“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.”
― Shannon L. Alder
When you understand your value and power, you develop boundaries to honor yourself and protect your freedom. Emotional boundaries in relationships aren’t a set of legalistic rules that constrain our freedom. Boundaries are the guardrails that protect our happiness and the security of our relationships.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or resentful, chances are you need to strengthen your boundaries. Many people are still unclear about what it means to establish boundaries. They’re also unsure about why boundaries are important and how to do it properly. As you read on you will learn the answers to these questions. You will also gain a quick, easy method for setting healthy emotional boundaries. Protecting your boundaries will increase your level of happiness and satisfaction in your relationships.
What are emotional boundaries?
Emotional boundaries are the psychological acceptance of the uniqueness, dignity, and freedom of each individual. Boundaries are what separate us from another person. We recognize that while we may love and strongly identify with another person, we are not the same. Thus, we do not have to feel or act the same.
Through establishing boundaries, we give ourselves and other people the freedom to be unique. People without emotional boundaries need conformity as a demonstration of love. These people often expect you to take responsibility for their emotional state and “fix” their problems. Neither of these interpretations of reality are true or possible. No two people can be exactly the same no matter how much they love each other. No person can fix the emotional state or manage the life of another. Lack of boundaries create unhealthy expectations and behaviors. These unreasonable expectations drain the life energy out of people and their relationships.
Women are particularly vulnerable to ignoring emotional boundaries. We are socialized to think of our identity as primarily determined by our relationships. There’s nothing wrong with valuing relationships. But, this value can easily morph into unhealthy thinking such as:
“I’m nothing without this relationship”
“I need to do all that I can to remain in this relationship. Even if it includes sacrificing my freedom, dignity and value.”
A subtler expression of unhealthy boundaries is the thought that:
“My biggest contribution to the world is that accomplishments of my child or partner. “
Such distorted thinking places tremendous pressure on your child or partner. You expect them to live out your dreams of success and accomplishment. It also robs them of the freedom to spend their time and energy discovering and living out their own life dreams.
Accepting responsibility for your emotions and behavior without taking responsibility for the feelings and actions of others is a healthy emotional boundary. Emotional boundaries also mean giving others the freedom to not like your feelings or choices. Boundaries are a core component of emotional intelligence. As such, they contribute to our health and happiness.
If you can not tolerate other’s disapproval of your feelings or choices or if you can not tolerate others possessing emotions and actions with which you disagree, you are in desperate need of setting emotional boundaries. The decision to not set healthy emotional boundaries damages you and your relationships.
Why do you need boundaries?
People without emotional boundaries have a distorted view of their own power. They either understand themselves as completely powerless or all powerful.
People who understand themselves as powerless, play the victim role in their relationships. They rely on others to manage their life and emotions. This is because they consider themselves incapable of making their own dreams come true. Victims see the relationship as the source of their security and happiness. Thus, they seek to maintain the relationship and the other person’s favor at all cost. This promotes people pleasing behavior for the victim.
People pleasing sets unrealistic expectations that the victim will (or should) always agree with the martyr. Because the victim does not feel comfortable saying no, s/he often agrees to actions that are personally undesirable. Yet, the victim often does not follow through, or execute well. This inconsistency makes the victim appear even more helpless. The inconsistency is actually the victim’s ineffectual way of acting on his/her own desires.
These “victims” often associate themselves with “martyrs”. Martyrs have an over-inflated view of their own power. Martyrs take on the responsibility of managing their own life as well as the lives of the victim. They accept responsibility for the other person’s emotions and work diligently to “fix” the other person’s life. The martyr denies the victim the freedom to choose and feel differently. This seems appropriate to the martyr because the victim is “clearly” incapable of managing life. That’s why the victim needs to trust the martyr’s judgment over his/her own. The martyr is left feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing two people’s lives. S/he is also frustrated that the victim doesn’t just “go along” with the plan.
Both martyrs and victims eventually feel frustrated and resentful of the other person. This codependency prolongs the unhealthy relationship dynamic. It also promotes physical and psychological dis-ease in both parties.
How do you establish healthy boundaries?
The key to establishing healthy emotional boundaries is to embrace your own power. This is true for setting boundaries in leadership, marriage, parenting, and friendships.
People pleasing is giving away your own power. Playing the role of a martyr is accepting responsibility beyond the constraints of your personal power. As you embrace your personal power, you learn how to say no to things that do not honor you and your life purpose . You also learn the importance of saying yes to those that do.
There are only two things you need to do to establish healthy boundaries. First create the boundary. Second, give others the freedom not to like them. Many people give up their power out of fear or a misunderstanding of love. But, as you follow the steps below, you reclaim your power by setting healthy boundaries.
Get clear on your purpose, vision, and values
Real power comes from focusing on what’s important to you. To exercise control over your life, you must first see yourself as worthy. You need to see your uniqueness as something to be treasured. This perspective helps you to see the value of protecting your difference in the face of social pressures for conformity.
As you get clear on your unique contribution, your motivation for protecting that purpose increases. You recognize that this gift has been invested in you and needs to be advanced by you. Power is acknowledging what you have to offer to the world and behaving in a way that demonstrates your faith in yourself and your gifts. Learn to align your life 100% with what’s important to you.Embrace your ability to act
Embrace your ability to act
Real power is a process, not a destination. No one is completely helpless. There is always something that you can do for yourself. When you act in your own best interest, you feel and are powerful.
Power as a destination is understanding power as a finite object. It is something that you have and that can be taken from you. Power as a noun refers to differential amounts of power. Someone may have more or less power than you.
Yet, power as a process describes your capacity to act. Taken from the word Anglo-Norman French word “poeir” and the Latin word “posse”, power means “to be able”. This version of power is something that everyone has and can not be taken away. As you change your understanding of power, you immediately see that you always have the capacity to do something.
Whatever the situation, you can put your gifts into action toward accomplishing your goal. This is your power. As you act in your best interests, you increase your capacity to do so in the future. As long as you are alive, your power is there for you to use.
Speak a powerful “yes”
No one else has your gifts or unique combination of experiences. You show your power by embracing your gifts and sharing them with others. You have a role to play in this world that only you with your unique gifts and experiences can play. To downplay your power is to reject your gifts and your purpose in the world. Living out your purpose in the world means that you are willing to show up and embrace your unique contribution. No one else can take your place. If you don’t do it for you, it won’t be done.
The real measure of power is your ability to choose for yourself what’s important to you and ignore the rest. Owning and reclaiming your power means using your power to support your dreams, needs and wants.
Boundaries breathe life into broken relationships. Reclaim your power and individuality. Acknowledge and respect the power of others. Choosing to establish and maintain your boundaries will increase your happiness and relationship satisfaction.
Comment below your thoughts about boundaries, personal power, and healthy relationships. What shifts occur within you when you see power as the process of living into your gifts rather than a destination?