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Setting and Maintaining Healthy Personal Boundaries – Part II

Critical Signs of the need to set Healthy Boundaries
Author: Dr. Andrea Dinardo
2 months ago
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Last month’s issue introduced the following concept:  Setting Healthy Boundaries Learning to Find Freedom in Saying “No”. In summary, to comply with the requests of others when we want to say “No” is a learned, debilitating behaviour that can leave us feeling depleted, overwhelmed, and resentful. Many readers want more information on this subject.  Because this topic is so vast, this month’s article will focus on the critical signs of not having healthy boundaries.  Hopefully, after reading The Unhealthy Boundaries Checklist, readers will discover their own unique path to implementing new and simple practices that will lead to more fulfilling relationships.

How do we know if healthy boundaries have not been set and maintained? It begins with a lingering feeling of discontentment. The challenge for individuals is to discover the reason for this malaise. The following Critical Signs Checklist may shed some light on this query, indicating where we may not be living in integrity with our authentic selves. The goal of the list is to promote awareness of specific situations where we frequently succumb to the demands of others rather than our own needs.  By courageously setting just one healthy boundary today, one can begin the journey back to self-love and appreciation, thus building a new confidence that can change the entire trajectory of one’s life. This path to self-fulfillment will be unique for every individual as no two personalities are alike.  

The Critical Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries Checklist: 

  • Saying “Yes” when we want to say, “No”
  • Feeling guilty when we do say “No”.
  • Going against one’s own personal values, rights or integrity in order to please others, then complaining about it.
  • Remaining silent when we have something to say.
  • Adopting another person’s beliefs or ideas and sacrificing one’s own to be accepted – Going along to get along. 
  • Not calling out someone who has mistreated us.  Accepting bad behaviour. 
  • Accepting physical touch or sex when we don’t want it. 
  • Allowing oneself to be interrupted or distracted.
  • Accommodating someone else to satisfy their immediate needs regardless of the inconvenience. 
  • Giving in too much just to be perceived as useful or needed – searching for others approval.  
  • Not clearly defining and communicating our emotional needs in relationships. 
  • Ignoring our own health and well-being to satisfy another.  
  • Justifying our own willingness to settle for less than what we need or desire.
  • Feeling depleted or resentful. 
  • Tolerating disrespectful behaviours of others yet intentionally keeping them in our lives.  
  • Constantly adjusting one’s life to suit another person’s schedule.  

Maintaining a distinct and authentic sense of self in both personal and professional relationships is challenging but achievable. The challenge lies in convincing oneself that setting personal boundaries is selflessand does not violate the common good. Rather, it perpetuates the concept that honesty with both ourselves and others builds more authentic relationships for everyone involved. Habitually betraying ourselves to accommodate others out of habit in order to keep the peace or to avoid abandonment has become a common practice and unhealthy expectation in society. By affirming to oneself that it is right and just to set limits with others, we demonstrate that honesty supports and perpetuates the common good. This idea changes the internalized belief that setting boundaries is selfish. By defining for others acceptable ways that they can interact with us, we take positive steps toward authenticity with ourselves and others.

It is important to highlight the misconception that the biggest problem lies with other people violating our boundaries. It is when we violate our own boundaries that we set ourselves and others up for failure in building authentic relationships.  Allowing others to disregard our personal limits harms everyone involved. By honouring our own feelings, we avoid self-betrayal and self-abandonment.  Happy, content individuals promote happy, content communities.

In short: Our boundaries communicate feelings that will always indicate whether or not a personal boundary has been violated.  By listening to our emotions, we develop a clear sense of our own limits. If we feel hurt by the words spoken by someone else, then they have crossed an emotional boundary, and we must address this infringement. Ideally it should be addressed immediately, concisely, and always with kindness and respect. For example: ‘Mary, I realize you are determined that we win our tennis doubles match; however, when you speak to me with that tone, it shuts me down and I can’t concentrate on our game.  Can we agree to keep it light and positive so I can play at my best for us?’  

Author Teal Swan teaches us that, a healthy exercise is to view boundaries as a line that delineates: 

  • Our Personal Happiness
  • Our Personal Integrity
  • Our Personal Desires
  • Our Personal Needs 
  • Most importantly, our personal truth.

In closing, this month, practice identifying how your interactions with others make you feel. 

A negative emotion following an interaction can be an indication of a boundary that has been violated through that discourse. Rather than “letting it go” or ignoring it, address it promptly with both kindness and respect so that your articulated truth transpires as a learning experience for everyone involved, whose goal is to create connection not conflict. Your personal truth can only be shared by you.  It is solely your responsibility to set a boundary with others.  If you can relate to one or more of the behaviours on the Unhealthy Boundaries Checklist, make a commitment to yourself that you will no longer accept this behavior and begin to speak your truth, not only for your own good, but for the “common good.”

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