We hear and read about setting, applying and upholding of boundaries often across social platforms, but what are they?
What are these boundaries, and where do they come from that it is so incumbent we practice and place them in our lives?
Below, I discuss boundaries specific to interconnected love interactions and family and friend relationships. Even though I decided to concentrate on those, the application is relevant to all living spaces. Furthermore, a general understanding of what they are and how to set, apply and uphold them will be covered.
Boundaries are there to protect our overall well-being. It communicates what is acceptable and what isn’t concerning our general safety. Moreover, it allows us insight into what safety and tolerance look like for ourselves so that we can thrive and not live in fear. Boundaries also give us a sense of self, our life values and how to uphold them.
Importance of how to set, apply and uphold them regarding whose needs matter most
Are you often made to feel like placing or upholding a boundary may hurt someone’s feelings? Being made to feel that way is a self-preservation manipulation mechanism used by some to prevent accountability. Furthermore, it allows those with hurtful trauma responses to keep using them to cause discomfort, hurt & damage to others without being held accountable.
The setting, applying and upholding of boundaries respectfully can be done with anyone of any age. As a result, age does not give anyone a free pass. Likewise, neither does a hierarchy nor the amount of love that person has for the person whose boundaries they are overstepping.
The idea that their needs are more important than yours stems from manipulation and a warped sense of self-importance above others. In other words, experiences misleading in their lives, like psychological trauma, play a role in many behaviours, subtle or pronounced. That does not fall under your responsibility or duty to take on.
Finally, this does not necessarily mean they are ‘bad’ people. Everyone needs to have the clarity to face some toxic hurtful traits we carry along through conditioning or generational practices & may not know better. These struggles are certainly not an exemption from accountability. One can empathise and understand but continue to hold someone accountable.
Perpetuating these cycles doesn’t help anyone.
Even with difficult family members, these cycles need to break even though there is no overnight cure.
Your mental health matters so do your emotional and physical well-being. Let’s keep in mind the long-term adverse effects these can cause to one’s mental well-being that we can avoid. And if we can avoid the hurt, pain and damage, then we should try our best to do that. We realise that our feelings & needs matter, and then we can set respectful boundaries to protect them. Actively partaking in setting, applying and upholding boundaries will make that possible.
Babies need boundaries set on their behalf for their protection, as well as toddlers and children. (The same goes for a limitation placed on behalf of a child whose boundaries & NOs are not respected.) Importantly, we must consider all of these from the level of birth upwards. Finally, we as adults will model boundaries throughout so that, as teens, they are capable of setting, applying and upholding their own.
Support when setting, applying and upholding of boundaries – Lean on and speak to those who value you already
Having a support structure is so important. We all need people who value us, our existence & our well-being. We need people who will stand by us, speak beside us or on our behalf with love and understanding. Evidently, as humans, a connection is a primary need of ours.
This is not cowardly. The person already knows that they’ve unfairly made you afraid of speaking up & that they will benefit better when you don’t have support. Consequently, if called so, remember that it is another manipulation tactic and an unhealed reactive response to being held accountable. Coercion is not an acceptable form of driving a cause to success on both fronts.
Significantly you & your mental well-being have a right to support. These views are why we stand up for our children when they need us to. It does not make them weak or lesser than others. Consequently, being more informed and respected in a society that still belittles children’s opinions and views, we have a better chance of enforcing boundaries for them. As a result, this models how they will handle setting, applying and upholding boundaries for themselves moving forward. And it also shows that they are not alone. They have the necessary support to help protect them from any harm.
What is your role as the supportive person in a boundary setting, applying and upholding situation?
As support, you never place your own words in the person’s mouth, but you make their words heard. You make their feelings known & understood. Hence, by being supportive, you must value the person you’re supporting and understand their challenge with deep empathy. Moreover, you will make an effort to give time and hold that space for them to express themselves freely. Bear in mind that your relationship should have healthy boundaries in place too. There should be no expectations above your limitations to knowingly place yourself in a harmful situation.
