Boundaries are the rules we set up that dictate the people and experiences we allow into our lives. These rules also drive our decisions and behaviors, so that we can achieve a certain level of comfort and stability.
In other words, if you feel comfortable with someone, you share and give more of yourself. You can allow yourself to be more authentic, and feel vulnerable yet safe. These are the people you allow into what I like to call your “castle walls.”
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, and they’re asking or pressuring you into doing things you don’t want to do, these are the people you keep out beyond the moat that surrounds your castle. You don’t let them cross the drawbridge, because if you do you’ll certainly compromise the integrity of your castle.
Experiences are the same way. You can have an experience that makes you feel uncomfortable. For example, if you injured yourself hiking, you may choose to never hike again. You will have created a boundary that protects you from experiences like that.
Your boundary might look like this: Never go hiking, you’ll injure yourself. This is how we create protective barriers separating us from bad experiences.
Boundaries really are like walls that we use to build a zone of comfort around us. Anything that penetrates that wall and makes us uncomfortable is what we call crossing or violating our boundaries.
We often hear the term boundary used in situations like someone coming on too strong so the person feels uncomfortable, whether in a dating situation or a high-pressure sales environment. Or when you’re asked to work overtime and you really don’t want to, but you feel the pressure and think you’ll lose your job if you don’t do it. Things like this attempt to circumvent our boundaries all the time.
Are you aware of your own boundaries?
What about the times where we do allow people and experiences into our castle walls, even though we know they aren’t good for us?
For the longest time, my castle walls were weak, made up mostly of twigs and leaves with a paper-thin gate. I would let people compromise my boundaries all the time. I don’t blame my bosses, my ex-girlfriends, or any of my friends. I have no one to blame but myself. Having weak castle walls allows anyone to enter through the front door.
Personal boundaries are more than just about people invading your personal space or taking advantage of your kindness, they are also the boundaries that make up your journey in life. Every decision you make comes from a deeper place of personal boundaries.
If you decide you want to take a walk outside, but see that it’s raining and change your mind, then it’s possible one of your boundaries is that you want to be dry when you go outside.
“If I go outside and it’s sunny, then I shall enjoy my walk. If it’s raining however, then I won’t. My clothes will get wet, my hair will be a mess, my vision will be obscured, so I will create a boundary that says: If it’s raining, I will not go outside for a walk. “
Boundaries help you define how you will be happy and fulfilled.
Here’s another example: Someone wants to borrow money from you. They’ve borrowed from you in the past and they may or may not have taken forever to pay it back. However, you are getting kind of annoyed that they keep asking. So you build a boundary that says, “That’s it, I am no longer lending money to that person.”
When that person asks you for money again, you say “Sorry, I can’t lend you any money this week” And they say, “Well, can I borrow half of it then? Like instead of 20 dollars, can I borrow 10?”
You might give in and say, “Alright, you can have 10 dollars. But I need it back as soon as possible”
In this example, you created a personal boundary regarding that person borrowing money from, but it was crossed. The truth is however, they didn’t cross your boundaries, you did.
You allowed yourself to compromise your own boundary regarding this person borrowing money. When you let it happen, you probably felt bad for doing it. You’re now even more annoyed that not only did they ask for money, but you gave in and lent it to them.
In that example, that person isn’t busting through our castle walls and compromising our boundaries, we’re letting them walk right in.
It’s true there are people that will break through the door, but those are the ones that have learned that you’ll open the door anyway so they’ll just come in anytime they want from that point on. It’s like the mythological rule that you shouldn’t let a vampire in your house. If you never let them in, they can’t come in. But if you DO let them in, now they can come and go as they please.
If you want to set and stick to the boundaries you create in your life, let me ask you this:
Which person are you?
1. I have very defined boundaries that I do not allow anyone to cross, not even myself. If something or someone makes me uncomfortable, and they are crossing my boundaries, I stop right there, speak up, and get out of the situation.
My boundaries are like steel – impenetrable. I don’t mind being confrontational if I have to. I’ve even been known to lash out at people if they are close to compromising my boundaries.
