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8 Steps to Healthy Boundaries: A Guide to Authenticity and Self-Care

Updated: May 3




It was one of those rare days in Brussels where the sky is an impeccable shade of blue, the sun is practically showing off, and sipping a glass of wine on a terrace feels like a VIP pass to paradise. That's exactly where my friend and I found ourselves. We were basking in the sunshine, relishing in the moment, and, of course, engaging in some deep conversation. Well, sort of.


We mostly talked about being young and clueless. You know, the kind of stuff you can laugh about from a safe distance of time? We chuckled about where we, a generation born in the seventies and eighties, started in the evolution of society's understanding of emotional intelligence and mental health. We didn't know what we didn't know. We didn't even have a language for psychological terms that kids nowadays effortlessly throw around on TikTok.

But what really cracked us up? My friend's confession: "I once had to Google 'BOUNDARIES' just to figure out what on earth everyone was talking about."



Now, that was both hilarious and strangely validating, hitting close to home for me. Growing up, the whole concept of boundaries was like a secret code nobody bothered to teach us. Then, fast forward a few decades, and suddenly, personal boundaries were the hot topic of the town.


Delving into the world of boundaries was a game-changer for me. It's like I stumbled upon a missing piece to self-love, confidence and peace. Understanding and setting healthy boundaries became essential for my emotional and mental well-being. It enabled me to strike a vital balance between ambition and self-care, navigate toxic relationships with grace, and cultivate deeply fulfilling connections with my family, friends, and clients.


Setting healthy boundaries is a challenge that many of us face and something that I frequently address in my coaching . But, where do you start if the concept of personal boundaries is not super clear to you?



The Psychology of Boundaries


I absolutely understand if it is hard for you to know where and how to draw the line, especially if you're unsure of what your boundaries even are. Yet, without them, you can find yourself lost, navigating your life and relationships without a compass, leading to unnecessary stress and turmoil. 

Boundaries are the invisible lines that define the limits of acceptable behavior, both from others and ourselves.

They serve as guidelines for how we interact with the world around us, safeguarding our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. It may sound straightforward, but truly understanding your boundaries requires delving deep into your own psyche.

 

Your upbringing, past experiences, and cultural influences deeply shape:


  • your perception of yourself,

  • what you believe you deserve, and

  • what you consider acceptable or unacceptable.


 Consequently, these factors play a significant role in defining our boundaries.


Imagine growing up in a household where privacy was a foreign concept. Doors were never closed, and personal space was a luxury you couldn't afford. Your parents freely entered your room without knocking, read your diary, or listened in on your phone calls. In this environment, the lines between individual autonomy and family dynamics were blurred, making it challenging to establish boundaries later in life.



 

On the other hand, consider a scenario where boundaries were rigidly enforced. Perhaps you were raised in a culture or community where expressing emotions was discouraged, and conformity was valued above all else. Any deviation from the norm was swiftly met with disapproval or punishment. As a result, you learned to suppress your feelings and conform to societal expectations, even at the expense of your own authenticity and well-being.


“We’re born with a need for attachment and a need for authenticity,” Most people abandon their true selves (authenticity) to please others and keep the relationships (attachments), even if they are ones that are toxic and destructive.”  ~ Dr. Gabor Maté

 

Authenticity and Assertiveness

 

At the core of setting boundaries lies authenticity – the courage to honor your own truth and values. Being authentic means being true to yourself, even if it means disappointing others or stepping out of your comfort zone. It's about knowing what you stand for and refusing to compromise your integrity.

 

Assertiveness goes hand in hand with authenticity. It's the ability to communicate your needs and boundaries clearly and respectfully, without aggression or passivity. Assertiveness is not about being confrontational but rather about advocating for yourself in a confident and assertive manner.




 


8 Steps to Healthy Boundaries


So, how do you identify and set healthy boundaries? Here are some steps to guide you along the way:

 

1. Reflect on Your Values:

 

Your values serve as guiding principles that shape your decisions, behaviors, and relationships.


When your boundaries align with your core values, you create a strong foundation for living authentically and maintaining healthy connections with others.

 

Begin by considering what matters most to you in life. What principles do you hold dear? These could be honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, autonomy, or any other deeply held beliefs that resonate with you on a fundamental level.

 

To identify your core values, ask yourself questions such as:

 

  • What brings me a sense of fulfilment and purpose?

  • What qualities do I admire in others?

  • When do I feel most aligned with myself and my goals?


2. Align Your Boundaries with Your Values:

 

Once you've identified your core values, evaluate whether your current boundaries reflect these principles. For example, if honesty is a value you hold dear, you might establish boundaries around being truthful with yourself and others, even if it means having difficult conversations.

