“Treat others like you wish you were treated” I have always been told, but how do I want to be treated? I don’t know. Yes, of course, the phrase “with kindness” comes to mind, but I wouldn’t be able to define what daily acts portray kindness without reflecting first. And this is something that worries me.
I have been raised to be empathetic and understanding, but more often than not I find myself in situations where people are far from empathetic or understanding towards me. I don’t remember anyone telling me how to handle myself in those circumstances, so I just try to be as tolerant as I can. Nevertheless, this usually takes me into a vicious cycle: the more tolerant I am, the worse they treat me. It’s like watching YouTube late at night, you don’t know how you got to a video of how Atlantis sank in the ocean, but you got there yourself.
One could argue that I am not the one with the problem. At the end of the day, it is they who are not being nice to me, but I would disagree. Even though not letting situations escalate and avoiding confrontation at all costs was deeply engraved in my education, I wouldn’t blame that either. I still want to prevent problems from escalating, yet I don’t want to become someone’s punching bag and currently, I am allowing them to do so.
And here is where I believe I was making a mistake myself. I hadn’t stopped, I hadn’t reflected. I was letting others walk all over me because I wanted to accommodate them without accounting for my own feelings and beliefs. I didn’t even know where my limits lay. All in all, I wasn’t setting boundaries.
Boundaries, yes, it can sound scary. However, I believe it is the only way to teach others how to interact with you in a healthy way. The more you know yourself and your principles, the easier time you are going to have getting the message across. These boundaries are not always going to be respected, some people may test them or surpass them together. And that is the crucial moment when you need to hold on to yourself and what you need.
People are not aware of this. They have no clue. For all they know, your principles and wishes could align perfectly with theirs. One quote I often see on Twitter is “if I have to ask for it, I don’t want it anymore”, what are we doing wrong? Your boyfriend is not able to read the future yet, Susan, he is not going to know how you want daisies for your birthday unless you communicate your wishes.
You owe yourself enough respect to listen to yourself/your needs. Boundaries are hard to establish and even harder to maintain, I would say. But they are the common trait of those with high self-respect. You have heard it being said a million times that the only person that is going to accompany you for the rest of your life is yourself, I bet. Well, I don’t know about you, but I would rather be at war with the rest of the world and at peace within than the other way around.
Not everyone that makes you uncomfortable is trying to do so, and that is something you must take into consideration. Yet, if you have repeatedly communicated with someone about your limits and they are not listening, please know it is not your fault and seek professional help if the situation requires it, gaslighting happens more often than we think. You deserve to be heard and I wish this wasn’t a battle you have to fight the rest of your life, but you owe it to yourself to know when enough is actually enough for you.
Understanding how to set boundaries is essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Setting boundaries is a way of self-care, by doing so you are taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing. Not only are healthy boundaries a way of practicing self-care, but they can also help people create their own identity, define their individuality, and can allow establish what they will (not) be responsible/held accountable for.
There are feelings that arise when you do not understand how to set boundaries or maintain healthy boundaries. As a result, your limits will continuously be pushed; which will result in you experiencing feelings such as resentment, disappointment, and anger more often.
Unhealthy boundaries are characterized by:
Sharing too much too soon or, at the other end of the spectrum, closing yourself off and not expressing your needs and wants. Feeling responsible for others’ happiness.
Weak sense of your own identity.
You base how you feel about yourself on how others treat you.
You allow others to make decisions for you; consequently, you feel powerless and do not take responsibility for your own life.
Subsequently, boundaries are frequently emotional or psychological but they can also be physical. For example, preferring to decline physical contact with a classmate or colleagues is a crucial boundary. This is just as important as establishing emotional boundaries.
An example of someone with healthy boundaries is, that they understand that communicating their expectations towards someone is helpful in two ways;
First, it indicates what behavior you are accepting from others, and second, it indicates what others can anticipate from you.
By having healthy boundaries, you might:
share personal information appropriately (not too much or not too little)
understand your personal needs and wants and know how to communicate them
value your own opinions
accept when others tell you “no”
Many of us have a mix of boundaries depending on the situation. For example, you might have strict boundaries at work and more loose ones at home or with family and friends. Prior to setting boundaries, it is important to be aware of the various types of boundaries that exist. According to research conducted by PsychCentral, the following 5 types of boundaries exist;
Physical: This refers to your personal space, your privacy, and your body. You might be someone who is comfortable with public displays of affection (hugs, kisses, and hand-holding), or you might be someone who prefers not to be touched in public.
Sexual: These are your expectations concerning intimacy. Sexual comments and touches might be uncomfortable for you.
Intellectual: These boundaries concern your thoughts and beliefs. Intellectual boundaries are not respected when someone dismisses another person’s ideas and opinions.
Emotional: This refers to a person’s feelings. You might not feel comfortable sharing your feelings about everything with a friend or partner. Instead, you prefer to share gradually over time.
Financial: This one, as you guessed, is all about money. If you like to save money — not spend it on trendy fashions — you might not want to loan money to a friend who does.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether you will take on this challenge that will eventually serve you in life for the better or push it aside and do yourself a disservice. It is never too late to set boundaries. As mentioned before, a part of self-care is being selfish and putting yourself first. If you ever feel selfish while sticking to your boundaries, remind yourself that you have every right to be. Who will put your mental and emotional wellbeing first, if not you yourself? Get comfortable with becoming your number 1 priority and get comfortable with verbalizing your boundaries. You cannot control others and force them to stick to your boundaries. But what you can do is decide to walk away and not deal with those individuals anymore. If someone cannot find it within themselves to respect your boundaries then are they really worth keeping in your life? Once again, this may be deemed as selfish and so what if it is? You have a right to be selfish because if you’re not going to stick to your boundaries then who will?
By Irene Ojeda Pérez & Amaal Ali