I imagine you have probably watched (or at least heard about) The movie Encanto and while most people sing “We don’t talk about Bruno”, the song that stuck out to me the most was “Surface Pressure”, the song that the strong sister Luisa sings. Luisa has these big, strong muscles and holds onto so much for her family, physically and emotionally.
I am not going to lie, the first time I heard the song I had tears well up in my eyes. She mentions questioning her worth and value if she was not serving others, holding everything together and the “strong one”.
See, I am a therapist and I help people navigate boundaries and self-esteem every day. But, if I am being honest, I still struggle with getting my worth and value through serving others.
I sometimes say yes when I want or need to say no, I tolerate inappropriate behavior and I feel guilty when I do not measure up to what I *make up* people expect from me. I feel drained from meeting the needs and wants of others, yet not doing that for myself as an attempt to feel valued and seen.
Anyone else relate?
But what happens when we fail to set boundaries?
We feel drained from carrying other people’s problems, we get resentful for always being the “go to” person and feel unappreciated or taken for granted.
However, when we choose to make changes and embrace a life of boundaries, we have more fulfilled relationships, a cup that is overflowing instead of dry and are able to let go of resentment.
The big question is how do we set boundaries? I am so glad you asked ;)
First, in order to know where we need to set boundaries, we need to look at the pain points in our lives. Do we struggle with a certain friend, taking on too much or in our work life balance? Do we struggle with taking things too personally, feeling unappreciated or drained? Where ever our biggest headaches and stresses are in our life, those are the areas that we need to set some boundaries in the most.
When setting boundaries, it is important that we always come from a place of love and respect. We need to let the other person know that we care about them and the relationship and that is why we desire to improve the dynamics. When our heart is in the right place, it if often better received by the other person.
Next, we need to examine our goals and motivation for setting the boundaries. When setting boundaries, the goal should always be to protect ourselves, not to change or control anyone else.
Then, we need to be clear about our boundary and also have an action step we will take if the boundary continues to be violated.
Let’s compare a couple ways to communicate boundaries.
“You cannot yell at me” VS. “I am not going to engage in a conversation where there is yelling”.
The two are similar but there are some important distinctions between the two.
In both examples, I am addressing that yelling is not acceptable.
However, there are important differences. In the first example, I am attempting to control the other person and their behavior by telling them what they can or cannot do (which breaks the second step in boundary setting).
However, in the second example, I am sharing what I am willing and not willing to engage in. I am staying on my side of the street and sharing that I will not be in a conversation where there is yelling versus going on their side of the street and telling them how to behave.
Now, let’s take this a step farther. Let’s use the example above and let’s say the person continues to yell. Then I need to have an action step on what I am going to do if my boundary continues to be violated.
“I am not willing to engage in a conversation with yelling. If the yelling continues, I am going out of the room (hang up the phone, go for a drive etc.).”
This lets the other person know that we have set a boundary and are willing to take steps to protect ourselves.
Let’s go over another example.
A friend asks you to volunteer at an upcoming fundraiser but you know you already have too much on your plate.
“I am not able to help with the fundraiser but I am willing to donate $x for the event”. If she continues to ask or attempts to guilt trip you for not volunteering, you share the action step.
“I am not able to help with the fundraiser but am able to donate $x for the event. If you continue to ask me for help, I will stop answering the phone (returning you call, responding to your texts, walk away from the conversation etc.).”
Sometimes though, it will not be a boundary that you set with others but an internal boundary, a boundary that you set with yourself.
Maybe every time you have a conversation with a friend, you feel completely drained after because you feel the weight of carrying their burden and you need to learn to separate yourself where you can feel empathy without taking on their pain.
In this example, you may need to visualize your boundary. Perhaps it is a screen door where you can see what is going on with your friend and you are able to let some of it in but not all of it; you choose what you open the door for and what you don’t.
In learning to set those internal boundaries, you may need to use affirmations or positive self-talk to remind yourself that you are not responsible for the other person or their issues, your job is just to listen, problem solve etc.
Let’s explore another example.
You find out that a family member has said some negative things about you. Normally when you hear that someone has said something negative about you, it completely ruins your day and you are devastated or get really angry and want revenge.
However, with boundaries you are able to come from a place of curiosity. “Hmmm, isn’t it interesting that this person said this about me” BUT you do not let it in your screen door. You are able to separate yourself and protect yourself with the visual internal boundary and are no longer willing to carry the burden of others words.
This takes a lot of practice and self-talk but as that boundary muscle grows, it will become easier and easier.
Ditching the drain and overwhelm and embracing balance and peace is possible and is sooo worth it!
If you would like to learn more about setting boundaries, I have the perfect course for you. This course is packed with step-by-step videos for setting and maintaining boundaries in every area of your life.
And for being a follower, you can receive $100 off the course when you use the code EMAIL.
Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.