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Boundaries are generally physical. You can see people erecting walls around their property, to build limits or sovereign states to define their borders on a map, all because it helps them exercise the rights that they enjoy as owners of property or as owners of a land. It tells the world where their jurisdiction reaches to and where their laws apply.
Of course, there is another form of boundary, and this is the interpersonal relationship. This boundary is abstract in nature and, when clearly defined, helps people define the extent of their obligations under the relationship. This boundary tells people what they can do and what they cannot do to the other party.
“Good fences make good neighbors”
The above is a well known saying that illustrates the points here. Boundaries assist in creating happy and less stressed people because others are less likely to violate those boundaries if they know what is OK and not OK with you.
For example if your manager knows your son has soccer training on Tuesday’s and you always have to bring him there so you cannot give up that time, you will not likely be the first to be asked to put in extra hours.
Having no properly defined boundaries or no boundaries at all can be a significant cause of stress and lead to stress related symptoms or illnesses such as Adrenal Fatigue. It is not uncommon for Adrenal Fatigue sufferer’s to have poorly developed boundaries.
As a rule of thumb it’s much easier to set a boundary upfront than to have to push someone back and build a boundary simultaneously.
When we establish boundaries between ourselves and our friends, colleagues, and even our family, we limit the extent of their actions towards us. This is another proactive approach to preventing people from abusing our goodwill and sense of obligation to them and this is healthier than crawling into a shell or building a solid wall around us to prevent people from ever getting close. Boundaries are simply there to tell people “Hey we’re friends, but no, I’m not doing this for you because it’s not good for me.”
There are many advantages, socially, to building boundaries to keep unscrupulous people at bay. The best advantage is the ability to say, “No.” This ability keeps abusive relationships away because no one is opening himself or herself up to the abuse by simply refusing to do so.
For example, in a workplace, you can prevent your employees from taking advantage of your goodwill towards them by being able to say “No” if there are requests that put you up to unnecessary pressure.
You can prevent them from using you for their own agenda with this ability, and this is only possible when you know how to build the right boundaries to govern your interpersonal relationships.
The main benefit of having boundaries established in your interpersonal relationships is the freedom that you will enjoy. When you have boundaries, you know what your responsibility is and what the other party’s responsibility is. You have a clear sense of what you are supposed to do and what someone else is supposed to do.
In other words, having your interpersonal boundaries set up will free you from the burden of having to wonder if whether or not you are responsible for this person’s wrongdoings or shortcomings. Boundaries, in a sense, also define what your rights are when you are in an interpersonal relationship, whether it is romantic, familial or professional in nature.
When you know your limits, it will be easier for you to put up a hand and say, “No” when you think that somebody is now trying to abuse you for his own benefit. Remember that abuse comes in many different forms – physical, mental and emotional.
You have to know the extent to which physical contact becomes abusive, and when the mental and emotional stress that you experience – which is normal in any other case – becomes unproductive and unfair. Again, this can only be realized when you have clear boundaries set up between yourself and other people.
The following questions can help you to find your boundaries in specific situations, and help with future ones:
Realizing that you need to set up boundaries is only the first step of your journey. The next part is actually developing and communicating those boundaries, and that we could say could be a Herculean task because of the reactions and effects that your personal boundaries can have on the people that will be affected by the limitations they bring.
This is the most important part, and also the most difficult. Some people fail in this part of the process, simply because they cannot handle the emotional and social consequences that setting up boundaries can bring. Unfortunately, that cannot do if you want to spare yourself from abuse. Failing in this will only bring you back to the vicious cycle that you have been subject to in the absence of boundaries in your interpersonal relationship.
The consequences can be heavy, of course, and very difficult to adjust to but, in this case, it’s what we call “necessary evil.” The only way to deal with it is to be prepared and, to be prepared; you’d have to learn what these consequences are so you can brace yourself.
“Saying NO means saying YES to yourself”
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