I am reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, and I highly recommend it to everyone. We need to establish — and often reestablish — boundaries with others. But what about creating boundaries for ourselves?
What I find interesting is how often we focus on boundaries with others, yet have no boundaries with ourselves. So let's talk about saying "no" to ourselves, and establish boundaries that will have all of us leaping forward along each of our own personal wellness journeys.
"Self-boundaries" are mature limits that create fruitful and healthy relationships with yourself, others, food, exercise, love, etc. There are so many of us who live lives of excess via how we eat, what we share with others, how much we drink, and mismanaged time at work, among other things.
Here's how you can learn to say "NO" to yourself in order to establish some healthy self-boundaries:
1. Identify your boundary problems.
Take an inventory of the destructive results of your inability to set boundaries. Some of these may include anxiety, weight gain, relationship struggles, anger, rage, isolation, or work problems. Once you've taken inventory, write down what you discovered.
2. Get to the root.
Look back to your childhood and examine how you were raised. You may have been raised in a household filled with dramatic reactions, so you now react dramatically to conflict. You may have learned that love means demanding what you want, so you now make unrealistic demands. You may have learned to isolate when you're sad. You may have learned to "cover hurt" with food or excess exercising. You could have observed your parents working endless hours, and as an adult you may have developed the same unhealthy focus on your job versus. family. Whatever it may be, get to the root of the boundary problems you identified in Step #1.
3. Take responsibility.
Own your behavior. Take responsibility for the toxicity you create. While your boundary problems may be learned behaviors, they are in fact your responsibility.
4. Ask, "What do I need?"
So you've identified and gotten to the root of your boundary problems with yourself. You've taken responsibility. Now you need to determine what you need to change in order to create healthy boundaries for yourself. Instead of overeating, do you need to exercise? Instead of working too many hours, do you need to spend an extra hour with your family? Do you need to bite your tongue and practice breathing techniques if you're prone to outbursts? Figure out what will make you feel more balanced and loved, then provide that for yourself.
5. Allow yourself to fail.
We are so darn hard on ourselves, aren't we? We speak so negatively to ourselves if and when we make mistakes. Lighten up. Realize this is a process of self-love, and that boundaries create harmony within yourself.
Boundaries with yourself empower you, ground your feet, create confidence, increase harmony with others and give you a sense of owning your values and morals. Boundaries are essentially living out your truth and sharing with yourself and others who you are.