emotional stability
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Greater creativity
- Decreased irritability and moodiness
- Improved learning ability and memory
- Increased insight and wisdom
- Deep rest (as measured by decreased metabolic rate, and lower heart rate)
- Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate (two chemicals associated with stress)
- Improved blood pressure
- Drop in cholesterol levels
- Improved flow of air to the lungs
- Significant slowing of the aging process
Give meditation a try. You'll find that you will value yourself more and come back to it again and again.
I have often told clients that goals are stars in the sky. We can use them to guide us and inspire us. When goals are used as a a stick to beat ourselves, they’re no longer useful. So, put the stick down. Stop beating yourself up. Tomorrow is a new day.
Self-destructive habits reinforce guilt and shame. A few definitions: Guilt is “Oops! I made a mistake.” Shame is “I am a mistake.” It can also include feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, helplessness, powerlessness, inferiority, and many more horrible feelings. So, let’s say that you feel guilty about your self-destructive habit or addiction and you want to give it up. You make some progress, and then you relapse.
You’re right back to square one. Starting over. This is where many of my clients start feeling guilty and ashamed. They engage in negative self-talk and feel terrible about their relapse. ("I’m doing it again. I’m so stupid. Why can’t I do it right?”) Of course, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. We all have slips. But some people get REALLY down on themselves, making it harder to bounce back. Now they’ve put extra pressure on themselves to perform. They must do it PERFECTLY. And let’s face it: no one is perfect.
So what do you do instead? You learn to forgive yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself. Over and over and over again. When you catch yourself in the act of being hard on yourself, say something different. You could say, "It's just a mistake. We all make mistakes. I'm still a fine and worthwhile person. I choose to let this go and not be so hard on myself."
Claim your right to be human (translation: less than perfect). Put the stick down. As you move on and resolve to let go of the shame or guilt, you will value yourself more, making it easier to do better in the future.
If you want a guaranteed failure, tell yourself that you should reach your goal. I should diet. I should exercise. I should read more. I should have people over for dinner. Blah blah blah.
Should, shouldn’t, must, mustn’t, ought, have to, got to, need to--are all equal opportunity offenders. Eliminate all of them from your language. You can do that by first noticing how often you say them. Have someone you know alert you if you say them. And then you’ll be able to stop yourself mid-word. Gradually you’ll be able to eliminate them altogether as you value yourself more.
As I said, shoulds are a setup for failure. Here’s why. As soon as your inner critic says, “I should exercise more” your inner rebellious self says, “Watch me. No way am I going to do that!” You become divided. And then you sabotage your own success as a way of rebelling against the shoulds!
So, take my word on this: shoulds won’t get you where you want to go. Focus instead on asking, “What is it that I truly WANT?”
“But, Kathie,” you say,” won’t I just become selfish if I do that?”
No. Because we’re going to add something to the question. Here it is: “Knowing that I have values and that there are consequences for every decision that I make, what is it I truly want?”
So, my alarm may go off at 5:00 a.m. to get up and go to the gym. I ask myself the question “Knowing that I have values and that there are consequences for every decision that I make, what is it I truly want?” Do I want to stay in bed and sleep some more? Sure! However, I want the consequence that comes from having a good workout. See how it works? It's all about training yourself to see results in the long run, not the short run.
This gets easier over time as you value yourself more. Don’t expect yourself to do this perfectly. Be gentle with yourself.