(Excerpt taken from my book IRAM: A Map for Creating Conscious Relationships)
From the Chapter on the MATURE INNER ADULT: “The Protector”
Boundaries have a fundamental place in life. Every living creature has its own territory or set of boundaries in which it lives and that it defends against intrusion. Boundaries are the fundamental principles that develop your internal codes of ethics which outwardly create the governing laws, rules and systems used as your code of conduct. Boundaries vary from person to person. Knowing and upholding your personal boundaries creates a necessary sense of safety and security needed for growth.
Healthy boundaries promote healthy development: One may visualize developing boundaries like a series of concentric circles ever-expanding from the center. Consider a developing child who is vulnerable to outside influences. Inherent boundaries and appropriate limits, based on the child’s level of development, are created as a protective measure to ensure its security amid its natural development and evolution.
In the beginning, the boundaries can very limited, but this security allows the child to fully explore the confines of its environment. Eventually, as the child develops more competency, skills and courage, it organically extends outward. In a healthy development, this inspires the next concentric extension of safety which extends further than the original buffer for more room to explore, and so on and so forth. Eventually, this process continues as the child develops into a fully aware and competent, mature adult who is now capable of defining and creating their own boundaries based on their personal experience.
Without these initial boundaries that organically expand with natural development, the child would not feel safe from intrusions and outer influences. If the boundaries are too severe, then the child feels stifled and trapped. If the boundaries are lessened too soon, then the child feels threatened and overwhelmed by the possibilities that it has not yet grown to feel confident or capable to handle. Your understanding of a healthy boundary will be determined by your direct experience of boundaries as you were developing.
These dysfunctional boundaries in your development can cause the distorted view of how “healthy” boundaries appear in your adult behavior. As you explore your conditioned relationship to boundaries, you will continue to refine your understanding and application in every relationship in your life. Always remember that you are always setting any boundary “for you or an aspect of you” – most often for that Wounded Inner Child within that somehow was not respected the way it should have been. You are never setting boundaries “against anyone.” As you develop this powerful skill of self-parenting, you will realize that it is not an act of defiance, revenge or anger, it is always an act of self-nurturing, respect and self-love.
7 TIPS FOR SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:
1. When you realize you need to set a boundary, be clear, firm and succinct. Use the apologize for the boundary that you are setting. You cannot set a clear boundary if you send mixed messages. Remember that you are informing the individual about the boundary, and it is not up for discussion, and you are not looking for feedback or commentary.
2. You are only responsible for communicating the boundary in a respectful and clear manner. The boundary is your way of honoring your needs. You are not responsible for what is triggered in another, their reaction or the issues that may arise within them because of your boundary. It is highly likely they will not approve, be put out or disagree with your position, especially if this is a new behavior.
3. Expect your boundary to be challenged. It is inevitable. This is meant to test your inner resolve and conviction. If you want your boundary to be respected, your behavior must match the boundary you are setting. Do not waver or rescind the boundary. Honor what you need.
4. Often you will feel selfish, greedy and insecure about the boundary you are setting. This is natural. You will often question yourself and even feel anxiety and fear about taking care of yourself. Setting boundaries takes courage, resolve and inner conviction, and like anything, it takes practice to execute. The reaction in you is an indication that you are pushing out of your comfort zone, and it can feel very strange and unnatural in the beginning.
5. If you feel resentment or you find yourself angry or put out about a situation, examine if you need to set a boundary. In the beginning, it is difficult to recognize when you are out of alignment with your needs because it may be a familiar pattern. Pay attention, check in, and examine how you feel about the present circumstance. Be honest about what is required, even if it is uncomfortable.
6. Learning to set healthy boundaries in an ongoing process which you will continue to refine and recreate as you develop more awareness and confidence in trusting yourself. Set boundaries on your own time frame and be willing to shift those boundaries as your needs change. What was appropriate today may not be necessary tomorrow.
7. Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. The support system helps you build confidence and self-empowerment as you learn to trust yourself. Highly toxic and manipulative people do not typically respect boundaries. Be aware of those who dismiss your boundaries.