2. I have boundaries made of twigs and leaves. If someone crosses my boundary, I’ll feel bad, irritated, or even angry, but I still allow it.
Sometimes people can walk on me and make my life miserable. But because my boundaries are so loose and ill-defined, I just pick up the pieces and rebuild the walls after they’re done with me.
I’m very non-confrontational and like to keep the peace in every situation.
3. I know my boundaries and honor them. I am aware when people are pushing themselves on me and making me feel uncomfortable. I have no problem saying what’s on my mind without being too emotionally charged about it. I have no problem requesting someone to back off if they make me feel uncomfortable for any reason.
If ever someone threatens to violate my boundaries, I will be assertive but calm in my advice to them to back off. I am secure enough in myself to be open to everyone, but also know that I can stand up for myself when the moment requires it.
You may be one of those, or a varying degree of one of those. Or perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. Regardless, this gives you an idea of how some people are with their boundaries. I’m willing to bet you know someone from each category, especially the first two.
There’s a reason it’s good to know what your boundaries are. We’re going to go over all the ways you can discover, define, and honor your boundaries. That is, if it’s OK with you. I mean, maybe you have a boundary established that says, “I don’t want to learn anything new about boundaries.”
Let’s get into how you can discover, establish, honor, and defend your boundaries in a healthy, productive way (I’d like to thank the life coach Cheryl Richardson for some of the content in this article).
1. Determine what your boundaries are
The only way to honor your boundaries and make sure others don’t cross them is to know what they are in the first place. Many people don’t. When’s the last time you wrote your boundaries down? I’m not saying you have to. In fact, I’ll make this really easy for you.
The first step in determining your boundaries is to be conscious of when you feel bad in any way in situations. If you feel angry, irritated, frustrated, scared, or violated, or any of a number of negative feelings, consider that a boundary. Ask yourself, why do I feel bad about this situation?
When one of those feelings arises, by asking yourself why you feel bad, you should come up with an answer pretty quickly.
I remember I was playing my guitar at a park one day. I was by myself, enjoying some alone time. And a couple walked up to me. The guy was like, “Hey, you play great!” I said, “I’m not that good. I’m always practicing, never really playing.”
He said, “Wow, well it sounds good to me! I play guitar too.”
I thought it was nice to connect with someone while just sitting there in the park doing my own thing. But then he said, “Give me your phone number, we’ll hook up and play sometime.”
It was right at that moment where I felt this knot in my stomach. His statement wasn’t, “Hey, if you’re here tomorrow night, I’ll bring my guitar too.” Or, “Hey if you’re ever near such and such, give me a ring.” It was a direct, “Give me your number” statement. So I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly felt as if he were intruding on a very personal moment and also digging into me a little deeper by putting me into a position of giving a complete stranger my phone number.
I finally managed to say something like, “Uh, I only play alone.”
He said, “Oh, okay. Well, have a good night then.”
In hindsight, I remember feeling like he violated a couple of my boundaries. One boundary was: I prefer to spend time playing my guitar alone.
The other boundary was: Don’t tell me to give you my number, ask me.
When I think back to that time, I remember feeling as if this guy was very presumptuous in thinking that just because I had a guitar that I’d automatically want to hang out with him. Back then, I had very little knowledge of what my boundaries were and wasn’t sure how to respond when someone made a demand of me. Even if the person had good intentions!
I sat there with this awful feeling like I was being cornered into doing something I didn’t want to do. When I did finally manage to say something, I sounded like kind of a scared jerk.
Even though that was a minor incident, that I blew way out of proportion at the time, I obviously felt like a violation had occurred. By exploring why I felt that way, I was able to establish that I had a boundary or two being crossed. Just by thinking about it now, I can re-explore this and find out if it’s still a problem.
To discover what your boundaries are, you can do the same thing. As soon as you feel yourself reacting negatively about something, ask yourself:
What boundary is being violated right now?
You’ll come up with an answer. When you do, you can explore it and find out if this boundary serves you, or it doesn’t.
What boundary is being violated inside me right now? And Does this boundary serve me?
Just because you have a boundary, doesn’t always mean it’s serving the same purpose as it once did.
