Setting Healthy Boundaries...

When considering the notion of 'setting boundaries', many will often begin from a place of negativity -- that one must put on figurative 'armor', or erect walls to protect oneself. This is a natural reaction when we feel cornered or personally attacked; a kind of self-defense mechanism, if you will. Whilst the protection may seem to keep us from harm, those same barriers withhold our ability to embrace positivity as well; if one blindly shuts the door, it is closed to all things. If created in a healthy manner and mindset, however, personal boundaries actually serve to foster and enhance your mental health, as well as improving your interactions with others.

Awareness, as with so many of the topics we discuss, is crucial when forming positive boundaries for yourself. Knowing what your emotional/physical/mental/spiritual limits are, and embracing them, is the first step. Taking stock of your feelings in any given situation will help you to discover what your limits may be. Did you feel uncomfortable in a certain situation? Angry? Confused?Deciding what feelings you are alright with experiencing, and those which you are not, will help you begin to form a spectrum to decide on your personal limitations. Ultimately, no one can define these for you -- they require a great deal of introspection and mindfulness to discover; once you are confident in them, however, they can be used as a base for the healthy boundaries you will create.

The boundaries you create will be positive ones because they are built around the concept of self-care. You're not working to shut everyone out -- rather, you're working to not give too much of yourself away. No matter how much we want to help or give to others, if we do not preserve and respect our own feelings and worth, our ability to contribute greatly diminishes. Think of yourself as a cup of water -- you can pour yourself into the cups of many others, filling theirs as you do so. However, if you do not stop yourself, your cup will run dry, and will no longer be able to fill anyone else's. It's not that they are taking from you, but rather, you must respect yourself enough to know when it's time to look after yourself.

Outlining your boundaries with others essentially teaches them how you would like to be treated, and how you go about enforcing those boundaries will vary upon the situation. When communicating with some, you may need to be very direct and assertive if a boundary is being straddled. Obviously, it is best to communicate this in a positive and respectful way, but give yourself the leeway to be direct; one need not snap or use snark to communicate feelings -- but you can firmly stand your ground. Often, others will respond positively to a direct communication of boundaries, as none of us are mind readers, and generally want to have productive interactions. The key is to remember that you are not being rude or dismissive by addressing your boundaries -- you are simply asking them to respect you and your feelings.

Setting healthy boundaries is a skill that can take time to develop -- especially if you've not had much practice doing it in the past. Start small, building boundaries around feelings or actions that do not feel particularly threatening to you. It will be easier to practice owning those in communication with others, as you will less likely fall into an automated self-defense trap. When you begin to feel comfortable and confident with these boundaries, expand to areas of more sensitive feeling and begin to work with those. It's important to work at your own pace, and with practice, you'll feel confident and content with instituting personal boundaries with others.

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