Setting and maintaining boundaries is an issue that comes up a lot for me. It is something I have struggled with for a long time and still struggle with but I have come a long way and would like to share what I have learnt in this post.
I like this definition of a boundary which I found on the internet:
A boundary is defined as “the invisible line that separates the participants in a relationship and allows each to maintain a separate identity” (source: The Shack).
Boundaries are a very important, but under-valued, part of relationships. In healthy relationships we can be together and also apart. Boundaries are especially important for HSPs given it takes less for us to become overwhelmed. For me setting a boundary such as a time limit for when I see a friend has made the encounter seem more manageable and I have experienced less dread about it the night before. It has helped me enjoy the time we spend together more.
My work on boundaries has gone hand in hand with my work on self-love. To have healthy boundaries we first need to establish a solid sense that we are good, rather than needing others to confirm we are good (which often leads us to give up our feelings, needs and wants so we please them). We must believe we are worthy of respect and our feelings, needs AND wants are valid and important. So many of us have it drilled into us that we must put others before ourselves or else we are selfish. But in fact I’m starting to realise that looking after ourselves is one of the most selfless things we can do. We have to look after ourselves first so we have a foundation to look after others. If we exhaust our own reserves to the point we have nothing left, we cannot help others at all. There’s actually a lot of wisdom in that ol’ airplane safety spiel to put our own oxygen mask on first before attending to others/children.
I recently discovered Shahida Arabi, a psychologist, author and fellow HSP, over at ‘Self-Care Haven’ . Her writing helped me let go of a very damaging, co-dependent relationship I was in for two years and very invested in. She has published a wonderful book on narcissism (which is NOT the same as self-love and self-care, I will add… actually quite the opposite) cleverly titled, “Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself”. It really helped me reclaim my worth and power and I found it so inspiring I got my hands on a second book of her’s called “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care”. I have been reading a section on people-pleasing and there is a nice exercise on boundaries I want to finish this blog post with. The instructions are as follows:
“Estabilish your core boundaries and values in interpersonal relationships. Start to minimise people pleasing today by getting together a list of your top boundaries and values which you will not allow anyone to trespass in intimate relationships or friendships.
After crafting this list, you can create a boundaries worksheet to write down ways in which your boundaries have been crossed in the past and the actions you can take to protect your boundaries in the future.”
I have found it comforting to hear what other HSPs like Shahida find overwhelming and have therefore set boundaries around. Many of these things have similarly been issues in my own life, but because I’ve been surrounded by people who are not disturbed by these things, I have started to doubt myself and wonder whether I’m asking too much. I now realise it’s ok to say no to these things; it’s my right. I’m going to share some boundaries that are particularly important in my life:
- I will not accept being invalidated. That is, having my inner experience and what stresses me rejected, judged, dismissed, and not taken seriously. I value honesty, respect and emotional validation in all my friendships and relationships.
- I require friends to arrange visits with me before coming to my door.
- I require friends to make arrangements with me before calling my home phone.
- I often require limits on the time I spend socialising and I expect friends to respect these