I think back to that statement: “Give me your number” and wonder how I’d respond nowadays. I think I’d just laugh and say, “Haha, wow you move fast! I don’t just hand my number to anyone. How about if I’m here one day and you are too, we’ll meet up?”
The reason I’d laugh is because I still have a boundary in me that says, Don’t demand my number. But nowadays, I’m confident in honoring my boundaries, not afraid. So I laugh to myself, thinking this person is so forward. That’s not how I roll. I’ll set him straight.
I come from a place of firmly established boundaries that I’m not afraid to enforce. But I also don’t mind backing someone off in a nice way to show that they are being too forward with me. I am setting up expectations for all future interactions with this person.
The way to discover your boundaries is to stay aware and conscious of what’s happening inside you when you react. When you catch yourself reacting and ask yourself either in the moment or later when you think back on it, What boundary is this person crossing? Then you can discover them.
It takes some practice to catch yourself during a reaction. Because reactions are unconscious. They take place at a deeper level, where your boundaries are. But after a few times of catching yourself, it gets easier.
The other method of discovering your boundaries is to ask yourself:
What is something I will not accept in my life?
You’ll find some really strong boundaries there. They will be the 10-foot thick castle walls that are impenetrable.
For me, I will not accept ever standing in line at a soup kitchen again. Whether that happens again or not doesn’t matter, but because I have a boundary set, all my behavior has that boundary at its foundation. It’s a driver, and motivator for me. It serves me well.
Another question you can ask yourself is (well it’s more of a statement):
If this happens, I’ll leave.
If you can define something that if it happened, you’d leave, that would be a powerful boundary too. It could be, if my partner smokes, I’ll leave. Or, if my boss promotes Cindy over me, I’ll leave.
I’m not saying that you have to promise yourself that you would actually leave a situation, but I am saying when you create a boundary so powerful that you’d get out of that situation no matter what, you’re also creating a powerful foundation from which you make decisions.
The foundation we have dictates our behavior. So the answers to the question: What would have to happen to make me leave a situation? determine what we get out of life, and how much we are willing to tolerate before we say “No More” and walk away.
There are a number of ways to figure out what your boundaries are currently. But how do you know if these boundaries are healthy? How do you know if they serve you in a good way? Let’s explore that next.
2. Do Your Boundaries Serve You
What does that mean? Do my boundaries serve me? When I was a teenager, one of my boundaries in life was that I didn’t want the people I love to drink alcohol. I’ve experienced what it does to a person, almost daily, and how an inebriated person can really create strife and turmoil in a family. So I decided that I wanted nothing to do with anyone who drank alcohol.
Way back when, when I was a teenager, my girlfriend at the time had just finished her shift at a restaurant she worked at. She called me on the phone and we were having a good conversation. Then she said, I even had a drink. My heart started pounding.
“What kind of drink?” I asked.
I forget what kind she said, but it was alcohol of some sort.
I said, “You drank alcohol?”
She said, “Yeah, it was good.”
At this point, the boundary of: No one I love will drink alcohol was being crossed. I got upset with her. I made her feel guilty. She didn’t even know why she felt guilty, because to her it was a once in a while thing, and she didn’t see a problem with it.
Looking back, I know she didn’t have a problem with alcohol. But back then, I was deeply hurt that she would do that to me.
That’s another way to figure out what your boundaries are by the way. When you think someone is doing something TO YOU. She was doing something that I wasn’t even involved in, yet I believed she was doing it to me.
Even though she hardly ever drank, she crossed my boundary. It wasn’t until many, many years later when I finally let go of this unhealthy boundary. I had a boundary that said, I don’t want people I love to drink. This boundary created behavior in me that was almost as unhealthy as being the drunk in the family causing tension and fear. I was the new drunk in the family, and I didn’t even drink!
The boundary I created from childhood was unhealthy. I was putting undue stress and some fear in my partner that if they even touched alcohol, I’d judge them and put them down and make them feel guilty. All because I hadn’t gotten over what happened in my own family.
