Let’s talk about the final tool that will help us create and maintain healthy relationships - setting boundaries.
Boundaries are expectations that we set for the ways we will be treated and treat others.
They are a way we can take care of ourselves, by protecting our physical and emotional well-being.
For some of us, especially those who are people pleasers, setting boundaries can feel mean, or like we’re taking something away from the people around us.
In reality, the opposite is true. Boundaries aren’t taking away anything, it is a kindness to the people around you to articulate what you will and won’t accept.
Boundaries are a service to others - a framework to help them better understand how to interact with us.
Without boundaries, we’re likely to become burned out, angry, disappointed or resentful, which can damage our mental health and our relationships.
Boundaries can help reduce our Vulnerability
Neurodivergent people can be vulnerable to being taken advantage or abused because we understand that we are socially different. This can lead to us being naive about other peoples’ intentions, overly apologetic or assuming that we are in the wrong.
We may be so used to feeling uncomfortable in social situations, that when somebody else is doing something that makes us uncomfortable, it can be difficult to point out.
So when we can learn how to create and communicate boundaries in an assertive and respectful way, we better understand what behaviour we will or won’t accept from others, and we’re able to navigate those interactions better in the moment.
No matter how respectful you are, some people may not respond well to you asserting your boundaries.
There are a lot of reasons that this can happen, but the bottom line is: how someone else feels about you expressing your boundaries is not your responsibility.
You are entitled to the final say about your body and the way you want to be treated.
Boundaries Are About You
A common mistake people make when creating boundaries, is thinking that they can make a boundary about someone else’s behaviour.
The truth is that we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.
Boundaries should be about what you’re willing to accept or engage in and when you will choose to remove yourself from a situation or relationship.
Boundaries are not about punishing other people, they are about giving yourself the kindness that you deserve. You deserve to feel comfortable. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to feel respected.
Having clear boundaries can help you quickly figure out how to make decisions that help you be comfortable, safe, and respected.
When someone is crossing a boundary that you have, you should communicate this to them.
It’s often helpful to focus not on the other person, but on the behaviour, how that behaviour makes you feel, and, if needed, what the consequences of crossing those boundaries will me.
When possible, we want to communicate in ways that will help us get our needs met without making the other person feel attacked.
Because when you feel attacked, it’s hard to take in information.
Let’s use an example.
You don’t like hugs. You don’t want to be hugged but a friend of yours comes up to say hi and opens their arms like they’re going to hug you.
You could step back and say...
“Hey, I’d prefer not to hug, thanks. It’s not that I don’t like you, I just don’t like hugs. They feel very uncomfortable for me. It’s really nice to see you though, how are you doing?”
If you have someone who is repeatedly trying to hug you after you’ve expressed that boundary, you could say something like...
“hey, I feel uncomfortable right now because I’ve asked you not to hug me, and you keep trying to hug me. I understand other people like hugs, but I don’t. I want to feel comfortable with the people I am socialising with, so I can’t spend time with you in the future if this behaviour continues.”