Setting Boundaries: The Former People Pleaser’s Guide

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As a recovering People pleaser, I never knew that there was a thing called ‘Boundaries’ or how important it was to have them. I know how difficult it was for me to start exercising my boundaries and respecting the boundaries of other people.

 

What exactly are boundaries?

A boundary is a personal parameter that you put in place to support your well-being. For example, if you’re a person who struggles with saying ‘No’ or you are prone to overextend yourself, it’s highly likely that you have not set boundaries for yourself and others. It is difficult to exercise it at first, however, it is important to note that it is a form of self-care. It is a great way to practice self-respect and stand up for yourself. In the same token, it is important to remember and respect the boundaries of others.

It is okay to have boundaries. Your needs are important, and it takes practice to communicate them. Be consistent and keep persevering even if you’re afraid or you feel like you may hurt someone’s feelings. Remember your feelings are valid too. When we communicate our needs with others, it opens the door to understanding and reduces the feelings of resentment and obligation. No one is exempt from your boundaries. This does not mean that you should be too rigid. It means that it applies to family members and long-time friends too.

There are six different types of boundaries. How rigid or relaxed you are about them may differ in different situations, cultures or your relationship to different people.

Types of Boundaries

Physical Boundaries

This is the most basic boundary. This pertains to your response to physical touch, personal space, and your physical needs such as eating or sleeping. This is especially true during the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“I prefer nonphysical contact.”

“Please use the designated area to smoke.”

“I’m going to the restroom. I’ll be back shortly.”

Emotional Boundaries

This speaks to being aware of yours and other people’s feelings and space that they are in. I struggled with respecting other people’s emotional boundaries as I had none for myself. Especially when it came to my close friends. However, I’ve learnt through trial and error to honour them.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“I would like to keep my sharing with you confidential. When you speak about my private affairs, I feel as though my trust has been violated and I find myself in a difficult position and no longer wish to share with you.”

“Are you available for a chat? I feel as though I require emotional support.”

“I am not available right now. I am free from 6pm. Would that suit you?”

Time Boundaries

This was my daily struggle. As a former people pleaser, I found myself overextended, overcommitted, and generally exhausted. Know your priorities and set them accordingly, especially around work. Sometimes it is difficult to set proper standards for ourselves, especially when you’re  working from home. You may find yourself working all sorts of crazy hours.

Not only is this unhealthy but in some cases even inherently expected. Respect yourself and adhere to the hours that you’ve agreed to contractually work. No person can consistently put in 14-hour days without facing some physical repercussions. Take care of yourself.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“I am unable to meet at that time. I have a prior commitment.”

“I am only available for 30 minutes.”

“Thank you for your interest in my work. My hourly rate is….”

Sexual Boundaries

It’s important to be upfront and transparent about your sexual boundaries especially when you’re starting a new relationship. You must know and communicate what you’re comfortable with, what your preferences are and respect the boundaries that other people have in place.

Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“Please use a condom.”

“I am not comfortable with …”

“I like when you do …”

Intellectual Boundaries

It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve really been able to do a lot of introspection of my own intellectual boundaries. I am very opinionated, and I love having intellectual discourse. I love having conversations with people who are like minded or who I may learn from. What I didn’t realize until recently, is that it’s okay to have a difference in opinion and leave it at that.

I made it my mission to convince people to come onto my side of the fence. While it may have been done with facts, not allowing others to have their own opinions is obviously crossing a boundary. Even if it is done respectfully.

Intellectual boundaries allows you and others to express your thoughts, ideas and opinions in a safe and respectful way without violating any codes of conduct or issues that pertain to the infringement of human rights (example Racism, a person’s sexual orientation, etc).

Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“Let’s have a break from this conversation. We have a difference in opinion, and I can respect that.”

“It’s an important conversation to have but now is not the best time. Can we pick this up a little later?”

“I’d appreciate it if you spoke to me in a more respectful tone.”

Material Boundaries

This is especially difficult for people pleasers who are accustomed to sacrificing their possessions for the sake of someone else’s happiness. This includes all possessions such as money, your home, clothes, cars, etc.

I remember the first time that I drew a line with my possessions was in High School. My younger cousin was extremely popular and always got invited to parties. The problem was that she kept borrowing my clothes and returning it later or only when I asked for it. The day I said ‘No’, she got angry at me and didn’t speak to me for months after that.

Although I missed her terribly and it hurt that she was angry at me, it was an important milestone for me. I learnt how to respect myself and my possessions.

 Examples of Healthy Boundaries:

“Sorry I am not able to help out today.”

“I am not comfortable with lending out my clothes.”

“I do not lend out my car, but I am happy to give you a lift this Friday.”

 

Maintaining the boundary avoids all forms of ambiguity and frustration. None of us knows innately what all our boundaries are, until they’ve been crossed. If you’re feeling triggered by an action, then a previously unknown boundary has been discovered and requires clarity.

Boundaries are a great way to address how you expect people to treat you by being upfront and sticking to it. It allows you to know how to deal with others and leaves little room for disagreements or grudges.

 

Elizabeth Earnshaw, 20 July 2019, 6 Types Of Boundaries You Deserve To Have (And How To Maintain Them)

Accessed 15 August 2021, https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/six-types-of-boundaries-and-what-healthy-boundaries-look-like-for-each

Chantel Pattemore, Updated 2 June 2021, 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries

Accessed 15 August 2021, https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-way-to-build-and-preserve-better-boundaries

 

 

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