One of the ways to find out if a boundary you have is unhealthy is to find out how people respond to you. I brought my unhealthy boundary into every relationship I had. Every partner is a mirror that reflects to you what’s going on in your own life. So when they’re not happy, you can take a moment to reflect what it is in you that may be causing it.
Now we are not responsible for someone else’s happiness, that’s not where I’m going with this, but you are intelligent enough to step out of yourself for a moment and ask:
What did I do that contributed to their upset?
When you get a reaction from someone about your behavior, that’s a golden opportunity for you to check inward and figure out what caused that reaction. If you’ve seen that same reaction in others, you can narrow down whether the boundary you’ve established is still serving you.
I’ve seen my girlfriends throughout my life all behave in a very similar way when it came to me reacting to the alcohol they consumed. The only solution in my eyes, at the time, was for them to stop drinking.
As I looked inward at this boundary, I decided to ask myself some questions. This is a strategy I highly recommend for you too. Ask yourself really probing questions to find out how something is a problem in your life.
Use very specific wording too. When you ask yourself, “Why do I feel bad?”, don’t just stop when you get an answer to that. That’s only your starting point. This is where you start to dig.
Here’s a conversation that I had with my “inner therapist” a few years ago:
Why do I care if someone I love drinks or not?
Because drinking is bad
Yeah, but how is it bad?
If someone drinks, they are a bad person.
How are they a bad person?
They are bad because they drink.
Yeah, you already said that. What about drinking makes them bad?
Well, if they drink, they must not love me.
Whoa, how does them drinking equate to them not loving you?
Because if they loved me, they wouldn’t do things like drinking to hurt me.
You think when someone drinks, they are hurting you in some way?
Yes. If they loved me, they wouldn’t drink.
How are they hurting you by drinking?
Because when they’re drunk, they don’t love me. They are mean and sometimes violent.
Think about the people you love in your life now, Do you think when they drink, that they’d become mean and violent?
Well, not really. Not my wife.
Then how does wife hurt you by drinking?
Umm, I’m not sure.
When you think about your girlfriend drinking way back when, knowing she wasn’t going to be mean or violent towards you, what’s left?
I… don’t know.
Knowing people in your life now won’t be mean or violent, and that when they drink they are not hurting you, how does that help you see things differently?
I don’t know how… but I suddenly feel differently about it.
You do, don’t you?
Yeah. I don’t know why.
It’s OK not to know why, because you’ve disconnected what you believed to be true and what is actually true. Once you do that, you can create a new boundary for yourself, or perhaps eliminate the one you created altogether. The choice is still yours, and always will be.
Wow, thank you.
How do you feel about people close to you drinking now?
I feel it’s OK. That they aren’t drinking to hurt me. They are drinking for their own reasons. I feel lighter.
As you can tell, I came to the conclusion that drinking is not bad, and neither is the person doing it. I found out that in one situation with one person, it was bad. But I created a boundary that generalized that belief over all the close people in my life. Having this boundary not only didn’t serve me, but basically almost destroyed any relationships I had.
I chose to revisit the boundary that said, If you love me, you won’t drink. Then I simply deleted it. Well, it was “simple” in the sense that now that I realized that the belief I had didn’t pertain to any other situation than the time it was created, I could let it go. Therefore, I did not need to build a wall of protection around me. That boundary disappeared and the tension went away.
Examine the reactions you get from others, and also examine your own feelings. When you do something, and you feel bad about it, perhaps there’s a boundary that you can look at. Maybe you created a wall of protection that doesn’t work in every situation. Or, maybe doesn’t even apply anymore.
Next, I’ll go over honoring your boundaries. You have all these boundaries inside you that dictate much of your behavior in life so it’s time to be the courageous guardian of your castle. This is where you honor and defend your proverbial castle walls, only letting those you trust through the gate.
3. Honor yourself by honoring your boundaries
This is where many people have a challenge. Sure, sure, discover my boundaries, no problem. Figure out which ones don’t serve me anymore? Well, that was a little harder, but I think I got it. But honoring myself to honor my boundaries? That sounds easy! If someone tries to cross my boundaries, I’ll say “Hey, back off, that’s my boundary you’re trying to cross!”
