Maintaining healthy boundaries is a matter of self-esteem and maintaining functional relationships. Because women are often raised to “be nice,” and “give to others generously,” sometimes insisting on healthy boundaries makes women feel like they are being “mean,” or somehow harsh.
The truth is exactly the opposite. Asserting healthy boundaries is actually a matter of deep love and consideration for others. We just need to adjust the way we look at it. So, today, I’m going to share a couple of quick truths that can help you understand that the best thing you can do for someone else is insist on healthy boundaries.
First, when we don’t have boundaries, it opens the door for others to dump their failures, baggage and shortcomings onto us. Being dumped on is common with women who feel the need to “save” others. When we try to save someone we do two things that are in error.
First, we rob them of the life lesson they need to learn to get their life together. We literally prolong their immaturity in this area by not allowing them the gift of failure or difficulty. Sometimes this is the only thing that will motivate them to learn and grow. Let them have the experience they need, rather than prolong their insufficiency.
Second, when we try to save others, we open the door for them to dump all of their problems onto us. When we take on other’s dysfunction and failures, we are literally saying, “In addition to the problems I have in my life, I’ll be taking on yours as well.” We end up living two lives – our own, and the person’s that we are trying to save.
Some people call boundaries tough love. I call it true love. It’s okay to give advice, mentor and give support. But when someone’s unfortunate life situation alters or affects our own life significantly – our involvement may have gone too far.
Even if we decide we want to help a loved one who is in a dark place, putting ground rules or time limits around the help is another way to establish healthy boundaries. This is a way to say, “This help has a shelf life. You have this amount of time (or money) to get serious about putting your life back together, and after that, you are on your own. So use this help wisely.”
Maintaining healthy boundaries is also necessary in smaller ways, in our every day interactions. Small actions to maintain boundaries are important.
For instance, when a friend starts to talk negatively to me about another friend, they have crossed a boundary with me. I wouldn’t want someone else talking about me behind my back, so I never allow myself to be part of this type of dysfunctional behavior. It goes against my values, and crosses a strong boundary that I have.
What do I do to maintain my boundaries when I friend is talking badly about another friend? I politely tell my friend that while I want to be there for them, in this instance they are talking to the wrong person. I tell them that I would want anyone who has a problem with me to come to me directly. That’s fair and creates trust.
Then I encourage them to go directly to the person with which they have an issue. I sometimes offer some support if they are not sure how to approach the situation. Because often people are conflict avoidant, and are uncomfortable addressing issues with others directly. So I like to suggest ways that might make it easier for them to bring up. But I only do this if they indicate they are unsure how to address the issue with the other person.
I make sure this boundary is known with my friends and consequently I have very few instances where any friend tries to cross this line. That’s because I’ve trained and taught them how to treat me, and where my boundaries are. When we do this…when we establish strong, healthy boundaries, the people around us learn from it and over time, respect them.
And, if they don’t, they are someone that should be eliminated from your life. If you establish healthy boundaries and someone in your life refuses to respect them, even after multiple requests, then they are not worthy of a relationship with you.
Creating healthy boundaries creates healthy self-esteem. Healthy boundaries allow us to focus on growth and productive relationships instead of relationships that drain us and suck the life from us. Maybe most importantly, creating boundaries allows others to learn the life lessons that are integral to their long-term success and self-sufficiency.
Always engage in relationships that light up your life – that support you. You deserve it, and it’s important to a happy, functional life.
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Lacy Schoen is the CEO of Team Lead, Inc., and Founder of Real Women Real Success. She is an author, speaker and coach specializing in women’s advancement in leadership and entrepreneurship. © 2018 Team Lead, Inc. All rights reserved.