Boundaries are tough to set and navigate, but so necessary in recovery and beyond. But how do we cultivate and understand boundaries? Setting boundaries requires identifying and verbalizing your needs and taking a risk that those needs may not be met. Moreover, it requires emotional vulnerability, which, although beautiful has an “ickiness” attached.
For example, I once had a client tell me with all certainty that she had no needs. She said this as tears were flowing from her eyes. I responded with a non-judgemental observation that although her mind and words were certain it seemed that there was a disconnect happening in front of me. Let’s be honest, it takes a great deal of courage to admit that we have needs. Each person holds different boundaries and that’s perfectly okay. It is your compass that provides personal guidance and limits. There is power in your boundaries and let’s focus on some tips to assist in the process.
1. Give yourself permission
Giving ourselves permission to have boundaries is huge. Growing up in an environment where verbalizing needs is deemed unimportant can cause a disconnect with yourself. If you utilize your voice and are constantly shut down it becomes hard to avoid feelings of guilt and shame.
I am raised in an environment where being of service to others and the word selfless were somehow associated. It might as well have been tattooed on my forehead. I recall how backward the thinking was and how it led to poor decision-making. I was going against my own boundaries. The word selfless is still triggering to me. It’s almost as if we truly have to give ourselves permission to exist and live the life we truly want. Let’s start with compassion and grace. We all deserve the compassion that we are so readily able to provide to others.
2. Engage in a dialogue
Oftentimes boundaries start with our own inner dialogue. I often joke with my husband and ask if he had a conversation with me or imaginary Bianca? I don’t mean this to sound hastily but we all do this to a certain degree. My clients often tell me about the deep dialogue they had with the person they are upset with. I always ask them directly if this was an actual verbal dialogue with the other individual present. I usually get an eye roll or a dirty look. We all have imaginary conversations and sometimes it’s beneficial as it helps gain clarity and get things out. However, if the dialogue doesn’t happen with the actual person there isn’t much that can change. We self-sabotage and rob ourselves of the opportunity.
This is why it’s important to start with identifying your feelings and intentions for a conversation.
3. Zoom out to see the bigger picture
Perspective is everything. Think of our feelings or situations like a picture taken with the newest iPhone. The image is clear but somehow you fixate on zooming in on the one dot or crooked smile. It’s helpful to zoom out and see the whole picture. I just had a conversation with one of my good friends and at the end, she said “I just need the reminder to be kind to myself.” I continued to think about that statement and went to my local grocery store after the phone call. I walked in and noticed that one of the greeting cards said Be Kind To Yourself. In conclusion, we can use that reminder, and sometimes we need it more than once!