As a result, bearing witness to a few voices relaying the same story is better than one-on-one, especially in a tumultuous situation. This makes for proper grounding in positions where one person holds more advantage over the other. We must choose people who are supportive voices and not voices fueling the stress already experienced.
Your value matters. Our support structure will be there to hold space for you when you sit with the post effects & discomfort & when you have to manage the ostracising or the gaslighting of your feelings.
Partner support is also essential. Partner support is especially needed when setting boundaries with family regarding children.
Respect when setting, applying and upholding boundaries – Being firm, clear and kind (not nice)
Consequently, of constantly pushed boundaries, the cloudiness, anger & hurt caused only grow & can sometimes come out in a storm too big to contain.
This can break family ties you don’t want to break & can lead to things said that one does not mean to say, which many may not be able to come back from. Here there can be more significant regrets and deeper reparations to make.
Furthermore, the victim has to apologise and make reparations shifting focus, so the boundary challenged falls by the side. Unquestionably this causes more turmoil rather than solutions and a healthier way forward.
Being firm and kind goes a long way – For your heart and others.
Firstly, kindness does not equate to niceness.
“There is that old saying you must be cruel to be kind. Maybe occasionally, this is true. One thing that is certainly true is that sometimes not being nice is the kindest thing we can do for someone. Or example, if you are dealing with someone who obsessively stalks you and convinces themselves that the feelings are reciprocated, it is the kind thing to avoid being nice.” – Read more here.
Dad, Manny doesn’t like it when you tease him about his weight; it hurts him. And it makes him feel bad about himself like something is wrong with him. Self-esteem challenges can arise due to that behaviour. It will not toughen him up. This is his safe space where we validate him & love him for all he shows up as. When & if anyone else crosses these boundaries, he should feel safe to come to us. Where will his safe space be if he is made fun of at home?
It also isn’t funny to him because it hurts him, so let’s not call it just a joke. I am here to tell you on his behalf to stop it, please, & never do it again. It will make him feel very loved & grow the love between you two if you understand & apologise to him sincerely. I would also appreciate that; I know it will only strengthen your relationship.
To conclude, the apology should not be guilt-ridden or hold phrases like I was only playing and didn’t mean it that way. It should be clear and precise too.
I know I hurt you, I am so sorry, and I will not do that again. I love you and do not want to do anything that can hurt you or make you feel hurt.
Expectations when setting, applying and upholding boundaries – Keep them realistic
These types of things are not trivial. As a result of living with it for so long, it comes across as small things. But these so-called small jokes have caused many individuals years of trauma throughout their lives.
You probably know the person crossing your boundaries enough to make an informed or observed deduction of how they will react. You may already know how they may take to a kind boundary setting. If not, you can always try to gain information on their demeanour and general public personality. It will be a great help in assisting you on how best to set the boundary with them.
So, be realistic about it. Also, the outcome of it should not affect whether or not you set the boundary.
Whether the person listens or not does not determine if you should make your boundary known or not. It would help if you always wanted to make your boundary known. Later, when you decline invitations where you must constantly deal with breaking your limits, there will be no assumptions. This is, of course, within circles you frequent.
The inner decisions are yours to make when setting, applying and upholding boundaries.
You get to choose how much time feels tolerable to you or your child around that specific person or circle of persons.
If one of you always ends up upset, screaming, crying, uneasy or uncomfortable every time. Consequently, it is time to reassess that boundary & take distant action to enforce it. Again, you can decide what is tolerable for you and whoever you support.
If one has become used to their boundaries broken, they tend to adapt to one or a few defense mechanisms. Understandably, to tolerate or live through it, this will begin to multiply & show up in other avenues of their lives. Visit my Instagram page to see this post on Defense Mechanisms)
This isn’t healthy when it moves through excessively within our lives. It doesn’t make it okay or acceptable. Especially with children, the benefits may outweigh the discomfort of the broken boundary & so they will live with it. The loving adults around should be there to step in. No one should learn to live with constantly broken boundaries.
