Pride yourself on your ‘niceness’? Choose boundaries instead
When people come to see me in my hypnotherapy clinic for help with relationships in Manchester the theme of boundaries often lies at the heart of their issue.
I love this video by Brene Brown which describes how boundaries are the key to healthy, loving relationships. This can initially sound counter-intuitive to our values and how we’ve been raised. We are taught the importance of kindness and supporting friends, family or colleagues from a young age. Whether its emotional or practical support, we learn that giving to others is the cornerstone of being a ‘good person’.
Giving to others is (generally speaking) intrinsic to our mental well-being and a force for good. However we all have limits to how much we can give and how we give to others. We cannot be all things to all people at all times.
Those limits are the things that Brene Brown describes as being ‘not okay’. For example ‘Laura’ is okay with visiting her in-laws once a fortnight. She knows its good to spend time with family, to grow relationships and it means a lot to her spouse. However she is not okay with being speaking to her mother-in-law every other evening about her health issues, accompanying her to every single medical appointment and listen to her lament about what a pity it is that she and her husband weren’t able to have children.
Boundaries create more loving relationships
When we’re not clear in our relationships about what’s okay and what’s not okay two key problems arise. The first is resentment, which I’ve observed to be one of the most toxic feelings within relationships. We often harbour our resentment, gritting our teeth through it because we don’t want to be ‘mean’ or ‘selfish’ when really we are nurturing and growing our resentment and failing our relationship.
The second key problem is disappointment (often closely linked with resentment) where there is a gap between what we expect within a relationship and what has explicitly been agreed to. Often we build expectations on assumptions or past behaviour and when the reality falls short of our expectations we end up disappointed. Again this is often a result of not being clear on what we will or will not accept from other people.
Whilst the concept of clear boundaries is so simple, we all struggle with it to a degree. Our society encourages us to people-please in order to build and grow relationships. Many of us carry a fear of rejection if we are to speak up and be clear on what we will or will not accept from others.
Whilst it might require some courage on our part, I have been struck by how my relationships (and that of my clients) have improved dramatically since I have started to practice proper boundary setting. Resentment is something I rarely encounter now and, consequently, I am able to be much more compassionate and understanding with the people around me. We like to know where we stand with others and having boundaries creates a far better opportunity for love, acceptance and kindness as we are no longer dwelling in disappointment or resentment.
Why not try setting stronger boundaries in one of your key relationships this week? Be clear on what is okay and what is not okay and see how things change for you. I would love to hear how you get on.