 

Likewise, if respect is important to you, you may set boundaries that protect your physical and emotional well-being from disrespectful behavior or treatment.

 

Examples of Boundaries Aligned with Values



 

Work-Life Balance: If you value family and personal time, you might set boundaries around your work schedule to ensure you have dedicated time for your loved ones and self-care.


Self-Expression: If creativity and self-expression are core values, you might establish boundaries that protect your time and space for artistic pursuits, even if it means saying no to other commitments.

 

Remember, as you navigate life's challenges and experiences, your values and boundaries may evolve. It's essential to periodically reevaluate whether your boundaries continue to align with your core values and make adjustments as needed.


 

3. Attention to Your Feelings:

Your emotions can be powerful indicators of when your boundaries are being crossed. Pay attention to feelings of discomfort, resentment, or anger – they often signal a boundary violation.

 

4. Practice Self-awareness:

Tune into your thoughts and feelings to identify areas where you may need to establish clearer boundaries. Are there situations or relationships that leave you feeling drained or depleted?




 

5. Communicate Clearly:

Once you've identified your boundaries, communicate them clearly and assertively to others. Use "I" statements to express your needs and preferences without blaming or accusing. For example:


Instead of: "You always interrupt me when I'm speaking!"

Try: "I feel frustrated when I'm interrupted because I value being heard."


Instead of: "You never help with household chores!"

Try: "I feel overwhelmed when I have to manage all the household chores by myself. It would mean a lot to me if we could share the responsibilities."


Instead of: "You make me feel insecure when you flirt with other people."

Try: "I feel hurt and insecure when I see you flirting with others. Can we talk about how we can strengthen our trust and connection?"


 However, it's important to recognize that this may not always be easy, especially if you're accustomed to avoiding conflict or prioritizing others' needs over your own.

 

6. Practice Tolerating Emotional Discomfort:

 

Asserting your boundaries may initially trigger feelings of guilt, anxiety, or fear of rejection. It's natural to experience emotional discomfort when asserting yourself, especially if you're not used to prioritizing your own needs. However, learning to tolerate and even embrace this discomfort is an essential part of the process.

 

Imagine you've decided to tell a friend that you need more space and alone time to recharge. As you prepare to have this conversation, you might feel a knot in your stomach or a sense of unease. These feelings are normal and indicate that you're stepping outside your comfort zone.

 



 

Instead of avoiding or suppressing these emotions, try to sit with them and acknowledge their presence. Remind yourself that feeling uncomfortable doesn't mean you're doing something wrong – it simply means you're challenging old patterns and paving the way for healthier relationships.


As you practice asserting your boundaries and tolerating the accompanying discomfort, you'll likely find that it becomes easier over time. You'll gain confidence in your ability to prioritize your own needs and communicate them effectively to others.

 

Remember, setting boundaries is a form of self-care, and prioritizing your well-being is not selfish – it's necessary for maintaining healthy relationships and preserving your mental and emotional health.

 

7. Enforce Your Boundaries:

Setting boundaries is only half the battle – enforcing them is equally important. Be prepared to take action if your boundaries are not respected, whether it's by asserting yourself or distancing yourself from toxic situations.

 

8. Internal Boundaries: The Art of Self-Regulation

 

In addition to external boundaries, it's essential to establish internal boundaries – the limits we set for ourselves in terms of self-discipline, self-care, and self-respect. Internal boundaries help us maintain a sense of balance and integrity in our lives.



 

Adopt self-discipline as a form of self-love. Practice it by setting realistic goals and boundaries around your time, energy, and resources.


Prioritise self-care by making time for activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit. And most importantly, cultivate self-respect by honoring your own needs and treating yourself with kindness and compassion.


 Now, take the first step on this journey of self-discovery. Healthier relationships, living more authentically, and greater fulfilment in life are waiting to be explored and embraced.


P. S. If you find yourself resonating with the sentiments of many of my clients, perhaps thinking or saying, 'Well, this all makes sense, but I struggle with extreme resistance when it comes to being authentic or assertive in certain situations,' I strongly encourage you to consider seeking support from a professional. Working with someone who can provide a non-judgmental space for you to explore your feelings about your weak boundaries can be incredibly beneficial. A skilled therapist or coach can assist you in healing and gradually developing emotional resilience in standing up for yourself.


 


Irena Simonovic

Hello there!

I'm Irena, your friendly neighborhood holistic life coach and eternal seeker of growth and fulfillment.

My blog is a reflection of my passion for holistic well-being, self-awareness, and living authentically.


Join me as we explore the depths of self-discovery, embrace healing, and unlock the power within you to create a life that fills you with joy and purpose.

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