Protecting a person’s peace is kind & partaking in deliberate acts for entertainment & connection, which disturbs that peace must be addressed within ourselves & others. These are things we may have lived through believing were okay, but it isn’t okay.
So, keep your expectations realistic & prepare yourself mentally with a good support structure. Practice setting, applying and upholding boundaries for yourself and those you love. Model enforcing the limit in action to protect your peace or your child’s peace.
Crossed boundaries outside of the circles – Stranger things.
Equally important is knowing when immediate boundaries need executing, like a violation of one’s personal space or an uncomfortable touch by a stranger. There is no need to save the relationship or get to know the person in similar situations. You get to decide the limits and dynamics all the way. There is no one size fits all.
Solutions when setting, applying and upholding of boundaries – Be willing to walk away
Walking away may not mean forever…
Also, cutting ties without setting a boundary can be received as ghosting. This can be another form of trauma response which isn’t the healthiest of ways to deal with something. It is probably in place because the realm of boundary setting, applying and upholding hasn’t been safe for you.
You have the power within to create a safe space to explore your boundaries. Ask for help. I will share some resources below. If these have led to more serious mental illnesses, please see my previous post for other resources below the blog on PPD/A.
Some consequential happenings post boundary setting.
Once a boundary is set, you need to decide how long you will give for it to come to fruition & garner respect without any residue of ill feelings lingering in the relationship. If there still is & it isn’t coming from your part, understand that this is not your responsibility. You do not have to appease the person you set a boundary with. They must self-soothe or lean on their support & address their discomfort through reflection.
On the other hand, understand that sometimes nothing may come of it. Of course, it is your decision whether the amount of damage it will keep contributing to your life is worth the relationship with the person.
Ask yourself what the important questions are.
How serious are the effects on you? Always seek therapy and further assistance. Therapy is a beautiful way to empower yourself, and to have a supportive professional to help you reflect & validate yourself. Here you will also gain clarity on the effects of specific actions on you or your child. Therapy is a wonderful privilege to have & it doesn’t only have to be had if you have a mental illness.
If therapy isn’t a possibility, take the self-help journey. There are also numerous counselling institutions which offer up to a minimum of six free sessions. Hope House is one such place. This will allow you to talk to an unbiased person without judgement.
There are also supportive peer-to-peer connections which will be helpful for you trying to navigate these difficult things. Check the post on my Instagram on Trauma Bonding; there are three videos; watch them in order.) They are a sound, reasonable part of the process without bias or feeding into trauma bonding patterns.
Individuals who can provide support without bias, selfish reflection & judgement with training to do so. As a result seeking the help of a therapist or coach trained & skilled to hold space, if able to, is encouraged.
They will also empower your power to move with strength, vulnerability & assertiveness within relationships & connections in your life.
This will benefit the way you can show up for your children & break the cycles for them, and empower them to keep at it for themselves.
To conclude, part one of setting, applying and upholding boundaries
Always be gentle with yourself and try to humanise all involved as much as you want to humanise yourself too. Looking at situations from a self-awareness and healing point of view gives such clarity and peace.
Self-betterment and shadow work is the most rewarding work you could ever do for yourself and your life.
Look out for part two, where I cover the following:
- Control – you are only in charge of what you do.
- Execution – be as clear and as direct as possible.
- Recovery – seek to take care of yourself.
- Reflection – Learn to own the ability of assertiveness and sit with your discomfort (Not sure how to sit with discomfort, book a session with me, and I can help you guide yourself using tools you can use on your own afterwards.)
- Healing – be open with yourself about the hurt and let some go.
You will find below the Body Boundaries Education and Information Booklet by me for purchase. It is a comprehensive information workbook guiding you and your child through natural boundaries. KEEP IN MIND IT IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE REPRESENTATION. Read my other blogs here.
Lots of love,