Enforce your Boundaries.

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Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me.

We tolerate and rationalize inappropriate and toxic behaviours from our closest family and friends, all in the name of avoiding conflict, pleasing people and an inability to set clear, healthy boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries can be extremely tough, especially when you have been raised to avoid conflict; people please and prioritize others over your needs. I am the first grandchild of both my paternal and maternal grandparents; this placed a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, especially if you were raised in a place like sub-Saharan Africa, where the extended family unit is highly regarded. It takes a village to raise a child is a proverb drummed into an African child’s ear from a very young age, and this worldview is part of the challenge. It is a great value system, but if one is not careful, one might be addicted to martyrdom or become pathologically altruistic.

We allow people to violate our boundaries and continuously give people the benefit of the doubt, but ultimately they get the benefits, and we get the doubt. Toxic is toxic; abuse is abuse. I like the way Dr. George K. Simon, Ph.D., puts it in his book, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People 1 – “Manipulative people have two goals: to win and to look good doing it.  Often those they abuse are only vaguely aware of what is happening to them.” We get what we tolerate in life as we rise to the level of our standards. If you set a standard of letting people use and dump you, that is the culture you would foster in your life.

“It may have short ears and it may have long ears; it may have a lot of hair and it may have no hair at all; it may be brown or it may be gray; but if it’s big and has tusks and a trunk, it’s always an elephant.”

When you enforce your boundaries be ready for the pushback from the violator, but you need to be steadfast by enforcing the consequences. You need to first state what your needs are by communicating your boundaries and letting the other person know what the consequence of violating your boundaries are. It is not your responsibility to ensure people uphold your boundaries; you must let them know your boundaries and the consequences.

What are Boundaries?

“The more you stop yourself from being used, the less you broadcast yourself as a victim. Like a wolf who stalks the weak elk in the herd, exploiters will pass you over if you seem strong and feisty. By learning to protect yourself, you lessen the incidences of being threatened.”

  • A boundary is a limit or edge that defines you as separate from others. The two main types of boundaries are physical and emotional. Our physical limits are marked by our skin; our emotional limits, by age, roles, our relationships with those around us, our requirements for safety, and our choices about how we want to be treated. Boundaries without a self would be like a punctured balloon. It collapses when nothing is inside. A self without boundaries is like air without a balloon, shapeless, formless, diffused. 2

Boundaries, to some extent, are influenced by the values of the culture in which we live. When we interact with other cultures, it’s important to be sensitive to these differences and to remember that each side may unwittingly cross a boundary not from malice but from ignorance.

  • Boundary (n.) “that which indicates the limits of anything,” from bound (n.1) + -ary. Strictly, a visible mark indicating a dividing line, a bound being the limit or furthest point of extension of any one thing.
  • Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. In addition to showing us what we are responsible for, boundaries help us to define what is not on our property and what we are not responsible for. 3

Types of Boundaries –3

We set boundaries to protect ourselves, emotional space, physical environment, mind, and spirituality. In relationships, boundaries define who we are and who we are not, which impacts every part of our lives:

  • Physical: The wisdom to determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
  • Mental: The freedom to express our own thoughts and opinions.
  • Spiritual: The clarity to distinguish God’s will for our lives.
  • Emotional: The ability to manage our own feelings and disengage from the manipulative emotions of others.

Signs That You Need Boundaries 4

  • You feel overwhelmed.
  • You feel resentment toward people for asking for your help.
  • You avoid phone calls and interactions with people you think might ask for something.
  • You make comments about helping people and getting nothing in return.
  • You feel burned out.
  • You frequently daydream about dropping everything and disappearing.
  • You have no time for yourself.

Reasons People Don’t Respect Your Boundaries 4

  • You don’t take yourself seriously.
  • You don’t hold people accountable.
  • You apologize for setting boundaries.
  • You allow too much flexibility.
  • You speak in uncertain terms.
  • You haven’t verbalized your boundaries (they’re all in your head).
  • You assume that stating your boundaries once is enough.
  • You assume that people will figure out what you want and need based on how you act when they violate a boundary.

Complaining is like bad breath. We notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it comes out of our own.

