You’ve done it!
You’ve finally set a boundary.
You’ve been meaning to set this particular boundary but you’ve been putting it off and putting it off and finally — one day, you decided you weren’t going to put up with a behavior anymore.
It wasn’t easy, but you did it.
You told someone how they treat you isn’t acceptable. You’ve told them you’d like to be treated instead. Sure, they seemed a little resistant at first.
But now, the hard part is over…
First of all — congratulations! Setting a boundary can be really tough, and I’m so proud of you for taking that first step.
Taking that first step to set a boundary might feel like the most challenging part of this practice, but actually, holding your set boundary can be the most difficult.
Telling yourself and others that something in your life or environment needs to change is a wonderful first step. But it’s not about just telling someone how something makes you feel. If a boundary is crossed — there need to be consequences.
As we discussed in last week’s blog, beginning to set and hold boundaries can be a struggle for some people. It can be hard to start to take care of yourself first when you’re so used to putting others’ needs ahead of your own. You might immediately try to fix things when you see someone confused or upset. It can be easier to give in to what other people want or expect from you just to avoid a fight.
But don’t let these feelings keep you from holding a boundary. When you don’t make yourself a priority, your needs won’t get met. Feeling bad about your needs or decisions keeps you stuck in people-pleasing mode and you just end up neglecting yourself.
When we’re finally ready to set a boundary, we might think that this will be the answer to our problems.
But knowing what your boundary is and setting one isn’t always enough. The next step is taking action and protecting it.
Often, when a boundary is crossed, you might feel hurt, angry, or disappointed when it’s not respected by someone you care about. You might simply repeat what you need and hope that they will listen…next time. But without any real consequences, you’re just giving someone the message that it’s ok to continue their unwanted behavior.
In her Book ‘Set Boundaries, Find Peace’, Nedra Glover Tawwab writes: “An ultimatum is a choice given to another to either change or submits to a designated consequence. They are consequences that we intend to uphold. If an ultimatum is issued and not adhered to it’s a threat. People don’t respect threats, but they can learn to respect ultimatums… ultimatums are healthy when you use them as a tool to execute and follow through on your boundaries, attaching them to reasonable consequences…”
Consequences are simply a way to let the other person know it is not ok to treat you in a way that you find hurtful or unacceptable. If you continue the pattern of asking and not enforcing, you’ll stay stuck in the same place and feel hurt.
Or you can take action. Once you enforce a boundary, then it’s up to that person to either change their behavior, or they’ll make it clear they’re unwilling or unable to meet your needs. In that case — as hard as it can be to accept — this person might not be meant to be a part of your life.
When you start enforcing the consequences of a boundary-crossing you might experience the other person giving you pushback, the silent treatment, anger, testing limits, questioning, or trying to make you feel guilty.
People can respond to your set boundary in any way they choose. You can’t control their thoughts or reactions. So allow them to have their feelings and react the way they will — and focus on the things you can control.
Your own reactions.
You might fear that once someone in your life sees that you’re not going to waver on your boundary — they’ll abandon you or it’ll create lasting conflict. Unfortunately, some people might actually choose to no longer be in your life rather than accept these new boundaries.
And it can feel really painful to lose that relationship.
But in her book ‘Set Boundaries, Find Peace’, Nedra Glover Tawwab writes: “setting limits won’t disrupt a healthy relationship and that damage wasn’t caused by your boundary. The relationship was already unhealthy, and your boundary brought to the surface the issues that needed to be addressed”.
When setting healthy boundaries, you’re responsible for getting your needs met. When you ask someone for what you need, you’re giving the other person a chance to help you meet these needs.
Maintaining a relationship with someone who isn’t willing to change or meet your needs can be painful and damaging to you in more ways than one. It can be easy for an unhealthy relationship to feel… normal. You might even find yourself wanting to hold onto it, even when you know it’s not healthy for you.
Having strong boundaries and enforcing them drives the people who don’t care about your feelings out of your life so you create space and energy for those that do.
“We don’t naturally fall into perfect relationships; we create them”
― Nedra Glover Tawwab
When someone is trying to push against your boundaries, it might be tempting to explain or give them a reason why you won’t be giving in. But when you try to justify or explain why you’re holding a boundary, you’re giving them the message that you don’t believe that you have the right to say no.
You don’t need to explain the reason for your boundary and you don’t need their approval to enforce it. Only you get a say in where a boundary is placed and when it’s held. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with.
No one should be allowed to hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable — no matter who they are. The point is — the behavior is unwanted and/or unacceptable. Period.
In the book, ‘Set Boundaries, Find Peace’ Tawawab says “The ability to say no to yourself — or others — is a gift. If you can resist your urges, change your habits, and say yes to only what you deem truly meaningful, you’ll be practicing healthy self-boundaries. It’s your responsibility to care for yourself without excuses.”
So decide what the consequences are for crossing a boundary ahead of time. Choose a very specific action you’ll take when that happens.
Present your boundaries clearly and firmly. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don’t say one thing and do another. You need to follow through with your consequences otherwise, they’re just a threat.
As Tawwab says in her book:
Don’t say too much
Don’t let people slide — not even once
Change is never easy and often not that much fun either. However, change is the precipice to evolution and is the only constant that we can depend on in this life.
Since change is inevitable — why not try and gear that change toward the things we desire and long for in our lives instead of simply letting everything run on autopilot? Why not give ourselves permission to make intentional changes that are going to make our lives better?
This gives us a chance to surround ourselves with those who truly have our best interests in mind so we can cultivate happy, healthy, and long-lasting relationships.
To put ourselves first so that we can show up and be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
Boundary setting and holding is the tool that will help us get from where we are to where we want to be. They’re a beautiful way of letting people know that you care about yourself, and you care about your relationship with them.
I’d love to support you during this time of beautiful change and transformation. If you need a little help holding a boundary please feel free to book a complimentary clarity call with me here. Or, send me a message at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!