At the end of your pregnancy, Raspberry Leaf Tea was likely recommended as one of…
Prefer to listen? Click here to listen to Alissa’s podcast episode about the B word…Boundaries.
Something that’s really important, always? Checking in with yourself and evaluating your boundaries, regularly. That’s right, I said the B word, boundaries.
If you just imagined an electric fence or a 15 foot wall designed to keep “intruders” out, I’m here to tell you that boundaries are not meant to be mean or rigid, or painful. They are an act of self-love and self-care that ultimately empowers the people in your life to love you accurately.
Essentially, having clear boundaries sets yourself and your people up for success.
So, why do boundaries matter so much?
Well, when you shack up with your partner, become a mother, and grow your own family (related yet distinct from your family of origin) the whole dynamic shifts. You shift. Your relationships with your parents and siblings shift. And your needs and priorities shift.
It’s a big change that people don’t talk about enough. And it’s important to honor that and anything you’re feeling about the change.
You may feel…
- Joy! You’ve been trying to get away from your family forever. Now you have an excuse.
- Grief. Change is hard and you don’t know what it looks like.
- Shame. Like you abandoned your parent(s)/sibling(s)
- Abandoned. Like your parent(s)/sibling(s) forgot about you or stopped loving you.
Sometimes what comes up hurts and sometimes it’s a huge relief. Other times it’s like your brain explodes with both a gasp and giant neon “duh” sign above your head.
All of this is great and good and part of growing up. Technically speaking it’s called differentiation. When we differentiate ourselves from our parents, the family they created, and start building your own.
You are allowed to create space to develop and nurture your new family’s traditions. You are supposed to! Again, I’m not saying any of this is easy. I’m saying it’s worth it. (Sorry, not sorry).
Boundaries are a way to love yourself and your people and set everyone up for success. AND it’s hard AND it’s part of growing up and becoming parents.
Now, the thing is, finding, choosing, creating, and maintaining our boundaries can feel touchy and challenging. Will you hurt someone’s feelings? How does one know what kind of boundary is needed? And how do I “enforce” said boundary?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you and I give you a step-by-step framework below.
Let’s get started.
How do I find my boundaries?
The thing with boundaries is that they are invisible until someone runs into them. Until someone oversteps and you feel hurt, resentful, taken advantage of, violated, invisible, unimportant, etc.
So, the way to find clarity here is to consider the following:
- What makes you feel taken advantage of?
- Are there people in your life, or situations that happen, that make you feel unimportant or invisible?
- What situations or events make you feel resentful or hurt?
What do I do with this information?
Clarify what needs to happen to avoid the people, places, and things that are harmful to you.
And then talk to your people, your “safe people,” and ask for their support around this.
- Can they help you recognize when this is happening and cheerlead/coach you through the moment?
- That can look like holding hands, a hand on the back, removing you from a conversation, being in eyesight, calling or texting at specific times to check in.
- Say yes to people, places, and things that make you feel safe and no to the things that don’t.
How do I let the “tough” people know?
This is so hard. I need to acknowledge that. It’s so hard. In short, as soon as you are ready.
If you are starting to feel awkward because you keep leaving the conversation with someone and it feels like it’s now obvious. Or don’t pick up their phone calls or answer their text messages with the same zest that you used to feign, this is a sign that it is time.
When it gets to the point you feel you want to explain your new behavior, you can email, text, call, or speak in person. Whichever feels right FOR YOU. Not them. YOU.
Take care of you at this moment.
- Sending an email. Explain how you are feeling and that you are prioritizing your emotional and mental health. Outline what you will need in order to feel safe. And say thank you for understanding.
- Calling ahead. Explain that you’re feeling apprehensive because of something that happened in the past. Ask if the host of the party can not pressure you to have an extra drink. (Or whatever it is you need).
- Saying no. It’s a complete sentence and you are 100% allowed and deserve to use it when you need it.
Make it all about your feelings, your health (that definitely includes mental health), and your needs.
Again, THIS IS HARD! Know this is so individual. I’m…direct. I’m…blunt. You don’t have to be. Do this your way.
What’s important here is to communicate that you’ve realized that certain circumstances and behaviors have been hurtful to you and you need to protect yourself right now. If possible, communicate these things before the family event or gathering. Because then when your boundary is crossed you can say, “I love you so much. This right here, what just happened. This is what I meant in my email. I know you love me too, and this hurts me.” You’re calling them out without shaming or humiliating them.
How someone reacts to you holding your boundaries is not your responsibility.
You need to take care of yourself before taking care of anyone else.
And accept whatever people offer back. They may surprise you. They may disappoint you. They may do one and the next day switch to the other.
If you’ve had blurry, weak or no boundaries in the past, creating, holding, and honoring space for yourself is going to take space away from someone else. And they may not like that. And that’s ok because…
…In order to say yes to yourself, you have to say no to someone else.
It doesn’t always feel good. With practice, it gets easier. And clearer. You may even fall in love with creating boundaries because of the clarity and ease that comes from knowing and honoring them. You get to teach people how to care for you and you get to learn how best to care for others.
Something else really special happens. Your “yes” becomes sacred. It has depth and meaning. The people, places, and things you commit to fill you up. Even in the circumstances where you are compromising and making concessions.
Because you start being able to move your boundaries without abandoning yourself.
I’m about to say something radical. You can take care of yourself while taking care of others. Here’s to using boundaries as a key piece of the puzzle.