Don’t we all wish it was that easy. Well, it can be I guess. It depends on whether you care about people’s reactions or not. If you don’t care, then you probably have no boundary issues anyway. But since most of us have compassion, and do care how other people feel, we take their feelings into consideration.
This is a double-edged sword. Sometimes honoring your boundaries means not fulfilling other people’s needs. If I have a boundary that says, “I will not sit next to someone who smokes” and the person I’m sitting next to lights up a cigarette, should I just honor my boundary by saying, “Hey, could you please put that out. I prefer not to be around smoke”. Or, should I just get up and walk away? Or what?
What’s the best way to honor your boundaries without feeling like you’re offending someone else? That was kind of an extreme example, but let’s use something that hits closer to home: Your parents asking you when you’re going to get married or have kids.
Now there’s a challenge. Most of us probably don’t want to disappoint our parents. But at the same time, we may feel a strong violation of our boundaries. You might realize that anything you say could be deemed offensive or upsetting.
This is where the important decisions in life happen. This is where many people decide to either lie or exaggerate, which makes them feel bad and prolongs the inevitable, or be upfront and honest which will sting for sure but clears the air of any misunderstandings going forward.
I remember my mom asking me this question of me and my ex-girlfriend about 10 or so years ago: So when are you two going to have kids?
We both answered, “Oh, we’re not. We’ve chosen not to have kids. “
She was like, “Huh? Why? ” She actually looked stunned.
I told her that neither of us never had the drive or desire to have them. We both love kids, and truth be told, if we really want one, we’ll probably adopt one.
She still didn’t get it. After all, why would someone not want to have kids? I’m sure it is shocking to some moms for sure. The motherly instinct is so strong in some women, it makes no sense to not want to have your own kids.But, both my girlfriend and I agreed that it was something that we were not interested in. I could tell my mom was disappointed. Even after a few years, she’d mention it here and there. But after a while, she didn’t mention it anymore. She was absolutely fine that we didn’t have kids. I don’t know what happened, but I think she finally came to a level of acceptance with it.
Our decision back then was to stand firm without the boundary of We are not having kids, even if it hurt or disappointed my mom.
Your boundaries are yours. They are the rules and guidelines of how you want to live your life. When you have a boundary that does not agree with someone else’s perspective, you definitely risk hurting their feelings. Though you are not responsible for how they feel, they can feel hurt by your decisions.
What are the steps you can take to start honoring your boundaries? What can you do when as you honor your boundaries, others around you get surprised or upset that you are being true to yourself. It will happen… people will be surprised and/or upset. But they won’t be for long. Because as soon as you start showing them the new you, they have no choice but to either accept you or walk away. If they walk away, then it probably means they liked being able to get their needs met by you compromising yourself.
I’m not saying it’s always the case, but in my experience, those who can’t accept you for being true to yourself are usually those who liked you better when you were submissive and giving in to their needs over yours.
If you’re always giving in to others’ needs over your own, you know this is not a good place to be, you know this. It doesn’t feel good, and you will eventually burn out.
What can you do about it? Can you lead your own way with confidence in yourself, honoring and defending your boundaries, even if others around you can’t handle it? Stick around if you want more, because I’m about to give up the goods.
When it comes to boundaries, you need to realize that honoring yourself is priority. You own your castle. Are you going to tear down a wall and allow your castle to be overrun? Or are you going to defend your castle, your core being, so that people cannot compromise your values and beliefs?
Your boundaries are about you, and no one else. People around you that haven’t seen you honor your boundaries before will be in for a shock. But let me tell you this, there are probably two responses you’ll get the first time someone sees you honor yourself:
The first one will be Wow, you’re really standing up for what you believe in now. Good for you!
The other will be, What happened to you, you used to be so nice!
It’s not easy to hear someone say that you’re not being nice. But there’s one thing to remember, you can never really be genuinely nice to anyone without first being nice to yourself.
How do you do that? Construct your boundaries and honor them. Think of someone you really love. When you think of this person, what would you do if someone came along and threatened them? Would you feel compelled to protect them?
