Hi ladies, it’s me, Laura, can we talk about boundaries for a bit?

The title of this article reflects my hope to boost mental wellness for the distressed reader by providing tips and analogies for forming and enforcing boundaries. These tips can benefit anyone and it provides special consideration to factors identified as traditional to a woman.

What Are Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits of what a person will allow when they are involved in a relationship or activity.

Let’s imagine mental health as your bank account. Mental wellness is credit and mental distress is debt. The positive numbers (even $0.01!) represent mental wellness and the negative numbers (even -$0.01) represent mental distress.

To stay positive, or to maintain mental wellness, boundaries are essential. Mental wellness is a general state of happiness and contentment but not a default state. Throughout one’s day, a person will experience threats to their wellness. To help counter the effects of danger, it is helpful for a person to develop the assertiveness skill-boundary setting. Increasing mental wellness without setting and enforcing boundaries will absolutely undermine your attempts.

Benefits of Boundaries

  • Promote mental wellness
  • Protect time, energy, and integrity of healthy relationships
  • Lower the frequency of negative feelings and interaction

How to Create Boundaries

Let’s play make-believe! Pretend that right before you were born your parents created a club called [Insert Your Name]. They’re now older and retired and transferred ownership to you. Since [Insert Your Name] is the hottest thing out there, many people want to enter; however, to maintain its integrity, not just anybody can come in and those that do aren’t all on the same level.

The first order of business is to hire someone for the Boundary position. You do this because you’ve painfully learned that your parent’s Boundary protects and goes with them. Since they are no longer with [Insert Your Name], you need to get your own and fast.  

This position is the first line of defense and it is difficult. Understanding and courage are vital because your Boundary is going to need to be able to clearly communicate what is and is not allowed at [Insert Your Name] and apply consequences to the folks that just don’t seem to listen, especially when under pressure. 

Boundaries are also economical. By hiring a Boundary, you, the new owner and manager of [Insert Your Name], can keep your business valuable and trendy by creating categories for the patrons. Entrance definitely needs to be denied to the troublemakers, but we also want someone who can recognize VIPs and treat them as such.

Boundary Activities

  • Verify the status of each patron at the door.
    • There are 3 levels in [Insert Your Name]. The casuals, regulars, and VIPs.
      • Casuals: Patrons who are supportive of the business superficially (i.e., acquaintances, professionals, former regulars)
      • Regulars: Patrons who are supportive, trustworthy, and mildly intimate (i.e., friends, family)
      • VIPs: Patrons who are very supportive, trustworthy, and deeply intimate individuals (i.e romantic partner, best friends, Mom, and Dad)
    • Consider the privileges and exclusions for each group.
      • Personal information (phone number, address, passwords, SSN)
      • Morals, emotions, and thoughts
      • Time
      • Physical contact
      • Sexual/intimacy
      • Money and material possessions
    • Anticipate patrons switching membership levels or being asked to join or leave [Insert Your Name] respective to their contribution levels
  • Practice saying, “No.”
    • Consistency between thoughts and behaviors helps people strive toward their full potential. If you find something funny and you want to laugh, laugh. If you see something sad and you want to cry, cry. If you don’t want to do something, say, “No,” and don’t do it
    • Sometimes it helps to set a goal for “no’s”. By doing so you increase awareness of opportunities to meet your goal.
    • Each time you say “yes” or “no” to something you’re actively constructing Insert Your Name’s reality by forming your expectations for others.
  • Increase assertive communication.
    • Assertive communication is when you can express your feelings and needs directly and maintain respect for the other person.
    • The focus of assertive communication is clarity and this is improved through self-awareness. A lack of assertiveness can contribute to mental health issues. An often mistaken approach to assertiveness is aggression.
    • Rehearse ways of enforcing boundaries in a style that feels true for you (aligns with your personal flair). It is very possible to evoke positive feelings from others by how (not as much why) you communicate your need for space.

Common Obstacles to Enforcing Boundaries

Boundaries can have undesirable consequences. Here’s another more uncomfortable truth: Nobody can be anything and have everything they want — you can always strive to be the best you and that journey to actualization can be quite fulfilling. This perspective is rooted in compassion and deep consideration of the range of a human’s ability — our ambitious nature, desire for contentment in life, and a need to be liked.