It is not enough to set boundaries; you need to enforce them. Boundaries without consequence is nagging. Most of us gripe, nag and complain when people violate us, and we often complain to the wrong people instead of conversing with the individual involved. “When most people are unhappy with their boss, they complain to their spouse. When they are displeased with their spouse, they complain to their friends. They speak to anyone and everyone except the person who can improve the situation, and they live in disappointment and bewilderment, wondering why their relationships don’t improve.” 5

Complaints are counterattacks for perceived injustices. A statement of fact is a neutral comment intended to inform (not berate) the listener.

To enforce your boundaries, you need to first communicate your needs to the individual violating your boundaries.

Boundary Statements: I Want . . . , I Need . . . , I Expect . . .4

The best boundaries are easy to understand. Starting statements with “I need,” “I want,” or “I expect” helps you stay grounded in the truth of who you are.

Follow Up On Your Boundaries with Action

We think stating boundaries is hard, but it’s even harder to uphold them. People get their cues from you. If you ask them to take their shoes off in your house, you have to take your shoes off, too. If you don’t, people will use your behavior as a reason for dishonoring your boundaries. So be an excellent example of the actions you request from others.

Another part of upholding the boundary you’ve set is deciding what you’ll do if it’s violated. If you do nothing, you aren’t honoring your boundary.

You can’t change people, but you can change 4

  • How you deal with them
  • What you accept
  • How you react to them
  • How often you interact with them
  • How much space you allow them to take up
  • What you participate in
  • What role they play in your life
  • What people you have contact with
  • Who you allow in your life
  • Your perspective

Why set Boundaries 6

Drawing a boundary with someone involves letting someone know what is and isn’t okay with you, and then having some sort of enforceable consequence if they cross that line, or if they cross it again. Boundaries protect you. They keep you physically balanced. They help you connect to your intuitive Self and are critical to experiencing authentic love. Boundaries provide a necessary foundation for every relationship you have—most importantly the one you have with yourself. They are the retaining walls that protect you from what feels inappropriate, unacceptable, inauthentic, or just plain not desired.

When Communicating your Boundaries – Use objective language

Use Objective Language 6

“When you state your boundary, it is helpful to use objective language as much as possible. You want to focus on facts. “If a phone call occurs in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping, it will go unanswered.” It’s best to avoid “you” language as much as possible, as it can activate the defensiveness of the other person’s ego.  Try to be confident and respectful, as hard as this may be. Remind yourself you are doing nothing wrong. You are respecting yourself and your relationship.”

Example of a boundary-setting template that can be adapted to fit your needs:

“I am making some changes so that [insert your intention for your new boundary] and hope you can understand that this is important to me. I imagine [insert your understanding of their behavior]. When you [insert problematic behavior], I often feel [insert your feelings], and I understand that is something you may not be aware of. In the future, [insert what you would or would not like to happen again]. If [insert original problematic behavior] happens again, I will [insert how you will respond differently to meet your own needs].”

“I am making some changes so that [          ], and I hope you can understand that this is important to me. I imagine [          ]. When you [          ], I often feel [          ], and I understand this is something you may not be aware of. In the future, [          ]. If [          ] happens again, I will [          ].”


  • 7 Signs You’re a People Pleaser & 7 Methods to Break This Habit | On Purpose with Jay Shetty

    All Amendments in our life start with awareness. You cannot address something until you are aware of it.


  • Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Forgiveness
  • Forgiveness is not meant to erase what happens; instead, it is a decision to relinquish the resentment we are holding unto. It allows the clutch of irritation. And bitterness to loosen its grip. Choosing to forgive doesn’t deny the other person’s role in hurting us; it doesn’t minimize or excuse the wrongdoing, but what it does is it allows us to find peace.

“Today I decided to forgive you. Not because you apologized, or because you acknowledged the pain that you caused me, but because my soul deserves peace.” ― Najwa Zebian

  • Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – The Meaning of Life
  • “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”― John Lennon
  • Sometimes in the name of success, we end up pursuing the wrong things, we climb the ladder, but we lose sight of why we started the climb in the first place; we chase after achievements, recognition status, and all sought fancy toys thinking that acquiring them is the endgame in the process we forget that the real goals in life are happiness, meaning, and purpose.
  • Instead of thinking of what you want to do, think about who you want to be and how that person finds fulfilment. No amount of external success or material rewards can guarantee contentment.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”― Jim Carrey

  • Happiness is an inside job, and it begins with being your true self. Don’t focus on what you think you need to do or should do; don’t focus on the goals or dreams of others. Or society at large. Identify what matters to you, what you believe in, what gives you purpose, brings you meaning, and makes you happy, then chase that.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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