If not, what if the person you loved was in a wheelchair and couldn’t defend him or herself, would you feel compelled to step in and defend them then?
How about a defenseless child? Where a stranger pulls up in a van and starts talking to this child. Would you feel compelled then?
Whatever compels you to take a stand, that’s who you need to be for yourself. It may sound a little corny, but if you are the type of person that has trouble defending their boundaries, picture the person that you were just defending in my previous example, and make that person you. When you feel this type of conviction in yourself, no one will cross your boundaries.
This may seem extreme, but this is just to get you over the first obstacle that usually comes into play if you’re not used to doing it. Once you gain that confidence in yourself and feel that compulsion to honor yourself as much as you’d step in for someone else, you will draw an enormous power to start taking your life back.
This power turns into a commitment to yourself. You can choose when to bend the rules and when to enforce them. After all, there your boundaries, and you can do with them whatever you wish. But constructing a clearly defined set of boundaries in yourself is key to honoring them, and making it known to the world that you are to be respected.
Up until about 5 years ago, I spent my entire life as the nice guy. I was so nice to everyone…
“Hey Paul, can you help me move this weekend? Sure, I’d love to!”
“Hey paul, can you work the next shift too? You bet, happy to do so!”
“Hey Paul, do you mind caring for my yet to be domesticated spider monkeys? Thanks! Uh, yeah, sure!”
Year after year of letting people compromise my boundaries. Year after year of allowing it to happen. Year after year of swallowing my anger and upset because I didn’t honor myself…
“Hey Paul, can I borrow some of your retirement fund?”
“Oh, well, I don’t know..”
“I’ll pay it back. Just direct deposit it into my account.”
“Hey Paul, I need to use your truck to haul a heavy load down a bumpy mountain. It’s an automatic right? I’ll be careful not to strip the gears too bad. Where are your keys?”
The pressure building and building, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So many people were taking advantage of me, and I’d had enough. That was it – after years of compromising myself, I was feeling worse and worse about everything. I got burnt out in my relationships, at work, at home, with friends. Everything burnt me out.
This is what happens when you choose not to defend and honor your boundaries. You get burnt out with life. All the times you thought it was best to protect the feelings of others in your relationships, or protect your job, your family life… All that time honoring others who were violating your boundaries brought you to a place of complete burnout and a general fear of the world.
Honoring yourself is a priority. If you don’t honor yourself, people will take advantage of that. They will take advantage of you. Some people won’t even know they’re doing it, because you’re allowing it to happen.
The first time I chose to honor my boundaries for something big that I normally wouldn’t have in the past was scary as hell. It was a test for me.
At my old job, we were having a team meeting, about 20 of us. Our boss was quite angry. He’d just recently launched a new home study course, and it wasn’t doing so well. He went around the room asking each of us what we were going to do for him to sell this home study course, and why we were going to do it. But the way he was asking was like a father yelling at his kids for breaking a window.
He was asking “What are you gonna do to help sell this product?” to every employee. Then after they answered, he asked, “And why will you do that?”, and my turn was coming up. As the others were answering, I was getting more upset with his tone of voice, and just the way he was being disrespectful to everyone. I realized I was in one of those moments where my boundaries were being crossed. The boundary that said: I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Then he pointed at me
“Paul, what are you going to do to help sell this product?”
I said, “Uh, I’ll put some video footage together and post it on our site”
Then he asked the follow-up question, “And why will you do that?”
That’s it! The boundary is crossed, and I’m buckling… I’m giving in. I’m going to allow this person to disrespect me, and treat me just like he treated everyone else before me. But just before I submitted and gave him the WHY he wanted to hear, I suddenly heard my the words echoing in my head, “Honor yourself: No matter what. If you feel like someone is compromising you or crossing your boundaries, stand up for yourself no matter what the cost.”
I heard those words and decided to follow them. And I answered his question, “So you’ll stop yelling at us?”
The entire room got silent. The boss, not wanting to be made a fool, just said, “Oh, you think I’m yelling at you?” then looked at someone else and asked, “And what about you, what are you going to do to sell this product?” He moved on as if nothing happened.
But something did happen. Something big, inside me. Something huge!