If we can accept that [Insert Your Name] cannot have it all we can modify our expectations to form more specific and achievable goals. Expectations may be a bit more important than you realize, they are foundational to both disappointment and hope. If we want [Insert Your Name] to operate in the positive (i.e. not be in debt) we have to emphasize mental wellness. The absence of boundaries and enforcement increases one’s vulnerability to bankruptcy by promoting unreasonable expectations of ourselves and others.

Delaying gratification and tolerating temporary discomfort are helpful mindsets when enforcing your boundaries.

Why Is It Difficult to Enforce Boundaries?

1. It challenges fundamental feminine values.

Feminine traits refer to social role behaviors associated to be characteristic of a girl or woman. While these roles are socially constructed there is debate regarding the role of culture and biological factors.

Traditional stereotypical feminine values that may be impacted by boundary enforcement include affection, cooperation, devotion/loyalty, gentleness, hope, nurturance, passivity, support, and helpfulness.

Helpful Focus: Model (teach through behavior) healthy boundaries for an impressionable young girl. This could be a daughter, younger sister or your own inner child. By forming and enforcing boundaries, you help build toward gender equality.

2. It evokes uncomfortable feelings.

Uncomfortable feelings refer to feelings that make it difficult to feel relaxed or at ease. Uncomfortable isn’t the same as negative however there can be overlap. Using “uncomfortable” vs negative can serve as a subtle internal suggestion that the feeling is temporary.

This can include: Disappointment (self), guilt, vulnerability, loneliness, feeling “mean” or like a “jerk”.

Helpful focus: Positive affirmations help counter negative thoughts or support informed decisions. They can be displayed on a board, refrigerator, or notifications on your phone. The positive affirmation can also be reminders of your purpose for setting the goal and also what new things you’re making room for. Focus on clarity of purpose of boundaries, and rehearse what you would say in a style that feels true for you. Each time you are inconsistent with your boundaries you increase confusion for yourself and others.

3. It may elicit a negative reaction from others.

Our behaviors can elicit reactions from others we are in a relationship with in any capacity. These reactions are usually positive or negative.

If a person expects you to behave in a certain way that benefits them and you don’t, they may experience negative feelings such as disappointment, and their thoughts and behaviors are likely to align with those feelings. It is true for them and when someone enforces their boundaries with you, you are likely to feel similarly. Try compassionate responses and stay focused. Avoid complicating a normal temporary uncomfortable moment with words that deviate from the purpose of the interaction. 

Helpful focus: Negative feelings were already there before it was just experienced by you. Humans are great at adjusting — you did and they can also. This may be a great time to revisit or pick up a few more coping skills. Sometimes it’s helpful to do an internet search to identify coping skills other people found helpful. Reading biographies of successful people who had to use boundaries to get and keep their position is helpful. Explore the extent of your abilities (personal strengths, passions, and qualities) and participate in it with people who would appreciate it

4. It can make a situation worse before it gets better.

A situation is the environmental conditions, states, or circumstances that can affect a person’s behavior.

It is very possible that aspects of your situation can get worse before it gets better. Some boundaries can affect long-term relationships and where you live, and even increase feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.

Helpful focus: Promote feelings of security.

Whatever you let your boundaries down to allow may have provided an illusion of security. True security comes from an awareness of your capabilities, a sense of purpose, and confidence. If it helps, try thinking of it as a haircut for damaged ends, it needs to happen to stop the breakage and promote healthy growth. You are creating more positive situations — you’re being more intentional with your expectations and teaching others how to treat you. 

5. There can be unwanted or unforeseen consequences.

A consequence is a result of an event, state, or circumstance.

Every action has a reaction and when forming boundaries some of the consequences can be unwanted or hurtful. Sometimes you can do everything right and still get an unfavorable outcome. When your boundaries were not enforced there were still unwanted consequences, you just absorbed them instead of sharing it with the other person.

Helpful focus: Critical thinking. Gauge what consequences you can absorb and also which ones you cannot and try to manage expectations. Be mindful of where you see expectations start to build in yourself and with others. If you let your best be your standard of expectation you may be more likely to experience stress. When your expectations can closely align with your reality the consequence can be relief, ease, and more fun.

The position of the Boundary is not conditional however I might encourage your statements to be. A conditional statement asserts that if x occurs then y will follow. This type of statement tells the listener what you will do if your boundary is violated. It is not an idle threat, demand, or ultimatum. Use it responsibly and until we meet again, cheers!