In episode 14, Taylor talked about setting boundaries as part of protecting your system and your body.
Here are some steps towards setting boundaries:
Figure out what is your stuff and what is their stuff. You are only responsible for you. What is it you are feeling? We often feel like we have no power over what happens to us, or what happened in the past, or what others to do us. That may be true, that we don’t always have a choice in our circumstances or our interactions. But we do always have a choice in our we respond.
What is the violation? When you have a big emotional response during an interaction, that is always a clue. It may be a trigger to old stuff in memory time, but if it is about what is happening now and in the present (or both), then it’s important to acknowledge the violation itself. Did someone touch you without asking first? Or borrow money, but not pay it back? Or take something without returning it? Do they speak disrespectfully to you? Do they text or PM more than what you are comfortable with?
Stand your ground! Once you know what the violation was, you can go back to what is your stuff and determine what is appropriate and safe for you. It’s okay if you are not comfortable with texting or chatting after a certain time in the evening. It’s okay if you don’t want to share your charger cord because you need it right now. It’s okay if you don’t want to hug your Great Aunt Sally. You have the right to decide what is safe and comfortable for you, and knowing your own preferences will help you set better boundaries with other people.
Say it out loud. While it is true that there are some people who just don’t respect boundaries at all, most people just aren’t aware if you don’t say it out loud. Speak up! Say to your classmate, “I can’t share my charger right now because I need to finish this project first.” Or say, “I have $5 I can share, but you need to pay me back by Tuesday or I can’t loan you money anymore.” Or say, “I really want to support you, but right now I need to sleep. I would be glad to talk to you in the morning>” Or, even better, just say no. In fact, like Taylor said in the podcast, your yes means nothing if you can’t also say no.
Be wise. You don’t have to do something just because someone tells you to do it. You don’t have to answer personal questions just because someone asks. Remember that just because someone pays attention to you doesn’t mean they care, and just because someone offers flattery doesn’t mean they have your best interest in mind. Use your energy for caring for you, and then your connections with others will be more meaningful.
Notice your feelings. Remember that resentment almost always means you are in over your head, and that you are already getting sapped of your time and energy without getting enough nourishment in return. It can also indicate burnout in a job or hobby. Feelings of guilt are about not meeting other people’s expectations, which is different than considering your own preferences.
Be direct. It’s one thing to respect different cultures or have good manners, but there are times to be direct. Some cultures are more direct than others, and some less direct cultures can actually be very passive aggressive. Regardless, if someone seems to not understand your boundaries or is just outright not respecting them, then firm up and be more direct and explicit with the boundaries you are setting so there is no confusion about what you mean or need.
Adapt to relationship roles. Different kinds of relationships have different boundaries. There may be professional boundaries in a work, school, or clinical setting. These are meant to keep everyone safe. Dating or other relationships have boundaries, about how much time to spend together and apart, guidelines for how much money is spent, or what activities you are comfortable participating in with your partner. Friendships also have boundaries, like how much time you spend together, or how early in the morning you can visit, or how late at night you can call.
Be responsible for yourself. Part of good boundaries is caring well for yourself. While we all need connection with others, we are responsible for our own level of functioning to a degree. That includes mental and emotional functioning. Your friends can be supportive, but it’s not their job to rescue you from the challenges of life. Your therapist can be helpful in your healing journey, but they cannot do the healing for you.
Set boundaries for yourself, too. You may need your own internal boundaries, as well. Maybe you need to focus on that one healthy meal that is delicious, instead of focusing on restricting yourself from all things good. Maybe you need to turn off your devices earlier, so you can get more sleep at night. Maybe you need to give yourself permission to leave that social scene early, go for a walk after a long day at work, or spend some time at the park after therapy instead of rushing back to everyday life right away. It’s all part of self-care!