I felt like this was it, my job was on the line. My paycheck. My relationship with my boss. All of it. But what else was on the line was something even more important. Something closer to my heart and soul: It was that protection I built around my core that I almost allowed to be compromised. Had I not spoke up, even in the passive-aggressive manner I did, and just allowed him to walk on me, I would have lost the dignity and respect that I had for myself.
That was more important than my job, my paycheck, or my relationships at work. Because without dignity and respect for myself, I couldn’t enjoy any of it.
The next day, my supervisor came up to me and said, yeah, you might want to refrain from saying things like that. I felt my old self starting to kick in again. I felt myself going back to being walked on. So I said, Yeah, sorry about that. I realize I shouldn’t have said that.
I was thinking to myself, what did I just do? I apologized for something I DID mean to do, so why am I apologizing. Then I gave myself a break and said. Hey, you just spoke up to the boss! A multimillionaire that could easily fire you. You did it. It was a huge breakthrough, give yourself a break!
So I did. And I felt good again. I realized there was going to be some consequences, but I didn’t get fired. In fact, my boss never mentioned it to me. That day, a co-worker came up to me and said, “Paul, I’m so glad you said that yesterday. He was being a jerk. A lot of us were happy you spoke up.”
It was that moment that solidified that what I did was the right thing. From that point on, my boundaries became stronger than ever. People started looking up to me, respecting me, and sharing personal things with me because they knew I was a person of honor.
That changed my entire life. All it took was a scary moment of truth to create a new way of living for me. From always scared of what others will think of me, to confidence and determination to always speak what is on my mind.
When you can prioritize what’s most important in your life, and create the boundaries that serve you, you will gain more respect because people learn to respect your boundaries. They see in you what they have trouble accessing in themselves. A true confidence that you’ll do what it takes to be true to yourself. Sometimes you’ll say things that others wouldn’t dare to say. You’ll do things that are true to you. People will start seeing the real you, trusting you more, and honoring your time.
It’s really a different way of life, and it takes some getting used to. But the rewards are infinite because you are living authentically. It’s how you were meant to live.
Here’s a quick summary of this article:
- Determine what your boundaries are. You do this by checking in when you feel bad about something. If you get angry, sad, or upset in any way, you likely have a boundary that’s been crossed. Figure out what rule in your life caused your reaction – that is a boundary.
- Do your boundaries serve you? So you’ve determined that you have some boundaries, but are they healthy? Are they serving you to make your life better and more fulfilled? Sometimes a boundary that you created at 6 years old doesn’t apply when you’re 26, 36, or older. It may be time to revisit some of your boundaries to see if they’re even necessary anymore.
- Honor yourself by honoring your boundaries. The best you can be for someone else starts within. If you cannot honor yourself and respect your own boundaries, then you cannot possibly be everything you’re capable of being.
If you are already secure in your boundaries, then maybe this was just a refresher for you. If however, you’ve found yourself in situations that made you feel uncomfortable, as if someone was compromising your castle and busting through your walls, then I hope you gained some strength and courage to do what it takes to defend your boundaries.
Protect who you are at your core and learn what’s safe to let in and what’s not. You are the only you you got!
The big picture is that our boundaries are the rules we live by. They are the foundation we live in and see the world through. Without boundaries, we are submissive and lost, waiting for others to command us without resistance. We are in an open field, with no armor, with advancing dangers all around. But when we make firm decisions on what’s acceptable or not in our lives, we walk tall into the chaos knowing that in the end, we still have what makes us whole inside.
Letting people compromise your boundaries chips away at how happy you are in life. You are not only the builder of your walls but also the defender. Protect your castle, or the integrity starts to crumble. Soon, you won’t be able to keep up with all the patching and repair that’s needed to stay whole.
All it takes is the first time you honor your boundaries so that it will be easier the next time. The first time is the hardest, but also the most liberating. It’s not a matter of never letting anyone in, nor is it being so wide open that people can walk all over you. You’re looking for that perfect balance of honoring your boundaries and being open to new people and ideas.
The first time is always the hardest, but after that, the rebuilding of a new you begins.