With today's post, I absolutely had one of those moments where I realized it was Wednesday (well, I started writing this post Tuesday evening...) and I had no idea what to write about. Then, sure enough, I remembered the wise words of my friend. I started to think about boundaries. I've been trying to have better boundaries with my sitting-on-the-couch-watching-TV moments, as well as having better boundaries with technology, food, negative self-talk... It's often something that comes up in therapy with clients I see. It's either that they need to improve boundaries with themselves, e.g. spreading themselves too thin, or they need to improve boundaries with others, e.g., people who push limits.
The first step in identifying when to set a boundary is to check in with yourself - how am I feeling? Am I suddenly totally drained after talking to this person? Am I feeling guilty that I finished that whole [albeit delicious] bag of sour gummies? It's important to listen to your gut, your Jiminy Cricket, your intuition. You are the expert on yourself.
The second step is to really think about what it is that you need, what you want. How can you alleviate that unsettling feeling? How can you have better boundaries with this other person? Or with yourself, so that next time you don't eat the whole bag of gummies? What would make me feel better?
The third step is to start to conceptualize what your boundaries would look like. For example, if it is with yourself, maybe it's developing a code-word or phrase to remind yourself that it's time to stop or limit the behavior. Maybe it's counteracting a negative thought with a go-to positive statement. I find that whenever I say something like, "Ugh I'm so stupid." I try to actually say aloud, "No, you're not stupid, you just forgot ..." Counteracting the negative can be really effective in myriad ways. Now, if the boundary is with someone else, think about what it is that you need. How do you want to interact with this person moving forward? How do you want to be perceived by this person? What is the most effective way to communicate your boundary? Sometimes it can be helpful to use visualizations, maybe imagining yourself standing behind a shield, protected from the words the other person says. Find what works for you!
I used to run a therapy group using this article, and it definitely helps with working through how to prepare to set a boundary. It can seem like something relatively amateur, establishing and improving boundaries; however, it can actually be pretty daunting and difficult. I am not one who is comfortable with confrontation, and setting boundaries is, bottom line, confronting an issue. As the article points out, it's important to check in with ourselves, ground ourselves, so that we feel strong to fulfill our needs. It's ok to be nervous or scared, but it is important to attempt to alleviate those feelings so that you can be fully present and appear (and feel) strong.
In closing...trust your Jiminy Cricket!