We often feel ashamed of our anger. But have you ever thought of anger as a force that drives us forward by making us reconnect with our needs and self-love, as a force for change? If our needs are not met over a longer period of time, anger builds up, and our self esteem and confidence drop.
This certainly happened to me with a criticising boss, over-controlling sibling, rude flatmate or certain friends who did not miss the chance to belittle or embarrass me. Then my work mate spoke about setting healthy boundaries in my relationships as a way to regain control over my life. Setting boundaries will make us feel more empowered, more in control of our lives. It will also make others respect us more as someone who stands tall and is not a pushover.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are rules that you set for your relationships to honour your needs and acknowledge that your needs matter: how people in your life treat you and how you respond when someone breaks those rules. The earlier you set them by speaking up, the better you will feel. We train people how to treat us and this happens by accepting a certain type of behaviour.
How do you set boundaries?
Setting boundaries follows the non-violent communication principles: not attacking the other’s personality, but referring strictly to objective facts, our feelings triggered by the situation, what we want changed, and set consequences you are ready to follow through. Stating your boundaries also takes a good amount of vulnerability: discussing with the other person and openly acknowledging that their behaviour hurts you. Boundaries don’t necessarily have to mean drawing a line that separates us from the others, but rather lines that set a common space in which we walk together. The way we walk can be negotiated by both parties. Setting a boundary is like pulling the alarm that ça ne va pas or not ok and adding the now what. Start by thinking in what areas you need boundaries, what situations made you feel bad, how that behaviour made you feel, why it is important to have a boundary, what do you want changed and what consequences are you ready to follow through.
You are completely entitled to surround yourself with souls who make you feel good, loved and supported, and leave out the bullies, the criticisers, the energy vampires, those whose values do not coincide with yours and so on. It’s your life and you can equally choose what sort of activities you want to engage in. This does not mean being an inflexible prick, just having a strong sense of self and what you stand for. Boundaries are not to be confused with ultimatums or blackmail. They come from a place of self-love and respect for your needs, not from a wish to control others or create a blaming game where you pose as the victim. You are wired for self-love, so find your boundaries, no matter what. Do not waste your energy on hating the other, but analyse what the need for a boundary has to say to you about yourself. If others think you are overreacting, do not forget you are also entitled to be as sensitive as you are – just surround yourself with like-minded people who see in your sensitivity a gift and not an anomaly and who respect your needs.
Equally, setting a boundary does not mean that we need to close our heart in anger or resentment. If we pause for a moment and try to see that behind nasty behaviour there is someone hurt whose needs are not met, we can set boundaries but still keep our heart open in compassion. Tara Brach has designed a process called RAIN to embody compassion towards ourselves and others: Recognise, Allow, Investigate and Nourish.
You should not feel guilty for showing you some love and looking after yourself. What boundaries do you need to set? or what boundaries have you set and how have they benefited your overall well-being?